NEW YORK -- When the Mets removed Terry Collins from the manager’s chair following the 2017 season, they could not have anticipated the turbulence that would follow. Over the four years since then, the team cycled through three additional managers, multiple owners and four heads of baseball operations.
The club's unsated search for stability continued on Monday, when the Mets declined their 2022 contract option on manager Luis Rojas less than a day after capping another losing season.
“These decisions are never easy,” team president Sandy Alderson said in a statement. “But we feel a change is needed at this time.”
Rojas’ tenure ended with a 103-119 record over two seasons, which resulted with a fourth-place finish in 2020 and a third-place standing this year. Although Mets officials did not consider Rojas a significant part of the problem, Alderson wanted to give his next president of baseball operations the freedom to hire a manager of his or her choosing.
The Mets plan to interview baseball operations candidates over the next few weeks. They will not begin the search for a new manager until that process is complete.
In the interim, Alderson has offered Rojas a chance to remain in the organization in another unspecified role, which Rojas has yet to accept or reject. Decisions on Rojas’ coaches will come later this week.
“I want to share such heartfelt gratitude to so many in the Mets organization for not only the last two seasons as manager, but for the last 16 years in a variety of roles,” Rojas said in a statement. “In each and every position I held, striving for excellence was our daily mission. I will always hold the relationships and friendships, developed over the years, dear to my heart, and am forever grateful to have been able to wear the Mets uniform for so long.”
Rojas, 39, joined the Mets as a Minor League coach following the 2006 season, then spent the next decade-plus working his way up the organizational ladder. By his early 30s, Rojas was viewed throughout baseball as a surefire future managerial candidate, based on both the respect he commanded in the dugout and his baseball bloodlines; Rojas’ father, Felipe Alou, managed the Expos and Giants for years, while his brother, Moises Alou, joined the Padres’ front office following a successful playing career.
Few, however, believed Rojas would become a manager so soon. When New York had an opening following Mickey Callaway’s dismissal after the 2019 season, it turned first to Carlos Beltrán, who accepted the job before Major League Baseball named him in its report on the Astros’ sign-stealing practices. The Mets subsequently parted ways with Beltrán and turned to Rojas -- an ideal candidate to step in mere weeks before Spring Training because of his comprehensive knowledge of the organization.
That expertise, however, did not translate into wins. Neither did Rojas’ close relationships with players such as Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, whom he managed in the Minor Leagues. Instead, the Mets tumbled down the standings partway through this season after spending 90 consecutive days in first place. They became the first team in AL/NL history to sit atop a division for more than 100 days in a season and finish with a losing record.
“We live in a results-oriented business,” Rojas said, “and [I] am deeply disappointed for our staff and fans that we didn’t reach our goals this season.”
Mets officials hope that in moving on from Rojas, hiring a new president of baseball operations and allowing that person to handpick a manager, the organization will finally be able to achieve continuity beginning with owner Steve Cohen’s second season. Top-level candidates for the executive position include Theo Epstein, Billy Beane and David Stearns, though it remains to be seen if the Mets will have a chance to hire any of them; as of last week, team officials had not yet begun the interview process.
In the shorter-term future, that group will busy itself debating the futures of various members of Rojas’ staff, including bench coach Dave Jauss, hitting coach Hugh Quattlebaum and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. The latter has perhaps the best chance to stay after guiding his staff to the National League’s fifth-best ERA.
Should Rojas elect to remain with the Mets in another capacity, they will be glad to have his knowledge and experience on staff. Should he choose to leave, Rojas should have little trouble finding work elsewhere.
"He is a good man who represented the Mets with dignity and calm during two extremely trying years," Cohen wrote in a tweet on Monday afternoon.
“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 this week. “So he’s a great man. He’s a great baseball guy. I really enjoyed playing for him.”