QUEENS — When he was a teenager Carlos Mendoza had to make a decision about his future. He either wanted to work his way toward being a big-league ballplayer or become an engineer like his father.
He never made the majors as a ballplayer, but after four years as Aaron Boone’s bench coach across town with the Yankees, the 43-year-old has a big-league club to call his own.
“I didn’t become a big-league player, but today, I’m the manager of the New York Mets,” Mendoza said at his introductory press conference on Tuesday at Citi Field, punching in as the organization’s 25th-ever manager.
In total, Mendoza spent 15 years as a coach at varying levels of the Yankees organization where he developed into the communicator and leader that ultimately impressed new president of baseball operations David Stearns enough to select him as the first major move of the executive’s tenure leading the Mets’ front office.
“It was really about ensuring that I felt a connection to the person who was going to be our next manager,” Stearns said of an exhaustive process that featured Mendoza speaking with Mets brass for six-to-seven hours on Zoom. “We’ve talked about the partnership that these types of jobs require. We’re going to be spending a lot of time together… The more time Carlos and I spent together, the more we both felt comfortable that we have the ability to [succeed] together.”
First impressions already clarify that Mendoza will bring an abundance of passion to the position. He had to compose himself multiple times in his opening remarks to keep his emotions in check when speaking about his family, his journey, and his native Venezuela. It’s that passion that helps build the foundation of the relationships he’s looking to build within the organization — especially in the clubhouse.
“It’s about connecting, building relationships and it’s about winning championships,” Mendoza said. “I hope we get that opportunity with David and the whole organization. I’m going to surround myself with people that are going to bring energy, earn their respect form players and everyone in the building. People that are going to be honest, people that will hold each other accountable. At the same time, we’re going to have fun. This is a hard game that’s played by huuman beings… I’m really looking forward to it.”
He inherits an underachieving team that is obviously in the throes of transition. After winning 101 games two years ago, the Mets nosedived to just 75 wins in 2023 while selling a large portion of their core of veterans to rebuild the farm system.
But Mendoza has already identified that the bones of that playoff team two years ago is still very much evident in Queens. The likes of Pete Alonso, Francisco Lindor, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil, and even Starling Marte are still going to be on the lineup card in 2024. So his first managerial job isn’t about completely building what he described as “a new culture.”
“People need to understand that this is a team that won 100 games not too long ago,” Mendoza said. “They started to create something special. I’m coming in to continue to add to that culture and add to those positive things that were built a couple years ago. When we start talking about culture, it’s not just your tradition, it’s driven by the people you come in contact with every day.”