Column: Why are we so mad about Jessica Mendoza?

FILE - In this May 29, 2009, file photo, USA softball player Jessica Mendoza poses for a photo in the ESPN broadcast booth at the Women's College World Series in Oklahoma City. Mendoza has been hired as a baseball operations adviser for the New York Mets while remaining a broadcaster for ESPN's "Sunday Night Baseball." The move, announced Tuesday, March 5, 2019, is part of an increasing number of television commentators who also work for teams. (AP Photo/File)

Hey Twitter, what are we mad about today?

Oh, a woman got hired for a role in baseball operations? I see. Say no more.

Jessica Mendoza, ESPN analyst since 2007, Olympic softball gold medalist and the first female broadcaster to call a postseason game, was hired yesterday by the Mets front office as a baseball operations advisor.

I know, I know. It’s a conflict of interest, right? How can she be working for a worldwide broadcasting network while also providing insight for the Mets’ front office? Will she accidentally let secrets spill on air?

Whether or not the move is a conflict of interest, which is a fair debate to have, the reality is that nobody cared that this was a conflict of interest before a woman got hired. Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz, both highly respected figures and staples of the postseason postgame team, are advisors to the Yankees and Red Sox. David Ross, formerly of the Cubs, works as an ESPN color analyst and an advisor to the team. Al Leiter works with the Mets and works with MLB Network as well.

But all those players won a World Series! They’re super qualified to be analysts! Mendoza has never played a game of baseball in her life!

Again, nobody cared about actual experience until a woman was hired. There are a slew of GMs, managers and front office officials who have little to no experience actually playing major league baseball, yet still have a high baseball IQ. If anything, Mendoza’s experience playing softball gives her the added perspective of being a professional athlete.

But Mendoza is not a good color commentator! I don’t like the things she says on air!

That’s subjective. Her ability to say the right combination of things on air does not directly translate to her ability to provide meaningful insight to the folks in the front office. She’s been working as an analyst for over 10 years; now she’s just doing it for a team as well. Plus, ESPN and MLB are business partners. They are not entirely separate entities and shouldn’t be treated as such.

Look, is it a problem that team analysts also work for major broadcasting networks? Probably. But why are we only getting mad about it now? Because her name is Jessica Mendoza and not Joe Smith. Baseball fans love to break out the “But she doesn’t play the game!” argument when their last experience playing baseball was wiffle ball in the backyard last week. Anyone can watch, fall in love with, analyze and enjoy baseball without having to play it.

Mendoza and Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen are friends. They’ve known each other since Brodie’s CAA days and it made the hire that much easier.

“I’ve been a believer that you need to get new voices and fresh perspectives in any room, especially when you’re making decisions,” Van Wagenen told MLB.com. “Jessica has a very high baseball IQ. She has aptitude to learn anything, and she knows the game. Like Al Leiter, like David Wright, like John Franco, she’s a winner.”

If people truly cared about the ethics of this, it would have been an issue a long, long time ago. If Mendoza’s hire is the reason the ethics start being discussed, that’s awesome. But her qualifications should not be questioned.

If you don’t like Mendoza as a broadcaster, that’s fine. If you think it’s a conflict of interest, that’s also fine. But as soon as you start to doubt her baseball knowledge simply because you don’t like her on ESPN or because she played softball and not baseball, it’s sexist and it’s just a tired argument.


Stephanie Sheehan is the managing editor for The Daily Campus. She can be reached via email at stephanie.sheehan@uconn.edu. She tweets @steph_sheehan.