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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Unknown Quantity

When I first heard of bright, young Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza a few years ago, I was disappointed to think that our September 1997 callup outfielder, the one who broke up Dustin Hermanson’s no-hit bid in what became known within certain circles of the Metsnoscenti as The Carl Everett Game with his first major league hit, had gone wayward in life. Aw, a Yankee? Then again, we couldn’t be responsible for what a Met of 15 games did with his post-playing career more than 20 years later, especially once he was exposed in the ensuing offseason’s expansion draft and was selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.

Then I looked into Yankees bench coach Carlos Mendoza a tiny bit further and realized he’s a different Carlos Mendoza. Our Carlos Mendoza from 26 years ago was born in November 1974. Their Carlos Mendoza from these days was born in November 1979. The November 1979 Carlos Mendoza would have had to have been 17 to have played for the 1997 New York Mets. Ed Kranepool, born in November 1944, was and remains the only 17-year-old to have ever played for any New York Mets.

That was the tipoff that the Carlos Mendoza I remembered wasn’t the Carlos Mendoza who was getting written about as a bright, young managerial candidate. As a fan of a franchise that has sorted through pairs of Bob Millers, Bob Johnsons and Bobby Joneses, to name one trio of duos (the Mike Marshalls, Pedro Martinezes and Chris Youngs amount to another three), it was easy enough to discern once the facts were examined.

For a franchise that has sorted through a surfeit of bright, young managerial candidates and actually appointed a few of them manager in the past half-dozen years, definitive and useful facts about those types of fellas tend to be elusive early. The Carlos Mendoza from the Yankees is now, by all accounts except official, the manager of the New York Mets, following in the footsteps of previously anointed bright, young managerial candidates about whom we knew only so much, which is to say nothing much, as potential managers. It’s probably no more relevant to invoke their names than it is the Carlos Mendoza from the 1997 Mets, but we don’t have a lot of facts to tell us anything else.

Hence, we will think of Mickey Callaway, who was considered hot stuff when the Mets grabbed him in October 2017; and Carlos Beltran, who was considered an intriguing choice when the Mets grabbed him in November 2019; and Luis Rojas, who was considered a promising Plan B worthy of the shot the Mets were giving him in January 2020. We might also think of Buck Showalter, who succeeded all of them in what amounted to no time (hired by the Mets, December 2021) at all because none among Callaway, Beltran or Rojas lasted very long if at all. Then again, neither did the massively experienced Showalter (honored as NL Manager of the Year, November 2022; dismissed as manager of the Mets, October 2023).

Here we are, well into this offseason’s The Mets Are Hiring Another New Manager story and we’ve barely talked about the new manager. Pending his introductory press conference in which he will be presented in the best of lights, what is there to talk about as of now other than he’s not the guy with the same name from 1997 and he’s not those guys who invited the same broad-strokes categorization from previous introductory press conferences? This Carlos Mendoza has never managed in the big leagues before? Neither had any first-time big league manager. Some succeeded in their first posting. Some would go on and find success at a later date in another place. Some weren’t what was hoped for when hired and never much panned out for anybody.

That frames Carlos Mendoza the New York Mets manager in even broader strokes. He could be anybody. But broad strokes are what we have, along with the endorsements he’s gotten about being bright and young and capable and confident and collegial and communicative and comfortable with computerized calculations. The next contemporary manager lauded in advance for his lone-wolf tendencies and disdain of data will be the first. If sliced bread isn’t the comp for what Carlos Mendoza will be hailed as the best thing since when he slips a Mets jersey over his shirt and tie, it will be an upset.

If Carlos Mendoza is the manager of the New York Mets for more than two seasons, it will be an aberration. That’s a calculation conducted not with a computer but from recent experience, all of it basically immaterial. Mendoza is not Callaway, Beltran or Rojas, just as he is not Showalter or 1997 Mendoza. He is an individual like any of us and, as long as he’s here and entrusted with what managers are entrusted, we have to trust him from the get-go. The get-go wears off once it gets going, and then the trust is conditional based on how the club he’s managing is playing, which probably won’t be fully reflective of how he’s managing, but he’s the manager and it’s easier for us to pin whatever’s going wrong on the manager. Or, perhaps, praise the manager for whatever’s going right. We do that, too, sometimes.

Carlos Mendoza is the manager of the New York Mets not only because his four predecessors entrusted with the role over the past six years don’t manage here anymore but, we infer from multiple reports, the manager the Mets really wanted, experienced Craig Counsell, chose to go elsewhere. That’s an inference. Counsell did go elsewhere, to Chicago from Milwaukee, but despite the on-paper sense it made that Counsell would follow David Stearns from the Brewers to the Mets, it’s possible Stearns and Steve Cohen concluded Mendoza was, when all factors were balanced, more the manager for them. Throughout this round of baseball teams interviewing managerial candidates, the buzz on Mendoza was consistently enthusiastic. Nobody not on the inside really knows what any of that means, but he must have been impressing more than one owner and one president of baseball operations. A career of managing in the minors and coaching in the majors that dates back to 2009 was leading somewhere, not just to hearty handshakes at the end of interviews. One of those interviews was bound to lead to a manager’s position.

Now he’s got it. What we’ve got we don’t know. We never do at the outset. If we’re still talking about Carlos Mendoza in the present tense more than two years hence, we’ll have an idea that we got something and someone good.

4 comments to Unknown Quantity

  • Wes Westrum
    Salty Parker
    Joe Frazier
    Joe Torre
    Davey Johnson
    Bud Harrelson
    Mike Cubbage
    Willie Randolph
    Mickey Callaway
    Carlos Beltran
    Luis Rojas

    I make us 2-for-11 under first-timers.

    But THIS time, it’ll be different…

  • eric1973

    When I first heard of Carlos Mendoza, it was after he was named the Manager of the Mets. I thought for sure it would be Puppet Counsell, but instead it is Puppet Mendoza.

    No matter, any Puppet will do, as each of these nobodies are all interchangeable in this day and age.

    Instead of saying “PLAY BALL!” we now say “PLAY SPREADSHEET!” and will soon be saying “KILL THE ROBOT!”

  • Seth

    Get ready for a season of “Mendoza Line” jokes.

  • Eric

    I would have been pleased with Counsell inasmuch he was the top candidate and the expected one. On the other hand, Counsell won all of 1 playoff series as the Brewers manager. Granted, his Brewers reached the postseason with regularity, which is better than the Mets have done. Still, like Showalter, Counsell hasn’t shown he has a postseason magic touch.

    Like Stearns, it seems Counsell wanted to move to a team with a bigger market and budget than the Brewers. Unlike Stearns, it seems Counsell wanted to stay in the Midwest, close to home, like a reverse Toni Kukoc.

    Beyond Counsell, was there another managerial candidate that stood out? If not, then Mendoza is as promising a choice as the rest. Hopefully he proves to be better than Callaway and Rojas.

    Eppler quit, ostensibly over an MLB investigation that seems relatively minor, instead of working with Stearns. I wonder if there’s anything in Counsell opting not to work with Stearns again.