Five Things Carlos Mendoza Is Doing Right With the Mets

The Mets' rookie manager is leading the team through a tough schedule and a score of pitching injuries, finding ample opportunities to make the organization feel good about his hiring.

NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 17: Carlos Mendoza #64 of the New York Mets congratulates Harrison Bader #44 of the New York Mets on a two run home run against the Pittsburgh Pirates during the sixth inning at Citi Field on April 17, 2024 in New York City. The Mets won 9-1. (Photo by Adam Hunger/Getty Images)

When the Mets got rid of Buck Showalter and lost out on the anointed one in Craig Counsell, settling instead for yet another first-time manager after the Mickey Callaway and Luis Rojas debacles, brow sweat was to be expected. 

Yeah, yeah, Carlos Mendoza had a fat stack of recommendations, but there was nothing anyone could say that would guarantee that he could handle the weight of expectations and the challenge of dealing with the media and a veteran clubhouse. The rookie would have to prove it, and at the quarter-point of this season, he’s made big strides toward doing exactly that. 

While this Mets team has been frustratingly inconsistent, Mendoza has been steady and smart. 

Here are five reasons why Mets fans should feel good about Carlos Mendoza manning the top step of the dugout in 2024 and beyond. 

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He Respects Veterans and They Respect Him

The go-to example is Mendoza letting Jose Quintana stay in against the Cardinals in late April when the matchups were flashing DANGER signs. But the storybook Brandon Nimmo walk-off against the Braves on Mother’s Day wouldn’t have happened if Mendoza had covered his ears when the veteran outfielder assured him that he could contribute despite worries about him possibly irritating his intercostal.

That doesn’t mean Mendoza is a pushover. I’m sure Pete Alonso put up a fight when the rookie manager kept him out of the starting lineup a week ago against the Cardinals. How’s Alonso been doing since that chance to clear his head? He’s 13-for-42 with five doubles and two home runs, good for a .927 OPS.

Mendoza Is Letting Unproven Players Establish Themselves 

Reed Garrett and Sean Reid-Foley both profile as Quad-A relievers, but they’re filling important roles in the Mets’ revelatory bullpen – specifically Garrett, who is giving the Mets a surprise late-game stopper. 

Christian Scott deserves a mention here as well. It’s early, but Mendoza has let the rookie pitch without holding him to tight pitch counts or shielding him from tough opponents and situations. Scott might need to get dialed back at some point, but until then, he’s being given the chance to prove that he belongs in the majors. 

He’s Flexible 

Mendoza has shown a willingness to use relievers more based on matchup and situation than by role – specifically, Jorge Lopez and Garrett, who have appeared anywhere between the sixth and 10th and third and 10th, respectively. The skipper even deployed Edwin Díaz like a bullpen fireman in the 8th inning against the Dodgers in L.A. And, of course, there is the Mets’ adoption of a six-man rotation. 

While sticking OBP machine DJ Stewart in the leadoff spot the other night got some pushback from the fanbase, it worked out well.

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Mendoza hasn’t yet found a great solution to his constant experiment with the bottom three spots in the order, but the looming return of Francisco Alvarez will help there. It’s also interesting to ponder how flexible Mendoza will be when it comes time to evaluate whether it makes sense to move Nimmo down in the order.

Avoiding the Bait 

When outfielder Harrison Bader said, “I don’t know who makes the lineup” while complaining about not being in the lineup as often as he envisioned when he signed with the Mets in the offseason, it presented a test for a rookie manager. Mendoza could have taken the bait and created a backpage headline. Instead, he said all the right things and kicked dirt on a spark. 

Similarly, you could envision a world where a rookie manager, instantly on the hot seat with the New York media, might react poorly to early struggles by team superstars like Alonso or Francisco Lindor, or the lengthy build-up process of Kodai Senga, who has pushed pause on his rehab to get his mechanics right. The Mets’ bad fundies and inability to control the running game are also things that managers with less discipline might have latched onto to manage through the press and dodge the ire of fans.

Clearly, Mendoza sees the big picture and the benefit of clubhouse harmony. 

He’s One of the Guys

Huge Showalter fan here, and wow, did he keep the clubhouse together through a lot last season. But when he came off like a scold when Alonso dropped a public F-bomb in a moment of exuberance last May, it felt like a reminder of a generational divide. 

Mendoza, on the other hand, is closer to having played the game (in the minors) and closer to these players’ ages. You can occasionally catch him on camera jumping up and down when the Mets excel. He’s also been more demonstrative when things don’t go well for the team, like against the Phillies last Monday night when he looked like he was about to climb the railing to go off over a pivotal botched check-swing call.

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Ultimately, Showalter was the right man for the moment in 2022. It all fell apart in 2023, but now Mendoza seems like the right man for this moment in 2024. So, while he may not have been David Stearns’ top choice, he may wind up being the right choice.