Jessica Mendoza hired as Mets adviser but keeps ESPN job
NEW YORK (AP) — Jessica Mendoza was hired as a baseball operations adviser for the New York Mets on Tuesday while remaining a broadcaster for ESPN’s “Sunday Night Baseball,” part of an increasing number of television commentators who also work for teams.
She will be involved in player evaluation, roster construction, technological advancement and health and performance, the Mets said.
Mendoza, a member of the U.S. Olympic softball team in 2004 and 2008, did not address any potential conflict of interest — working for a team while simultaneously commentating on all clubs.
In the team statement, Mendoza thanked ESPN and Disney for their “understanding and confidence as I balance both tasks moving forward.”
ESPN spokesman Josh Krulewitz wrote in an email to The Associated Press there are “numerous examples across networks of these type of arrangements where commentators work closely with teams, and we will be fully transparent about Jessica’s relationship with the Mets.”
He added: “We have complete faith in her ability as a leading MLB voice for ESPN.”
Krulewitz said Mendoza was not available for comment to the AP but likely will be available later this week.
MLB Network announcer Bob Costas, a winner of the Hall of Fame’s Frick Award, said Mendoza’s role in game broadcasts is not the same as it would be on a news show such as ESPN’s “Outside the Lines” or HBO’s “Real Sports.”
“I think at least some people in the media will watch more closely for traces of conflict of interest and she can dispel that,” he said. “The proof is in the performance.”
Team announcers long have worked for national networks, such as Vin Scully, Tim McCarver and Joe Buck. But they did not report to general managers.
Before nationally televised games, managers routinely give private briefings to the network broadcasters, and some might be more reticent to disclose information to an employee of an opponent.
“I think perhaps a more interesting thing would be: Is the person who works for a team equally critical when called over of managerial moves, player performance, did they or did they not make this trade, they did or did not make this free agent signing?” Costas said. “Are the equally even-handed in their praise and criticism? That’s probably more important than any proprietary information.”
Former Tigers star Kirk Gibson, a commentator for Fox Sports Detroit since 2015, was hired by the Tigers this offseason as a special assistant to the general manager and will remain in his broadcast role.
“I have no problem with that stuff,” Detroit manager Ron Gardenhire said. “They’re not going to hold a gun to me and get information that they probably shouldn’t have. They’re just going to come and do their job, and that’s easy enough.”
Former pitcher Al Leiter was hired Monday earlier as a Mets baseball operations adviser and will continue in his role as a studio analyst for the MLB Network, according to the network. Leiter told the New York Yankees’ YES network earlier in the offseason he was leaving his role there.
“Over the past 10 years, a number of MLB Network on-air personalities have held advisory and guest instructor roles with various MLB clubs, including Hall of Famers Pedro Martinez (Red Sox) and Jim Thome (White Sox), as well as Ryan Dempster (Cubs),” MLB Network spokeswoman Lorraine Fisher said in an email. “We are transparent with our audience about these roles, and we have seen and will continue to expect all on-air staff to deliver objective analysis on all 30 clubs.”
Alex Rodriguez, a member of the Sunday night ESPN booth along with Mendoza and play-by-play commentator Matt Vasgersian, has been a Yankees adviser since his retirement. His work for the team appears to be primarily several days of on-field coaching annually with young players.
Rodriguez took over in the booth for Aaron Boone, who left after the 2017 to become Yankees manager.
“I’m sure it won’t be that big of an issue. I don’t reveal too many secrets, anyway,” Boone said. “It’s something I can get on her about.”
ESPN also says Yankees pitcher CC Sabathia will contribute to the network this season as a studio analyst and make appearances on several of its shows. Sabathia has said this will be his final season as a player.
David Ortiz and Frank Thomas are Fox studio analysts; Ortiz is a special assistant for the Boston Red Sox and Thomas a special consultant for business operations for the Chicago White Sox.
Retired catcher David Ross has been a Chicago Cubs special assistant to baseball operations and an ESPN analyst and in-game broadcaster since before the 2017 season.
AP Sports Writer Noah Trister and AP freelance writer Mark Didtler contributed to this report.