Holding some form of a press conference to announce a new coach is rare for any team in virtually any instance.
A former manager of the Mets going crosstown to the Yankees to be a coach may be an exception, which is perhaps why Luis Rojas was introduced via a virtual press conference setting Tuesday as the new third base coach for the Yankees and replacement for Phil Nevin.
Rojas joined the Yankees after two difficult seasons managing the Mets. First he managed through the pandemic after stepping in when Carlos Beltran was fired due to his prominent role in the Astros’ sign stealing scandal. Then he managed a 77-win team that dealt with numerous injuries, bouts of dysfunction, underperformance and ultimately wilted in the final two months.
Shortly after the Mets wrapped up their disappointing season in Atlanta, he was informed his option for next season was not being picked up. That meant after 15 years working with the Mets in some capacity he was free to pursue other jobs and shortly after the Yankees ended their season in Boston, Nevin was out and manager Aaron Boone reached out to Rojas, who said he enjoyed his time with the Mets and wanted to stay in New York if possible.
“Aaron was the first manager that called me when I got the manager position with the New York Mets,” Rojas said. “He was welcoming me to the city and I thought that was pretty neat. So immediately we established a really good connection.
The other really connection is that Rojas is part of the prominent Alou family. His father Felipe played with the Yankees from 1971 to 1973 before embarking on a successful managerial career while his uncle Matty played 123 games for the 1973 Yankees in the final season in the original Yankee Stadium.
“There wasn’t any second thought,” Rojas said. “I know the city. My wife loves the city. My son loves the city. There’s personal stuff that we have in the city too, from a personal standpoint that matters to us. The Yankees organization and the tradition. My father played three years there. My uncle, may he rest in peace, played one year there. There is some family history, as well.”
Besides history, Boone drew admiration from Rojas, who navigated difficult situations with the Mets with a stoic demeanor.
“You see the leader, you see the people following,” Rojas said. “Those characteristics you can see from Aaron leading this group.”
For Boone, it was an instant connect, well at least once he moved past some of his coaches being fired. Last month when he discussed getting his contract extension, Boone conceded it took him a few days to process losing Nevin as a co-worker but he quickly pivoted to Rojas.
“Just looking from afar, he’s certainly somebody that that I respected,” Boone said. “I enjoyed our interactions together. But then as we started to dig a little bit from people that we contacted just how highly people spoke of him certainly confirmed that we definitely needed to interview him.”
These days the job of a third-base coach is more than conducting infield or outfield practice, delivering the complex signs to batters and sending runners home or giving the stop sign. It also is part of the collaborative approach teams are using and even if it did not work at times, it is apparent Rojas was on board with it, a fact that he cited when he said he was waiting to dive into the video and data.
Plus there’s also the fact that being a minor league manager often means coaching third base, a point that Boone illustrated.
“For a fairly young man, he’s worn a lot of hats,” Boone said. “He’s got a lot of experience in the minor leagues, obviously managing across town for the Mets. Because of all his managerial experience in the minor leagues, he’s got a lot of third base coaching experience.”
When we first started interviewing him, I think it was with third base in mind. He expressed how much he enjoys coaching third base having done it so much in the minor leagues.”
Rojas may have found among the best landing spot of any recent former Mets manager in terms of staying with a team.
While there have been those who have gone from coaching positions from the Yankees to the Mets in the past such as Willie Randolph following the 2004 season for three-plus seasons managing a talented but ultimately underachieving group in Queens, the former manager of the Mets going to coach the Yankees is rare.
Rojas is the first former Mets manager to join a Yankee coaching staff since Frank Howard. Howard went 52-64 to finish out 1983 for the Mets, returned to the Mets as a coach for 1984 before resurfacing in the Bronx as a coach under Dallas Green, Bucky Dent, Stump Merrill and Buck Showalter.
In terms of recent Mets managers getting an on-field position after departing Queens, it is rare.
Other than Mickey Callaway, who became pitching coach of the Angels following two years with the Mets, to find someone who landed any kind of on field coaching or managerial job following their time with the Mets, the last was Bobby Valentine and the before that Jeff Torborg, who managed through dysfunction in 1992 and the first six weeks of 1993.
Davey Johnson managed four other teams after being fired from the Mets in 1990 and guided three of them to the postseason. He also posted winning records in seven of the eight full seasons he piloted after becoming a former Met manager.
Of course, Joe Torre is the most successful former Met manager, though it took him stints with Atlanta and St. Louis before he found major success in 12 years in the Bronx. Although it did not end well there for Torre, he won four championships in five seasons, won six pennants and managed in the postseason each season.
The other person to go from managing the Mets is Yogi Berra, who managed in Queens from 1972 to 1975. He then returned to the Bronx first as a coach from 1976 to 1983 in the first three stints of Billy Martin and then managed the team until being fired after 16 games in 1985.
Rojas is not in the position Berra and Torre were when they managed in the Bronx, but he is in a nice landing spot after being placed in a tough position for his first managerial job.