Mendoza Hiring Receives “Conflicting” Reviews

On March 5, the New York Mets announced the hiring of Jessica Mendoza as a baseball operations adviser to General Manager, Brodie Van Wagenen. Mendoza, who is known most recently for her work as an analyst on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseballwill continue in that role. 

In a statement, Mendoza said, “I am excited to work with Brodie and his team am thrilled to be associated with the Mets and their storied history… I would also like to thank ESPN and Disney for their understanding and confidence as I balance both tasks moving forward.” 

The move comes just one day after the Mets announced the hiring of Al Leiter who will hold the same title as Mendoza and like Mendoza, Leiter will continue in his analyst role with MLB.com. However, Leiter had informed the YES Network that he would be stepping away from his role there. That move was done earlier this offseason. 

Mendoza, who will be involved in player evaluation, roster construction, technological advancement and health and performance issues, was said by Van Wagenen to have “a very high baseball IQ”. Said Wagenen, “She has clearly elevated herself to show she knows baseball inside and out.” Mendoza and Van Wagenen both attended Stanford, but at different times. 

The two-time Olympic softball player has demonstrated a knowledge and passion for the game during as an analyst. The hiring, however, continues a trend of current television analysts taking a role with a major league team while continuing to perform their television duties. And it’s starting to raise some questions.

In an article for the Chicago Tribune, Phil Rosenthal writes about the trend by teams to double dip, “The problem is conflict of interest – and it must be addressed, not just with Mendoza, but also her fellow “Sunday Night Baseball” analyst, Alex Rodriguez, who doubles as a special advisor to Yankees general manager Brian Cashman.” 

At issue is objectivity. Even if Mendoza is not broadcasting a Mets game, will she provide independent and informed analysis of other teams – including teams in the National League East? Another question that is sure to arise will be access. Will Mendoza be given the same access to information from the teams on her broadcast? 

Play-by-play announcers like Vin Scully have been employed by both local teams and a national network. However, their employment by a team was for their broadcasting talents only. These announcers don’t have the ear of a general manager. 

However, Bob Costas of MLB Network says of a potential conflict of interest, “The proof is in the performance.” Costas added, “I think perhaps a more interesting thing would be is the person who works for a team equally critical over managerial moves, player performance … Are they equally even-handed in their praise and criticism? That’s probably more important than any proprietary information.”

Mendoza is said to be reporting to the Mets on Friday, March 8.