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Mets Cross The Mendoza Line With Their Latest Hire

There’s a good chance something else about Major League Baseball will have changed by the time you roll out of bed in the morning.

Maybe it will be a rule change. Maybe someone else will break new ground contractually. Perhaps the metrics staff will discover another method to dissect talent or strategy and add another acronym to the lexicon.

Look what we found pouring our first cup of coffee on Tuesday: The New York Mets are altering the way front offices are constructed. We already know they hired a player agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, as their general manager. And now they announced they’ve added ESPN Sunday Night Baseball analyst Jessica Mendoza as a baseball operations adviser.

“I’ve been a believer that you need to get new voices and fresh perspectives in any room, especially when you’re making decisions. Jessica has a very high baseball IQ, she has aptitude to learn anything, and she knows the game,” said Van Wagenen.

Mendoza will not be asked to leave her job at ESPN. The cable behemoth does not believe her new assignment represents a conflict of interest, although it will be interesting this season to hear what she has to say about the Mets when presented the opportunity to critique them. She will work a Mets-Braves game in June.

“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,” Josh Krulewitz, an ESPN spokesman, told the New York Times. “We have complete faith in her ability as a leading M.L.B. voice for ESPN.”

ESPN has plenty of experience when it comes to this. Mendoza sits next to Alex Rodriguez on Sunday nights. And he works for the New York Yankees as a special advisor. And former catcher David Ross works with the Chicago Cubs.

Jessica Mendoza

(Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

There are also many other examples of broadcasters who also work in some capacity for the teams. Previous to Mendoza, the Mets hired former MLB pitcher Al Leiter and he will continue to work for MLB Network. Pedro Martínez and David Ortiz do things for the Red Sox and Frank Thomas helps out the White Sox.

If you think the lines are blurred, and MLB and the networks advise you to check with your optometrist for a more powerful prescription.

According to the Mets, Mendoza, 38, will have something to do with player evaluation, roster construction, health performance and technological advancement. She will check in with the team when her schedule allows, but most of her important work will come during the postseason when big decisions must be made.

“She played the game at an extremely high level, she was an Olympic champion, she accomplished effectively everything a softball player can do, and she has clearly elevated herself to prove that she knows baseball inside and out,” Van Wagenen said. “She sees baseball all day every day.”

During his talk at the Mets spring training facility in Port St. Lucie, Fla., on Tuesday, Van Wagenen admitted there will be a line Mendoza must not cross. Her contract includes a confidentiality clause. She is expected not to divulge anything she knows about the team while on ESPN. And she can’t use anything she’s learned at ESPN to aid the Mets.

“She’s a professional, she knows the lines she needs to keep and so do we,” Van Wagenen said. “It’s the baseball knowledge and the evaluation and understanding of players that we’re hoping she could bring to us.

“I was an outside-the-box hire. I’ve been a believer that you need to get new voices and fresh perspectives in any room, especially when you are making decisions.”

Mendoza was a superlative athlete. She is considered an elite softball player who won Olympic gold at the 2004 Athens Games and a silver in 2008. One way the Mets believe she can really help are in the areas of health and performance and technology.

“I am excited to work with Brodie and his team and am thrilled to be associated with the Mets and their storied history,” Mendoza said. “I’ve known Brodie and Jeff Wilpon (the Mets owner) for years now and I’m honored to be a small part of the organization. I would also like to thank ESPN and Disney for their understanding and confidence as I balance both tasks moving forward. Baseball is a passion of mine and I look forward to expanding on my love for the game.”

Of course, there’s always the possibility that someday a progressive organization will hire a woman as their general manager. And now Mendoza will be considered a major candidate to also break that barrier.

“That question has definitely come up more and more,” Mendoza told the New York Post.  “I can’t really wrap my mind around that. Honestly, right now, I want to be the best analyst I can be. That’s truthful. I think of this position as something that is going to make me broader in my knowledge with ‘Sunday Night Baseball’ and ESPN.”