Real leadership from the bottom up. It’s about time, Mets.
Back in 2006, then-Mets GM Omar Minaya got a recommendation from director of international scouting Ismael Cruz to hire a young man to manage in the Dominican Summer League, Luis Rojas, son of Felipe Alou.
“I knew the father, of course, I knew the family,’’ Minaya told The Post Friday at the Citi Field ground-floor press conference for Rojas, the Mets’ 23rd manager, and yes the franchise counts Carlos Beltran as No. 22.
“What I heard about him was that he was a very good young man that had potential,’’ Minaya recalled. “When I first got to meet him there was something about him that was special. There was leadership in a quiet comfortable way.
“I’m a big development guy, developing your players. I love to develop players, but my biggest passion is developing people. He is the first manager to start in the Dominican Summer League, I know of, to manage a major league club. People who know me know I helped develop people like [Braves GM] Alex Anthopoulos, [Brewers GM] David Stearns, [Miami president of baseball operations] Michael Hill. These are guys, along the way, I’ve been fortunate to hire them and develop.
“Luis has that special quality, he is just real. It’s a confidence. His connection to players is strong and I am talking about all players, Anglo players, Latin players, everybody just attached themselves to this guy.’’
That’s why Brodie Van Wagenen told me the biggest push for Rojas to become manager came from the Mets’ players.
Over in the other corner, Rojas was saying he had heard from many of those players since getting the job Wednesday. He reeled off some names: Jeff McNeil, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz.
Rojas had the support of Robinson Cano, and that went a long way with Van Wagenen. Rojas’ immediate challenge is to get the most out of Cano and Yoenis Cespedes, two aging former stars.
Rojas, 38, is baseball-first and has the experience of managing eight years in the Mets’ minor league system and in Winter League.
Alou managed 1,636 games in the minors before he was given the chance to lead the Expos in 1992. He was 57. His son managed 1,032 games in the minors and is getting the reins of a major league team 19 years earlier than his father.
“Players are going to trust him, they are going to believe in him,’’ Minaya said. “He’s going to put everybody in the best position to succeed, which a good manager does.’’
Here is the key for Minaya and what should be encouraging to Mets fans.
“This is more of a traditional managing system,’’ Minaya explained. “I’m a big believer in bottom up. This guy is the definition of bottom up.
“You start at the minor leagues, and you work your way up and he started at the bottom, the first manager in our sport that I know of that started in the Dominican Summer League and became the manager of a major league club and to do it in a major market like the New York Mets, it’s a great victory for the New York Mets organization.’’
Only if Rojas produces great victories.
“I have full confidence in him,’’ Minaya said, pointing to the importance of the proving ground that is Winter Ball. “We tend to lose the value of Winter Ball. Tony La Russa and Tommy Lasorda managed in Winter Ball. That’s the model and that model is being lost. [Rojas] revives that model.’’
Old school combined with new school analytics.
Rojas does not lack confidence. He said multiple times Friday the Mets are going to win.
Sitting in the front row was Rojas’ mother, Elsa Brens.
“Luis was always a hard-working kid, very responsible, very serious, quiet,’’ she said.
Minaya chose one word to best describe Rojas.
“Authentic. Players love authenticity,’’ Minaya said. “Authenticity sometimes may be telling a player what he doesn’t want to hear, but if you are authentic and consistent, players will respect you and you are going to get the most out of players.’’
That is what managing is all about, whether you are in the Dominican Summer League, eight years in the minor leagues or coming out of nowhere to manage the Mets.
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