A.J. Hinch and Jeff Luhnow were the first to fall.
Then Alex Cora came tumbling down.
And then Carlos Beltrán.
The Astros’ video sign-stealing scandal shook the baseball world and the aftershock of their inexcusable actions hit more than just Houston. The Boston Red Sox and New York Mets, neither of which benefited from—and were likely hurt by—the Astros’ actions, parted ways with their managers just days after MLB released its report.
Hinch and Luhnow were fired hours after they were suspended for a year. Cora, who led the Red Sox to a World Series title in his first season in Boston, was fired before his punishment was unveiled.
Granted, the MLB is in the midst of a separate investigation to see if Cora—the ringleader of the scandal as Houston’s bench coach—violated any rules in his tenure in Boston.
But the Mets were purely collateral.
Beltrán was the only player from the 2017 championship team to be named in the report. His status as a retiree and then-manager of the Mets (as of Nov. 1, 2019) allowed the MLB to do so without hearing from the player’s union.
“Approximately two months into the 2017 season, a group of players, including Carlos Beltrán, discussed that the team could improve on decoding opposing teams’ signs and communicating the signs to the batter,” the report stated.
No other players were named in the report nor punished as it would be “difficult and impractical” to punish those not in official positions of leadership. With Beltrán being named a key member of the scandal, the Mets were forced to make a decision: Keep him and fight through the media for a few months or move on.
They chose the latter.
The team parted ways with the first time manager who never managed a game for the club. With roughly a month to find a replacement, the Mets were put in quite the predicament. A result of misconduct they had no hand in.
So, after much deliberation and media speculation as to where the Mets would look and who would be in the dugout on Opening Day, the club announced that quality control coach Luis Rojas would be the next manager.
This was the best result of a terrible situation.
The team worked fast, announcing the decision six days after Beltrán’s departure. Like his technical predecessor, the 38-year-old Rojas is a first-time big-league manager, but he’s been a baseball man all his life.
Rojas comes from baseball royalty: The Alou family. Though his surname is different due to a discrepancy when his father first entered the country (Alou is the maternal name, Rojas is paternal), Rojas is the son of Felipe Alou, who was the first Dominican-born manager in league history. His half-brother, Moises Alou, was a six-time All-Star in his 18-year MLB career.
But Rojas is more than just a name. He was an initial candidate in the Mets managerial search last fall and had been seen as a potential manager for a while. Though he never played pro ball, he began managing in the Mets organization in 2007, leading the Dominican Summer League team.
He worked his way through the ranks and eventually landed with the Double-A Rumble Ponies in 2018 before he was named quality control coach in the majors ahead of last season. In more than 12 years, Rojas learned the ins and outs of the organization and earned the respect of players, many of which are now on the big league roster.
And that may just be the most important thing about this hire. The players on the big league roster, including the reigning N.L. Cy Young award winner and N.L. Rookie of the Year, were managed by Rojas in the minors and have already expressed their excitement.
Loved having Luis in ‘17 and ‘18 as my AA manager! It’s awesome playing under him and having him on staff last year as well!!! Super pumped to have him as the Jeffe. Also he throws some damn good bp #LFGM https://t.co/SI8JgLzRId
— Pete Alonso (@Pete_Alonso20) January 22, 2020
No matter how well the Mets and Beltrán could have handled the pressures of the media, or how qualified he may have seemed, the trust was lost. Beltrán was proven to be a cheater to some degree and a part of a scandal that could have impacted players on the current roster. Jacob deGrom faced a pitch-tipping problem in the first half of the 2019 campaign that could have possibly been magnified by stolen signs.
Trust is a vital component of being a leader. Strong trust in an organization leads to meaningful bonds and championships, just ask the Nationals. The lack of it means insubordination, finger-pointing and futile arguments. The team clearly trusts Rojas and he hasn’t spent a day on the job yet.
Rojas is finally at the helm of a professional ballclub like many predicted he would be one day. It may have come earlier than most expected but nevertheless, he’s here. While the whole situation could have been avoided if the Mets listened to me in the fall, Rojas is the best of a bad situation.
I guess it pays off to have a backup plan.