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What an exhilarating ride this has been. A baseball team populated with replacement dreamers scratching and clawing and fighting together to hold the fort until the cavalry returns.
The Boys of Spring.
One Next Man Up after the Next Man Down. If it wasn’t Cameron Maybin, bless his heart, it was Johneshwy Fargas. If it wasn’t Fargas, it was Jonathan Villar. If it wasn’t Villar, it was Jose Peraza. If it wasn’t Peraza, it was Patrick Mazeika. If it wasn’t Mazeika, it is Billy McKinney. If it isn’t McKinney, it is Brandon Drury. If it isn’t Drury, it is Mason Williams. If it isn’t Williams, it is Travis Blankenhorn. If it isn’t Blackenhorn, it is Kevin Pillar, who had his nose rearranged by that bloody 94.5 mph fastball and wouldn’t stay down. Just as this team wouldn’t stay down.
Miracle Mets? Amazin’ Mets? Lol no, we’ll check back in October to see if they can win a World Series first, OK?
But fans streaming back to Citi Field to cheer deSeaver on Friday night, the rich new owner tweeting his heart out … Marcus Stroman securing a 6-2 win over the contending Padres and a series split on Sunday … pinch me, says the Mets fan, I must be dreaming.
If these walls could talk, what would they be saying about Luis Rojas?
That anyone can manage Jacob (Franchise II) deGrom? No doubt.
That anyone could trot out a defense so adept at saving runs? Probably.
That anyone would relish this kind of suffocating bullpen? No doubt.
But if these walls could talk, they would also have to tell you that Luis Rojas is a first-place manager.
No one is saying he could one day be The Next Miller Huggins. Or The Next Gil Hodges or Davey Johnson. He is still learning on the job, still learning how to handle a pitching staff, still learning how the big boys are expected to do it. Still two games under .500 at 55-57 since inheriting the job that belonged to Carlos Beltran until the Astros sign-stealing consequences doomed him.
The jury on whether Rojas can deliver sustained success for Steve Cohen is out, of course. Cohen inherited Rojas and has made it clear that he harbors championship expectations sooner rather than later.
But in the meantime, do not underestimate the job he has done this season:
Rojas is 29-23, three games ahead of the Braves, 3 ¹/₂ ahead of the Phillies.
And what makes this all the more remarkable is that he is still waiting for Michael Conforto and Jeff McNeil and Brandon Nimmo and J.D. Davis and Carlos Carrasco and Noah Syndergaard to heal … and Pete Alonso (hand) returned at the start of this 4-3 road trip after a visit to the 10-day IL. Seth Lugo (elbow) returned at the same time from the 60-day IL. Robinson Canó (PED), you ask? Wait Til Next Year.
It was only two weeks ago when Cohen felt compelled to tweet: “Anybody want to suit up?”
“This team is incredible,” Stroman said Sunday. “I know we’ll battle through any adversity. What we’ve been doing is truly remarkable with having such prominent guys on the DL, and to have these guys step in and dominate, it’s been amazing to see.”
Rojas has checked the critical boxes of communication, relationship-building and leadership.
When you are a manager or a coach of a New York team, you better be able to weather storms, because they will come, and feel like hurricanes if you are not steady and poised in their eye. His unflappability has been a godsend, and his baseball knowledge and savvy have helped earn him respect in the clubhouse. He is the same guy every day. He is principled. He does not shy away from making the tough decisions every manager must make during the course of a marathon season.
And it has been more than the absence of Soft Tissue All-Stars: there was the Jared Porter sexual harassment fiasco and Zack Scott replacing him as acting GM … the hellish slump of $341 million man Francisco Lindor and the silly manufactured rat-versus-raccoon debate … the shocking firing one month ago of his hitting coaches, Chili Davis and Tom Slater, replaced by Hugh Quattlebaum and Kevin Howard.
“I don’t think you can think of the big picture,” Rojas said. “We want to win every day.”
The Padres, trailing 2-0, had loaded the bases in the fourth before Drury backhanded a hard grounder, tagged third base with his glove and fired to first from his knees to double up Webster Rivas.
“Pitching and defense has been the formula,” Rojas said.
Before the season, Rojas (+900) was an afterthought for NL Manager of the Year honors.
“On the professional side, managing a game, I think that he will be better,” Mets president Sandy Alderson said when Rojas was brought back for his sophomore season.
If Rojas can keep the Mets in the hunt through the All-Star break, when more of the stars begin to appear again in the blue-and-orange sky, he’ll be more than an afterthought.
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