Yes, the ribbing was good-natured, but Jessica Mendoza heard it loudly and clearly when visiting teams in spring training.
Things along the lines of, “You work for the Mets, we can’t talk to you anymore.”
But the recently hired Mets advisor said it strictly was “in a joking way” from people in baseball who do not expect their relationship with her to change now that she has added to her primary job as an ESPN analyst.
On a conference call Thursday with fellow analyst Alex Rodriguez to promote ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” Mendoza said managers and players already had been careful in what they told her in the past. That was because they assumed what she heard as a TV analyst would be shared publicly.
“They would have the same concern,” she said, “whether it be me working for the Mets or me working for the media.”
Will she be willing and able to criticize the Mets on television given her new role? Mendoza said she does not expect that to be a problem, insisting that whatever critiques she offers on ESPN are likely to be similar to ones that she shares in private.
“I feel like part of my job was to kind of look and evaluate,” she said. “I hope why they hired me is because of my honesty and criticism, not just to say all of the right things or the good things, but the honest and real things. On air I feel like I would be the same, that this is how I would be to them in front of them."
Mark Gross, an ESPN senior vice president, said the network never considered removing Mendoza from the telecast when showing a Mets game or Rodriguez, a Yankees advisor, from the telecast when showing a Yankees game.
“We’re comfortable with where we’re at and that these guys are professional and can be objective,” he said. “Yes, they’re wearing two hats, but there is a way to do it. We’ll be up front with viewers off the top of the game, letting people know.”
Mendoza said Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen first broached the idea of her joining the team last August or September, when he still as an agent but was contemplating interviewing to become the general manager. He wanted to include her in his presentation to the team.
“So we kind of started talking about it then, and from there, obviously, he got the job,” she said.
After getting hired in October, Van Wagenen asked “a little jokingly” whether Mendoza would be willing to relocate from Southern California to New York, which she was not.
Instead they came up with a part-time position that would allow her to keep ESPN as her first work priority.
Mendoza said so far she has spent only one full day on the job with the Mets, with most of her time in recent weeks dedicated to spring training assignments for ESPN.
She said she has taken a particular interest in technological tools that help players’ health and performance. She said she spent four hours with director of sports performance Jim Cavallini.
“I walk in there and it’s just questions; I’m bugging everyone,” she said. “Brodie warned everyone. I’m not just there to sit back. I want to learn and know...just understanding what’s behind the curtain.”
She said she could speak for hours on the subject.
“I’m kind of a nerd when it comes to not just the numbers but all the gadgets,” she said, “all the cool tools that I think are the forefront of where the game is today.”