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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Designated Survivor

“I promoted from within. Promoting from within is very big in my family.”
—C.J. Cregg, The West Wing

Once upon a time, some team that wasn’t the Mets did something that got the commissioner’s attention, and ultimately the Mets benefited. Maybe it’s déjà vu all over again 54 years later.

Summoning the greatest fortune-laden precedent in Mets lore — William Eckert spiking the Braves’ contract with USC pitcher Tom Seaver in 1966, leading to a hat and the word “Mets” being picked out of it — may be a glass overflowing interpretation of what’s going on now, but let’s dream big. Let’s dream that the dark cloud out of Houston that deprived us of Carlos Beltran’s managerial services encompasses a silver lining that was under the Mets’ nose the whole time. Let’s dream that we’ve scratched off a lottery ticket that reveals three Alous and wins us the kind of jackpot Tom Hallion’s ass would envy.

Let’s dream that Luis Rojas, the second 22nd manager in New York Mets history, is the best-case scenario to emerge from a bad scene. Rojas, we learned Wednesday, is a dotted “j” from being announced as next man to take the reins in the Met dugout, reins that had been barely gripped by his designated predecessor.

Step right up and meet Luis Rojas, 38 years old and sporting the same major league managerial record held by Beltran and, for that matter, every major league manager entrusted with his first top job. I know of him more or less what you know of him. He’s part of the Alou family (Moises’s brother; Felipe’s son; Jesus’s and Matty’s nephew; and, because genetics ain’t always kind, Mel Rojas’s cousin). He was a Mets minor league manager for a lot of years. He was their quality control coach last year. Based on the archival footage SNY has been airing in a loop, Luis’s responsibilities seemed to include taking part in Opening Day introductions, having two conversations in the dugout, wearing his jersey in a school library, and heading back to the clubhouse after a game.

Rojas has been hiding in plain sight, doing whatever the Mets told him to do and doing it well enough to keep doing it from 2007 forward. He did it promisingly enough to earn an interview for Mickey Callaway’s vacated chair last fall. The consensus from those who likely didn’t think about devoting his candidacy incisive analysis was he’s young and probably required more experience before he would be taken seriously. Three months have passed, one more manager has exited and, suddenly, young Luis Rojas seems to have gained a world of wisdom.

It helps to have been around the organization, to have gotten to know everybody’s name and face, to have been liked by those he’s managed and coached. The wheel was already invented by Brodie Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon when they staged the nationwide talent search that yielded Beltran. There was little time for anything but bolting on a sturdy spare good and tight and heading down I-95. The Mets weren’t expecting to start skipper-seeking again so soon. Hell, they’re still paying Mickey Callaway.

Serendipity is an appealing outcome here. I’m reminded of an early episode of The West Wing in which the White House was ecstatic that it got its ideal Supreme Court nominee lined up. Yet before the hour was over, they dumped Peyton Cabot Harrison III in favor of dark horse Roberto Mendoza, with the clear message that Harrison was flawed and Mendoza was the real gem all along. That’s a plot twist we can all get behind.

The second chance the Mets didn’t particularly want theoretically gave them an opportunity to reach out to a name-brand manager they didn’t pursue in October. Whatever philosophical or budgetary issues deterred them from embracing the possibility of Buck Showalter or Dusty Baker in the first place didn’t evolve come January. They wanted their collaborative manager, and if we knew anything about Rojas as a quality control coach, it was that he was regularly described as a “liaison” between the front office and the clubhouse. That’s a pretty new-agey concept for baseball, but for nearly twenty years we’ve been hearing that analytically inclined decisionmakers don’t necessarily think an independently operating field manager is an asset. Even World Series rings aren’t quite the currency they used to be. Other than Davey Martinez in Washington, no team is currently helmed by a manager that won it a world championship, a first for MLB since 1966 and a rarity dating back over a century. No Cora in Boston or Hinch in Houston, obviously, but also no Maddon in Chicago, no Yost in Kansas City, no Bochy in San Francisco. Francona and Girardi are, like Maddon, managing somewhere, but not where they did their gaudiest work. Either the industry is experiencing a brain drain at the managerial level or it doesn’t matter who’s nominally calling the shots because the shots are being determined by committee upstairs.

Still, you need somebody downstairs before, during and after games, especially in front of a microphone twice a day. If Luis can explain why two plus two equals four without wandering off on a tangent that knowing arithmetic isn’t really that important, he’ll already be nimbler than Callaway at dealing with the media. It’s a low bar. The overall learning curve may prove steep, but Rojas will have plenty of support from the organization, albeit the Mets organization. The dugout is crammed with coaches, which may be why we rarely picked Rojas out of the crowd in 2019. I get the feeling that if the sports impostor Barry Bremen, who used to sneak into All-Star team photos and such, were still with us, he could have grabbed a blue windbreaker in March and lasted as a presumed component of Mickey’s staff until June without anybody asking any questions.

Two years ago, Luis Rojas was a name in the media guide, manager of Double-A Binghamton. Two years ago, Brodie Van Wagenen was Jacob deGrom’s agent, sticking his two cents into our consciousness just to let us know his client needed to get paid. Now they’re the successors to Hodges & Murphy, Berra & Scheffing, Johnson & Cashen, Valentine & Phillips, Randolph & Minaya and Collins & Alderson. Those are the manager & GM combos that gave us playoff berths. Let’s stick with dreaming big.

