Rojas on 1st 2 years: 'It's been pretty special'

As Mets' season winds down, manager's future uncertain with club facing change

October 3rd, 2021

ATLANTA -- The penultimate game of the Mets’ season -- a 6-5 loss to the Braves on Saturday night at Truist Park -- may also have been the second-to-last of Luis Rojas’ managerial tenure.

While Mets officials do not plan to reveal Rojas’ fate until after the season, team president Sandy Alderson did not give him a vote of confidence during a comprehensive press conference last week. To the contrary, Alderson noted that even if he decides to retain Rojas into November, the team’s incoming president of baseball operations -- identity as yet unknown -- will have the power to reverse that decision.

To spare Rojas from such purgatory, the Mets will at least consider cutting ties with their manager more cleanly in the days following the season, making this perhaps his final weekend at the helm. Saturday’s loss could have been any of the 118 he has endured over two seasons, featuring not enough pitching (Carlos Carrasco allowed five runs in five innings to take the loss) and even less timely offense early (the Mets did not record their first hit until the fifth).

Francisco Lindor and Michael Conforto gave the Mets some late life with an eighth-inning triple and a two-run homer, respectively, but it wasn’t quite enough.

“There’s a lot that we need to do to be a championship team,” Lindor said this week. “Could it be done next year? Of course, of course. It starts with the front office, and then it goes from the top down.”

It can be easy to forget that the Mets’ marriage with Rojas was one of necessity. He was not their first choice for the position; Carlos Beltrán was, spending half an offseason as New York's manager before Major League Baseball named him in its report about the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. The Mets promptly parted ways with Beltrán, pivoting to Rojas with mere weeks remaining before the start of Spring Training 2020.

The fit was natural, considering Rojas’ unmatched knowledge of the organization. He had been an instructor, a coach and a Minor League manager for the Mets since 2006, climbing the organizational ladder alongside many of the players already in-house. Although concerns existed that Rojas lacked experience at age 38, he made up for it with his knowledge of the team.

“I love playing for Luis,” said Mets first baseman Pete Alonso, who first did so in 2017 at Double-A Binghamton. “I’m always going to love every single experience that I’ve had, because he’s treated me so well. He’s always had respect for me. I’ve always had respect for him, and the other way around.”

Few around the Mets blame Rojas directly for the club's disappointing season, which will end Sunday with a third-place finish in the National League East. Alonso called him “a great guy” and “a baseball man,” echoing the thoughts of others. Regardless, many sense that significant change will occur throughout the organization. It would only be natural for Rojas, who owns a .466 winning percentage in two years at the helm, to be a part of that.

“We don’t know yet, right? We have to get there first and find out what’s going to happen,” Rojas said when asked this week about his status. “But I’ve enjoyed my time here the last two years being the manager. It’s been fun every day just working with the guys and connecting with them and preparing.

“We haven’t achieved what we wanted to achieve. But first of all, the atmosphere in the clubhouse has been one of the most important things that I can think of the last two years here. … Even though we haven’t gotten the results, that’s the one thing I want to single out -- that it’s been pretty special.”

If the Mets part ways with Rojas, they will lean on their new president of baseball operations to find a replacement -- likely someone with whom the incoming executive already has a strong relationship. Rojas, meanwhile, surely wouldn’t have trouble finding a job elsewhere. Baseball bloodlines run deep for Rojas, whose father, Felipe Alou, managed the Expos and Giants, and whose brother, Moises Alou, works as a special assistant to Padres general manager A.J. Preller.

“He loves what he does, and he cares -- he cares not just about winning games, but he cares about everybody personally in that locker room, too,” Alonso said. “So he’s a great man. He’s a great baseball guy. I really enjoyed playing for him.”

Alonso will have at least one more chance to do so in Sunday’s season finale. And then?

“We’ll have to wait and see what happens after the season,” Rojas said.