It’s not easy being an MLB manager, especially when you’re Mets manager Luis Rojas trying to navigate a team starving for a first World Series title in 35 years while in the pressure cooker that is New York.
There will be plenty of difficult decisions, or forks in the road, or even roadblocks over the next six months — especially if the bullpen continues to be as shaky as it’s looked so far.
That’s why it’s imperative that Rojas not stress too much on the easy decisions, or tweak the lineup for the sake of tweaking; and why the absence of Dominic Smith on Opening Day was so peculiar.
For being a top-10 bat in the National League last season, Smith took a backseat to Kevin Pillar in Philadelphia on Monday night. Rojas cited that he didn’t want to play the lefty against Phillies southpaw Matt Moore — along with shoring up the Mets’ defense — even though Smith batted .283 against lefties in 2020. The Mets were held to just three runs in a loss that night.
A little too much overthinking from the manager.
Ask 29 out of 30 and they’ll probably tell you that a guy who ranked fifth in the entire MLB in slugging percentage, seventh in OPS, second in doubles, and 10th in RBI should at least be rewarded with an Opening Day start.
On Tuesday, Rojas simplified things and put together his best possible lineup, slotting Smith in the No. 5 spot to which the 25-year-old took a fastball chin-high in the fourth inning and jacked it the other way for a two-run homer run — sparking what would become an 8-4 victory.
“I think it goes back to my whole approach,” Smith said. “Trying to make good moves and trying not to do too much. I know if I can get the barrel on the ball, it can leave the park from line to line.
“A lot of times, I get myself out by trying to do too much, trying ot hit the ball too hard. When I simplify it and try to get the barrel on the ball, good things happen.”
It was an impressive display of hitting for the ever-improving Smith, who served a loud reminder that there should be no dispute on whether or not he should be in the lineup every day — regardless of what pitcher is on the mound.
“It’s great, not surprising,” Rojas said of Smith. “This is a guy who’s always ready when he gets his chance. I consider him an everyday player even though he didn’t get the start [Opening Day]. He’s earned his chance.”
Rojas simply needs to put theory into law here and make good on his comments, playing Smith every day.