Friday, February 21, 2020

Jessica Mendoza and women in baseball

ESPN revealed this week that their Sunday Night booth will have just two voices, Matt Vasgersian on play by play and Alex Rodriguez as the analyst. They're not replacing Jessica Mendoza, who is now assigned to the Wednesday broadcasts as the sole analyst.

I'm loathe to criticize Mendoza, who takes far too much heat for daring to talk about sports while being female. The Sunday Night broadcasts are frequently unlistenable, but that's less about the announcers than on EPSN's basic fear of talking about the game going on in front of the cameras. It's the producers, not the "talent," that's the problem. Their weeknight broadcasts are generally more game-oriented, and I think she'll be fine in that context.

But there was a genuine issue with Mendoza, and not unique to her: She wasn't just an EPSN analyst but also a member of the Mets front office. As such she stepped in it this offseason when, while the Mets were tangentially involved in the Astros sign-stealing scandal (because Carlos Beltran, their then-manager, was the one Astros player specifically named in the commissioner's report), she went on an ESPN broadcast to blast Mike Fiers for revealing the scam.

EPSN is, in many ways, a journalistic cesspool. The Mendoza conflict of interest -- since resolved, as she has given his job with the Mets -- was hardly unique. David Ross, who was also employed by the Chicago Cubs, was pretty much a fixture as an analyst when ESPN carried a Cubs game (which it does often). Now he is the Cubs manager. I doubt very much that the viewers got an honest appraisal for the Cubs with Ross in the booth the past three seasons.

ESPN seems to have become a waiting room for managers and coaches to bide their time and collect a paycheck while waiting for their next gig. I can't speak to the other sports, but I don't think ESPN's baseball viewers are well served by this revolving door.

While Mendoza continues to stake out her place in the broadcast booth, a few other women are carving out roles in organizations. The Twins have a woman, Andrea Hayden, as their strength and conditioning coach; she won't be wearing a uniform during games. Alyssa Nakken of the San Francisco Giants will be a full-time major league coach this year; I haven't seen a specific title for her. Teams are limited to seven uniformed coaches, and the Giants claim 13 coaches, so she may not be in uniform either, but the Giants claim her to be the first female coach in major league history.

1 comment:

  1. She should have been fired from both ESPN and the Mets. Defending cheating and criticizing the whistleblower on the cheating is reprehensible.