Carlos Mendoza as the new Mets’ manager isn’t the headline-stealing hire or acquisition that has become commonplace in the Steve Cohen era.
Coming away with Craig Counsell, the top managerial free-agent candidate, would have been such a move. But the 53-year-old former Brewers skipper turned down the Mets and an opportunity to reunite with president of baseball operations David Stearns to stay near his hometown of Milwaukee while getting $8 million per year from the Chicago Cubs.
Mendoza’s hiring immediately creates uncertainties that come with first-time managers. While the Mets restocked their farm system and have a group of youngsters ready to create a foundation for the franchise — whether that’s Francisco Alvarez or Ronny Mauricio, Brett Baty, Luisangel Acuna, Kevin Parada, Jett Williams, or Drew Gilbert — this is still a team that is expected to contend for the postseason with a veteran core that boasts the likes of Pete Alonso (for how long remains to be seen), Francisco Lindor, and Brandon Nimmo.
Historically speaking, rookie managers don’t win the World Series often. It’s only happened five times in the 120-year history of the Fall Classic — and this isn’t to say that the Mets are even considered legitimate contenders for a title in 2024. But Steve Cohen clearly wanted a veteran manager when he thought his team could challenge for a title two years ago. That’s why he brought in Buck Showalter.
Mendoza provides an opposite resume — the similarities between him and Showalter ending with having extended runs with the Yankees.
The 43-year-old new skipper spent 15 seasons as a coach within the Yankees organization, managing the Gulf Coast League Yankees in 2011 and the Single-A Charleston River Dogs a year later.
He possesses a strong defensive background, which will be important in helping develop youngsters like Mauricio at either second base, third base, or the outfield, becoming a defensive instructor within the Yankees’ organization following the 2012 season before being promoted to infield coach in 2017. For the last four seasons, he served as Aaron Boone’s bench coach in the Bronx.
Now he takes over a team that is trying to compete while building sustainability, all while in a division with the powerhouse Atlanta Braves and a Philadelphia Phillies club that won the National League pennant last year and made the NLCS again in 2023.
It’s a tall order to ask a rookie skipper to navigate one of the tougher divisions in baseball and obviously remains to be seen if he’ll just be a lineup-card-giving vessel for Stearns, who could be pulling all the strings from the top of the Mets’ front office. But this is the sort of hire that Stearns alluded to during his introductory press conference.
“We’re going to cast a wide net. We’re going to have a real process,” Stearns said on Oct. 3. “At some point, we’re going to interview candidates of varying backgrounds and I imagine we will talk to candidates who have been major league managers before and those who have not.
“So the point here is finding the right person we believe to grow with the organization and hopefully be here for a long time.”
This is another rendition of the 38-year-old president of baseball operations’ long game. He was the man who hired Counsell, who proceeded to spend nine seasons with the Brewers and led them to five postseason berths. They made the playoffs just four times in their first 48 years of existence.
The hope is that Mendoza can be molded into a similar manager under Stearns’ guidance in Queens, providing the Mets with seldom-seen longevity in recent years. Since the end of the 2017 season, New York hired Mickey Callaway, Carlos Beltran, Luis Rojas, and Buck Showalter. None of them made it past two years (and Beltran never got to manage a single game).
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