17 comments to Designated Survivor

  • Interested in hearing from the new manager. Hes been a good company man for a long time and in this age of BB that means a lot. I dont necessarily agree with running the team from the GMs office, but if thats the way its gonna be then you want the guy that can do that well.

    I think his 14 years in the organization counts for a lot too. Our young core players have come through the organization and now the manager, who has coached most of them, has been developed by the system too. BVW talks about culture and I believe in that but its easier said than created. I think this kind of hire, if successful, can go a long way in getting you there.

    He has the clubhouse, now can he manage the game and can he manage the press? Yesterday Marcus Stroman called him, “beyond even keel”, which reminded me that his dad was the same way. If hes most of what Felipe was as a manager he´ll be just fine.

  • Daniel Hall

    “Brain drain” is a disturbing, yet true description of how people in power positions as of recently tend to surround themselves with unobjecting lackeys and people mainly employed to nod, just so that they can do whatever. And that is not only true in baseball.

    Ugh, sadness. Can we get some actual baseball going, PLEASE? Even if it’s just a 37th-rounder tossing to a 29th-rounder in the bottom of the fifth, vaguely between Miami and St. Pete, on a Tuesday afternoon…

  • John Catt

    Rojas leisurely driving down from Nova Scotia as we speak. He’ll probably take the Trans Canada Highway…..

  • open the gates

    He’s a baseball lifer (he’s an Alou, that says it all), he seems well liked by players and management, has had actual experience managing baseball games (unlike the last two guys) and he knows the system, such as it is. In retrospect, this is the move the Mets should have made all along.

  • mikeL

    the post compared rojas’ emergence to that of buck showalter with yankees in early 90’s. i’m dreaming big.
    there should be much goodwill towards him from the press and fans and yes, he’s a lifetime member of a revered baseball family (talking the alous, not the mets;0)
    yes, can’t wait to see some ball, on the field.
    this black sox 100th anniversary event is wearing on me!


  • Here’s hoping this twist of fate will become memorable. I still smile whenever I recall watching Carlton Wiley retire Jesus, Matty & then Felipe in order in the 8th inning of a Mets 4-2 win over the Giants in the Polo Grounds on Sept 10, 1963 :)

  • Gianni Privacio

    Of course the newest car is always the shiniest one on the lot and we are still a month away from the day where the team will probably look the best it will all year, however really liking what I’m reading so far. Not the least of which is that it does appear that Brodie has an actual plan in place that warranted “next man up”. MLB is not the NFL, yet for comparison sake Patriots, Steelers, Packers, etc. year after year perform competitively because they do have long range plans in place.

    Mets official website poses five challenges:

    1. Straightening out Edwin Díaz (watch what this guy does this year)
    2. Figuring out the Yoenis Céspedes situation (JD Davis)
    3. Settling on the back end of the rotation (Matz, Wacha, Porcello, Lugo, Gsellman…depth is good, don’t expect 4 starters to go 30 starts two years in a row)
    4. Getting the most out of Robinson Cano (watch what this guy does this year, or watch McNeil or Lowrie in his place)
    5. Making a good impression on the media (ok jury’s out on this one and the press is already blasting us for not knowing about the scandal, so least we can do as fans let’s is give this guy a shot?)

    • 9th String Catcher

      All great points. I like the fact that he hasn’t committed to Diaz right off the bat. Should be a pretty exciting spring training.

  • LeClerc

    Good choice for skipper (2nd iteration).

    Onward to spring training.

  • Anyone else see a similarity to the beginning of the Davey Johnson era? A guy who toiled in the minors before getting his first chance in the Bigs, and who had managed many of the young players on the roster. 1984 was the start of something big. Let’s hope history repeats itself. All the best, Luis!

  • chuck


    I’m getting a lot of mileage out of the punch line you proffered about the new manager’s cousin. I happened to have been present at the game that produced the punch line with my late brother. Thank you reminding me of a fond reminiscence.

  • eric1973

    Luis Rojas was very impressive on Friday, and the fact that he grew with these players might be a good thing, provided they do not feel they can take advantage of him.

    He came across as sincere and down to earth, as opposed to that gold plated phony Callaway, who could probably sell ice to an eskimo.

    I’m all in, and let’s play ball!


  • open the gates

    Only to Eskimos named Wilpon.

  • 9th String Catcher

    I like this hire a lot more than Beltran. The guy has managed and was in the dugout last year. He was there for every win and every loss, so continuity will be in place. Hopefully he was taking good notes as they had one of the best records in baseball’s 2nd half.

    I never was comfortable having someone who never managed a game in his life managing a “win now” team. Yes, Aaron Boone had the same situation, then, Carlos would not be working with a perennially successful GM and a blank check. He’d have the Brody and Jeffy (shit)show.

    I always had a good feeling about Tim Bolgar, but truthfully at this point, I’d rather have someone who already knew the team given the short amount of time between now and spring training. I think he’s going to do well. And if the relievers improve on last year even a little, he’ll automatically look like a genius.