On November 13, 2023, Carlos Mendoza was named the new Mets manager. The Yankees former bench coach took over from veteran manager Buck Showalter, news that surprised and startled most Mets fans. Before fans take torches and pitch forks to Citi Field, I suggest you learn a little about the new Mets skipper and what I think Sterns and Coens plan for this new era of New York Mets baseball.
First, let’s look at Mendoza, the player. He signed with the Giants as a free agent and spent most of his playing career in the minors as a utility infielder. In fact, Mendoza's only playing time in the big leagues was 15 games with the Mets in 1997 and 15 games with the Rockies in 2000. While never having much success as a major leaguer, his 13-year career in the minor leagues taught him a lot about grit, determination, and the thrill of chasing a dream. Which, in the end, is what all these players are chasing: a chance to make it in major league baseball.
Now for his managerial history. Mendoza originally started with the Staten Island Yankees in 2009; after a couple stops around minor league baseball, Mendoza was the head manager for the Yankees low-A affiliate, the Charleston Riverdogs. He was their manager in 2012, when the team finished with a final record of 73-63. After his lone managerial season, Mendoza then bounced around the Yankees organization as a defensive instructor until after the 2017 season, when the Yankees promoted them to their major league coaching staff. He then served as the Yankees infield coach until 2019, when he was promoted to the Yankees bench coach.
While his coaching experience has some years to it, his lack of managerial experience is what scares Mets New York fans, and understandably. All offseason, the name that was mentioned when talking about the new Mets manager was Craig Counsel. Counsel worked with Sterns in Milwaukee and some great teams there. When Sterns took the job in New York, he had the ability to use Coen’s checkbook and the ability to have Counsel be a manager for a team with a higher payroll, and the ability to go after these star players was the thing that was so intriguing for Mets fans. And from having this wonderful manager to the Yankees bench coach, I'm sure it is very disappointing for Mets fans, but I'm here to tell you there is some optimism and some reasoning behind selecting Mendoza.
First, let’s start with the fact that I don’t think Counsell was ever going to New York. If he wanted to be the Mets manager, he would have tried to leave earlier. I honestly believe that Counsell used the meetings at leverage to either get a higher contract with the brewers or get the job in Chicago with his monster contract. So I think it’s time to leave counsel out of the conversation and minds of Mets fans and focus on the manager that will be for the next 3 years, unless this season is absolutely awful and is fired quickly.
I will state my case for why I think Mendoza might be the right hire for the Mets this season, even though at first glance it may seem extremely frustrating.
One of the first things that's promising for the future of Mendoza is that he at least has a head start with the New York sports media. The manager has to speak to the media before the game and after the game. Managers will get ridiculed every day for small moves in April that barely affect their postseason chances, and from at least working on the Yankees coaching staff, he will not be going into these meetings blindly. The Mets will be ridiculed all year as they try to rebuild and still be competitive this year. If Mendoza is to survive this season and not lose his mind, he will have to handle the New York media, and he already has a head start on that.
Secondly, Cohen said himself when trading away Scherzer and Verlander last year that this market will be competitive in 2024, but 2025 and 2026 are when the front office thinks the young talent will finally make an impact. This is why I think Cohen and Sterns landed on Mendoza. This man has been liked and well respected all his years in baseball and clearly has something going for him if he made it this far. If the Mets were serious about winning this year, they would never hire someone from a staff who’s ballclub won a meager 82 games last year. Mets fans have to realize this team is not on a postseason quest this upcoming season and will definitely not compete for a division title this year, especially with how well the Braves and Phillies have been built. Mendoza is only on a 3-year contract; if it works out during his contract, I can see him being the manager for a very long time. However, when Sterns and Cohen agree that this team is actually ready to compete for a championship, then they will evaluate if Mendoza is the guy or if they should go out and get someone like Bruce Bochey with the Rangers. The sooner Mets fans realize that expectations should not be high and this team is pretty much in the middle of a rebuild, the sooner they will accept him as the manager. Nothing can be worse than the disappointment last year, and Sterns is hoping a new face will guide this Mets team into the promised land.