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Carlos Mendoza’s Midterm Report

Now 76 games into the 2024 season, the Mets and manager Carlos Mendoza are familiar enough with one another that Mendoza no longer seems like the rookie manager that he is.

Some past Met managers benefited from having time enhance their reputations. Think Terry Collins and Buck Showalter, (who was still Mets manager just a half season ago). Early in Mendoza’s tenure, way back in April and May, there were calls for the return of Buck, and the sacking of Yankees ‘import’ Mendoza. That talk has subsided during the Mets recent hot streak.

Streaky are the Mets, and the Mets are streaky

Since May 29 following a loss to the Dodgers when the Mets fell to 22-33, the Mets are 15-6. This follows a 12-3 run they had in April. While that’s an amazing 27-9 record adding those two winning streaks, it also means that the Mets were a miserable 10-30 in their other 40 games to date this season.

When the Mets were going bad, Mendoza remained stoic and counted on the sleepy Met bats to eventually wake up. While that has occurred, Mendoza has also more than tinkered with the lineup by batting Francisco Lindor at leadoff deposing Brandon Nimmo and moving Pete Alonso and J.D. Martinez around in the top four of the batting order. Mendoza was also decisive in moving underperforming Adrian Houser out of the starting rotation into the bullpen where he has been markedly better.

Mendoza has also had to deal with an ever-changing bullpen. Edwin Diaz’ on-the-mound troubles, followed by his injury time on the IL made the end of games so much more difficult to manage. Losing Brooks Raley in April has had a greater impact for that reason. Now that Diaz is suspended for 10 games, Mendoza will again have to mix and match a bullpen that is already thin.

While it can’t be seen, Mendoza’s handling of the Pete Alonso situation is important toward the team’s ultimate success THIS season. Pete has shown frustration on and off the field as he awaits his fate prior to the July 30 trading deadline. Mendoza is known as an excellent communicator and his behind-the-scenes relationship with Pete Alonso becomes more important while the team is playing well and in the postseason picture.

Mendoza has also quietly managed the Jeff McNeil situation with aplomb. McNeil is an emotional player clearly not having a good first half this season. Jose Iglesias, who did not have an MLB job before the Mets picked him up for infield insurance during Spring Training, has contributed mightily and taken playing time away from McNeil. Not a peep has been heard from McNeil despite everyone knowing it kills McNeil not to be on the field. It says, ‘You play well, you keep playing’. Managing a veteran player’s declining playing time is tricky business.

Mendoza has made mistakes

What, you expect perfect? Mendoza has stumbled at times in leaving pitchers in for one too many hitters. While that shows confidence, it also has cost the team when those relievers have blown up. Having a lack of viable options creates that kind of Faustian bargain. It was good to see Mendoza both give Drew Smith a last hitter on Sunday night before running out and pulling him because he was both worried about Smith’s arm as well as winning that game. Mendoza might not have done that two months ago. Experience counts for a lot.

It also cannot have been easy to manage the Brett Baty – Mark Vientos situation. It was a team decision to send Baty down to AAA and give Vientos the daily job at third base, but there does not seem to be any dissension from either Baty or Vientos since finally, the Mets and Mendoza appear to be viewing the competition between them as a meritocracy. This took too long.

Mendoza’s midterm grade

Because the Mets have a losing record it cannot be an A. ‘A’ managers have teams with winning records, especially those like the Red Sox and Alex Cora, who are winning when they are not expected to. Even a B+ grade seems a bit high given that the Mets are in 4th place by one-half game in their own division. So, Carlos Mendoza gets a B for his midterm grade. I don’t see that grade dropping in the second half of the season since the Mets will either remain squarely int the playoff race, or falter and sell off assets creating a different mission to close the season.

If the Mets continue to play as well as they have in June that grade could be an A by season’s end. Based on the first half of 2024, the Mets have found a manager that suits the team and the organization overall.

Mark Kolier
Mark Kolierhttps://mlbreport.com/
Mark Kolier along with his son Gordon co-hosts a baseball podcast called ‘Almost Cooperstown’. He also has written baseball-related articles that can be accessed on Medium.com, Substack.com and now MLBReport.com.
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