New York Isn’t Place For Retread Managers
Seeing the reactions to the Mets hiring of Luis Rojas, you think people have confused the lyrics of Frank Sinatra’s anthem to be, “If you can’t make it there, you can make it anywhere.”
From Keith Hernandez to other media members, Rojas was met with skepticism because he’s never managed at the Major League level. We see responses this job required a veteran manager, as we saw with many, like ESPN‘s Chris Carlin, “This isn’t supposed to be the place where you learn.”
Even with Carlin taking a beating from Mets players like Pete Alonso and Marcus Stroman for his criticisms of Rojas, it’s fair to say Carlin wasn’t alone in that position. Overall, there is a prevailing notion New York is not a place where you can hire a new manager or coach and expect him to succeed.
This is complete and utter nonsense, and there are plenty of examples which prove it.
In 1984, the Mets hired Davey Johnson to be their manager. He had a similar managerial background to Rojas, and he would also usher in the greatest stretch in Mets history.
In 1995, after Pat Riley resigned from the Knicks, the team moved quickly to hire Don Nelson, who was about as poor a fit as you could have for the Knicks roster. He was replaced by Jeff Van Gundy, who proved to be one of the best head coaches in Knicks history.
The New York Giants had success and went to a Super Bowl under Jim Fassel, who had no previous head coaching experience, and the team flopped under Pat Shurmur, who had previous head coaching experience with the Cleveland Browns.
Obviously, there are examples in the reverse.
Bobby Valentine was a terrific manager for the Mets. Tom Coughlin won two Super Bowls with the Giants. John Tortorella brought the New York Rangers back to prominence.
Therein lies the point.
New York isn’t just a tough place to play or manage. It is a place which demands the best. Somehow along the way, people have misinterpreted that to say you need people who have failed elsewhere.
Both Baker and Showalter are justifiably respected baseball men. They’ve developed players and in many instances outperformed expectations in each and every stop. If you hire either one of them, you’re in very good hands, and you’re lucky to have them.
One thing with both of them is they’ve yet to win a World Series. You don’t hear that now, but it’s something you’ll hear if the Mets are fortunate enough to be in the postseason.
The point there is narratives shift and emerge as fit. If Dusty or Buck came to the Mets and won, they’d be a great story about finally winning. If they didn’t win, we’d hear how neither can win the big one, and the Mets need to move on from a manager who lifted Russ Ortiz too soon or one who didn’t use Zack Britton.
Even the best of managers available have their flaws. Ultimately, that’s why they’re available. The best any team can do, be it a New York team or a team anywhere else, is look at the candidates and make the best decision possible.
That can be someone like Buck or Dusty, and it can be someone like Rojas. For the Mets, they rightfully opted on the manager who knows this team inside and out, has their respect, and has shown he can get the most out of their talent. This is very similar to when the Mets hired Davey Johnson, who was not a retread, but rather, a first time Major League manager.
Ultimately, with Johnson, Parcells, Coughlin, and Van Gundy, and everyone else who has passed through this city, we’ve learned the only qualifications which matter for a manager or head coach is who is the most talented and who is the best fit for the roster.
Any other consideration is just noise, and oft times results in a mistake.