Carlos Mendoza already looks like a winner early in Mets tenure

MIAMI — These are testing times for managers, especially new ones like the Mets’ Carlos Mendoza.

Mendoza’s team is at a crossroads (not much else), and he had his first team meeting late Wednesday. The timing was right, as it was the Mets’ first series against the barely hanging on Marlins.

What wasn’t so great was what happened next. It was the most lackluster performance of the season, and even the most lethargic performance thus far. The Marlins, who are at the bottom of the majors, defeated the Mets from beginning to end. Friday’s final score was just as ugly as the game. The rebuilding (read: tanking) Marlins are 8, the transitioning Mets are 0.

Mets rookie manager Carlos Mendoza. AP

Whatever message Mendoza was trying to convey, it didn’t get through, at least not right away. But even as a longtime Yankee, he understands that there are days and times like this.

Mendoza’s Mets haven’t gotten off to a promising start, going into Saturday with a 20-24 record, but the rookie captain, often cited for his presence and perseverance, has replaced $341 million man Francisco Lindor. Moving him to the leadoff position prompted a big change. Mendoza has professed that he trusts Lindor (he references former Yankees manager Aaron Boone’s obsession with compliments), but acknowledged he needs to try “something different.” Ta. It seems like the timing is right again.

Thanks to mediocrity over the National League’s Big Three (Dodgers, Phillies, Braves), the Mets were only a game and a half out of the playoffs. But strategically and ranking-wise, the time has come to take action. For the Marlins, who are in last place, this is an opportunity they cannot waste.

While it’s too early to make any strategic judgments on Mendoza (more on that questionable call later), he’s proven adept at dealing with baseball’s ups and downs. Team officials say Mendoza remained calm even when the Mets started 0-5. And he has now lost six of their eight games.

“I learned a lot on the other side of town. When the going gets tough, you have to be consistent, stay the course and stay positive with your players,” Mendoza told the Post. Told. “…You have to do that because the players feed you as a coach.”

Mendoza says it's important to stay positive about the team.
Mendoza says it’s important to stay positive about the team. Kim Clement Neitzel-USA TODAY Sports

He suggested that his time with the Yankees prepared him. Organizations cannot pretend to be similar outside of a common area code. The Yankees are historically star-studded, and the Mets are genetically star-studded. Mendoza understands that.

“That’s what we’re trying to change here: the culture,” he said. “Obviously, it’s going to take time. You have to be patient, because it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Mendoza’s own star seemed to rise overnight — he had three managerial interviews after the Yankees’ “disaster” in the 2023 season — and I initially had doubts about the call-up. But he seems to have the right personality and attitude to deal with what’s in front of him. By the way, a lot of people would do that if they were the manager of the Mets.

One rival National League executive noted Mendoza’s prominent presence in a recent interview. He has an unusual amount of respect for a new manager in a very veteran group in a big city.

“He’s been part of the struggles in New York and the fires of the world,” says former Yankees colleague Willie Randolph. “He’s prepared, he’s patient, he’s a winner.”

Boone is “smart, tough and has great people skills,” Boone added in the text.

Still, Mendoza, who never sought the spotlight, received enough attention to be considered by the Padres (who were always on the inside) and the Guardians (who liked Mendoza but slightly preferred Even). It seemed surprising that he was a candidate. The inexperienced Stephen Vogt is training well).

Mendoza hasn’t made many glaring tactical mistakes, but why does he struggle with throwing to Marcell Ozuna (second only to the superhuman Shohei Ohtani in most offensive categories), hitting game-winning hits at second base and first base? Some wonder if left-handed hitter Michael Harris was given the go-ahead run. In the Mets’ 4-3 win last Sunday, Ozuna hit up the middle.

“We can’t let Ozuna win there,” said one National League scout. (Mendoza remembers discussing it in the dugout, but said he decided to trust Adam Ottavino, who had never allowed a hit to Ozuna.)

There are questions about new Mets baseball president David Stearns’ much-touted call to return to the underperforming Yankees bench coach in 2023, following in the footsteps of his old friend and first choice Craig in Milwaukee. I admit that – remember, it was an 82-80 “disaster” – and the lawyers probably left him at the altar as expected.

Even if the odds were against me, it was worth a try for the good counsel. Rumors spread that Counsell wanted to set a new standard for how low-paid MLB managers were viewed, with some saying he and his wife liked New York despite coaching a local team. (New York also happens to be the smallest market in America) A big one. So it was worth a try.

It’s also easy to see why Counsel chose the Cubs 90 miles down Interstate 94 and signed him to a record $40 million, five-year contract. And you can see why the Mets never reached those numbers. Even the very generous Steve Cohen has his limits. The same goes for that. Their second choice of him also turned out to be a winner.