A Mets front office employee discussed the employment status of the Mets manager on television on Thursday. But was Jessica Mendoza speaking in her capacity as a Mets employee, or in her other capacity, as an ESPN baseball analyst?
Brodie Van Wagenen, the Mets general manager, suggested to reporters asking about her comments that someone with multiple related roles could consciously embody just one at a time. One moment Mendoza was a Mets employee. The next, she slipped on the hat she wears during her side job with ESPN — or is the ESPN gig her day job?
It was yet another strange twist in a day that saw the Mets and Manager Carlos Beltran mutually agree to part ways, the latest fallout from the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scheme and subsequent Major League Baseball investigation into it.
Mendoza, whom the Mets hired as a special assistant to Van Wagenen last spring, said in a televised interview Thursday morning that Major League Baseball should have punished the players involved in the scheme. “For those players to have no accountability, no blame, is crazy to me,” Mendoza said on the “Golic and Wingo” show on ESPN2.
Beltran, who was still Mendoza’s fellow Mets employee when the show was airing, played for the Astros in 2017 and was the only player implicated in M.L.B.’s report on the investigation.
Mendoza also criticized Mike Fiers — the Oakland A’s pitcher whose revelation of the sign-stealing scheme to The Athletic triggered M.L.B.’s investigation — for violating clubhouse culture.
Beltran, who started 129 games for the Astros in 2017, was a central figure in conceiving the scheme, according to a person with knowledge of the investigation who requested anonymity to discuss details that had not been made public.
When asked directly about Beltran on the show, Mendoza was less forthright. “I know Brodie Van Wagenen and Jeff Wilpon, and as of now it is public out there, they are down in Florida, they are talking with Carlos, trying to assess it themselves,” she said. “Because it is not as simple as he was in charge or he was a bench coach.”
She does indeed know Wilpon, the Mets’ chief operating officer, and Van Wagenen: They hired her.
Hours after her television appearance, the Mets and Beltran parted ways.
On Thursday, Van Wagenen tried to distance the team from Mendoza’s comments. “Jessica was speaking as an ESPN analyst, not as a spokesman for the Mets, when she made the comments,” he said on a conference call with reporters. He said he had yet to speak with her about it.
On “Golic and Wingo,” Trey Wingo introduced Mendoza as both an ESPN analyst and a Mets adviser — a baseball insider, so to speak. That’s what she sounded like, rather than a member of the news media, when she criticized Fiers for whistle-blowing.
“To go public, that didn’t sit well with me,” she said of Fiers speaking to The Athletic. Later, on a different ESPN show, Mendoza said Fiers had “ratted everyone out.”
In a statement posted on Twitter, Mendoza attempted to clarify her comments. “I credit Mike Fiers for stepping forward, yet I feel that going directly through your team and/or MLB first could have been a better way to surface the information,” she wrote.
An M.L.B. spokesman said, “Mike Fiers did the right thing and should be commended.”
Mendoza did not respond to a voice message left on her phone. An ESPN spokesman declined to comment.
When the Mets hired Mendoza in the spring, the network dismissed questions about whether her holding the two jobs presented any conflicts of interest.
“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, said at the time.
As Krulewitz indicated, Mendoza’s employment with the Mets is not a unique blurring of lines between covering M.L.B. and participating in it. For a while, Alex Rodriguez worked both as a special adviser to the Yankees and as an ESPN analyst, and David Ross, the Chicago Cubs’ new manager, doubled as a special assistant to the team and as an ESPN employee.
Van Wagenen, however, has described Mendoza’s role with the Mets as more comprehensive than the work many former players do for teams after retirement. Van Wagenen said when Mendoza was hired that it was imperative to have different perspectives in the room when making decisions, and added that she would be especially influential in matters of health and technology.
Mendoza is one of only a handful of baseball team employees to have spoken publicly about the sign-stealing scheme. Major League Baseball has encouraged teams not to say anything — even the Los Angeles Dodgers, who lost the 2017 World Series to the Astros and the 2018 World Series to the Boston Red Sox, who are also under investigation for illicit sign-stealing.