NEW YORK — Carlos Mendoza began his tenure as Mets manager emphasizing how close the team was to success in 2022, not how far it descended this past season.
“I’m not just creating a new culture. People need to understand that this is a team that won 100 games not too long ago,” Mendoza said at a Citi Field news conference Tuesday, a day after his hiring was announced. “They started to create something special, and I’m coming in to continue to add to that culture, to continue to add to those positive things that were already building.”
Mendoza became the third Mets manager since Steve Cohen bought the team in November 2020, following Luis Rojas and Buck Showalter.
“We expect to compete in 2024,” he said.
Mendoza, 43, was introduced at the Piazza 31 Club, last used to unveil a manager (Carlos Beltrán) in November 2019 during the waning days of the Wilpon ownership.
Mendoza, who had been a Yankees coach for six seasons, agreed to a three-year contract that includes a 2027 team option. He was introduced by David Stearns, the team’s new president of baseball operations.
“I’m excited about our roster,” Mendoza said. “We got some work to do, and I trust David and his team to continue to make improvement.”
After New York went 101-61 in 2022 and lost to the Padres in the wild-card round, the Mets became the most expensive flop in baseball history. They finished fourth in the NL East this year at 75-87 despite a record payroll projected to finish at $346 million plus a luxury tax on track to be $102 million.
“One of the unique things about Carlos that people told me about him and that I felt through the interview process is this is someone with tremendous people skills, that people like, get along with, can relate to, but he holds people to incredibly high standards and he talks about accountability,” Stearns said.
“He also kind of lives it. And that is difficult to find. It’s difficult to find people that are leaders that people really like and enjoy working with.”
Mendoza became the major leagues’ second Venezuelan-born manager after Ozzie Guillén. Mendoza beamed as he put on a No. 28 jersey, less than half his No. 64 with the Yankees.
“When I first started playing winter ball with Tiburones de La Guaira, they gave me this number and I won the rookie of the year that year and fans started buying that jersey,” Mendoza said. “When I first met my wife, at the time it was on September 28th, so the 28th has been a huge number.”
Mendoza also interviewed with the Padres, Giants and Guardians this offseason, returning to Florida from his visit with the Padres. He was among six candidates put through initial seven-hour Zoom sessions by the Mets, with Stearns leading the first hour before others took over. Mendoza traveled to New York for a second series of interviews, including with Cohen and wife Alex.
“You guys put me to work,” Mendoza said.
He understood Craig Counsell was a contender, having worked for Stearns in Milwaukee. Counsell left the Brewers for the Cubs last week.
“Kind of like a waiting game,” Mendoza said. “It’s something that he earned.”
Mendoza played in the minor leagues from 1997-2009 with the Giants, Yankees and independent Pensacola Pelicans. Mendoza name-checked influential baseball figures who impacted his life, starting when he was 5 and met Luis Aparacio in an elevator of the apartment building they lived in.
Mendoza attended Giants big league camp under Dusty Baker, became friends with Rob Thompson and Willie Randolph — Mendoza danced around questions whether Randolph could be among his coaches. He thanked Luis Rojas, a current Yankees coach predecessor as Mets manager, and the late Mark Newman, a Yankees executive who first told Mendoza he could become a big league manager.
He said he questioned the Mets on their commitment to winning short term and long.
“They blew me away,” Mendoza said. “The other clubs were pretty impressive, too.”
He also inquired about the Mets’ adoption of analytics, “how much, the way they use it, how they use it, why they use it, how they come up with matchups and models and all that.”
On a cool autumn afternoon, with Mendoza looking larger than life on the huge center-field video board, optimism abounded. That will last only until the first losing streak. Stearns acknowledged the crucible created by New York’s tabloids, talk radio and assertive fans.
“I recognize that this is a unique environment for managers,” he said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.