Mendoza starts Mets job emphasizing how close team was to success in 2022, not this year's fall
Carlos Mendoza was tired after getting home to Tampa, Florida, following a cross-country flight. About 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 5, 9-year-old son Andres came up to him.
“Dad, I’m bored. I want to go out and play catch. I want to do some picks,” Mendoza remembered his son saying.
Soon after they started drills, Mendoza's phone rang. New York Mets president of baseball operations David Stearns was on the line. Mendoza returned to the house, sat down and learned he was being hired to manage the Mets.
“My wife's crying and my boys are jumping,” Mendoza said.
He was introduced Tuesday as the team's fifth manager since Terry Collins left after the 2017 season, given a three-year deal with a club option for 2027. The 43-year-old had spent six seasons in the Bronx as a Yankees coach, the past four as Aaron Boone's bench coach.
“One of the unique things about Carlos that people told me about him and that I felt through the interview process is this is someone with tremendous people skills, that people like, get along with, can relate to, but he holds people to incredibly high standards and he talks about accountability," Stearns said.
"He also kind of lives it. And that is difficult to find. It’s difficult to find people that are leaders that people really like and enjoy working with.”
Wife Francis, Andres, 12-year-old son Adrian and parents Leyda and Frank watched from the first row of seats in the Piazza 31 Club, last used to unveil a manager for Carlos Beltrán in November 2019 during the waning days of the Wilpon ownership.
Leyda was celebrating her birthday, Mendoza made sure to mention. He applauded his wife for putting her dental career behind his baseball aspirations.
New York went 101-61 in 2022 and lost to San Diego in the wild-card round, then became the most expensive flop in baseball history. The Mets finished fourth in the NL East this year at 75-87 despite a record payroll projected to finish at $346 million plus a luxury tax on track for $102 million.
Mendoza emphasized how close the Mets were to success in 2022, not how far they descended this year.
“People need to understand that this is a team that won 100 games not too long ago," Mendoza said. “They started to create create something special, and I’m coming in to continue to add to that culture, to continue to add to those positive things that were already building.”
Mendoza became the major leagues’ second Venezuelan-born manager after Ozzie Guillén. Mendoza beamed as he put on a No. 28 jersey, less than half his No. 64 with the Yankees.
“When I first started playing winter ball with Tiburones de La Guaira, they gave me this number and I won the rookie of the year that year and fans started buying that jersey,” Mendoza said. “When I first met my wife, at the time it was on September 28th, so the 28th has been a huge number.”
Mendoza also interviewed with San Diego, San Francisco and Cleveland this offseason, returning to Florida from his visit with the Padres. He was among six candidates put through initial seven-hour Zoom sessions by the Mets, with Stearns leading the first hour before others took over. Mendoza traveled to New York for a second series of interviews, including with owner Steve Cohen and wife Alex.
“You guys put me to work,” Mendoza said.
He understood Craig Counsell was a contender, having worked for Stearns in Milwaukee. Counsell left the Brewers for the Chicago Cubs last week.
“Kind of like a waiting game,” Mendoza said. “It's something that he earned.”
Mendoza played in the minor leagues from 1997-2009 with the Giants, Yankees and independent Pensacola Pelicans. Mendoza name-checked influential baseball figures who impacted his life, starting when he was 5 and met Luis Aparacio in a elevator of the apartment building they lived in.
Memdoza attended Giants big league camp under Dusty Baker, became friends with Rob Thompson and Willie Randolph — Mendoza danced around questions whether Randolph could be among his coaches. He thanked Luis Rojas, a current Yankees coach predecessor as Mets manager, and the late Mark Newman, a Yankees executive who first told Mendoza he could become a big league manager.
He said he questioned the Mets on their commitment to winning short term and long.
“They blew me away,” Mendoza said. “The other clubs were pretty impressive, too.”
He also inquired about the Mets' adoption of analytics, “how much, the way they use it, how they use it, why they use it, how they come up with matchups and models and all that.”
On a cool autumn afternoon, with Mendoza looking larger than life on the huge center-field video board, optimism abounded. That will last only until the first losing streak. Stearns acknowledged the crucible created by New York's tabloids, talk radio and assertive fans.
“I recognize that this is a unique environment for managers,” he said.