At first glance, Carlos Mendoza’s minor league totals are entirely unspectacular. Between 1997 and 2010, he played for a dozen different ballclubs and at every position except for catcher and center field across every level of the minors, as well as a stint in independent baseball and the Winter League of his native Venezuela. As an undrafted Giants signee with a career .232 batting average and just 36 career Triple-A at-bats, it’s hard to imagine that they or the Yankees — the only two major league franchises he played affiliated ball for — ever really thought that Mendoza had a chance at the ultimate promotion.
When so many other low-pedigree prospects are quickly cast aside as soon as they don’t pan out, why did the Yankees hold onto Mendoza until he was 29 and long past the age when most ballplayers are long gone from the minors? While Mendoza’s career might be unimpressive from a statistical perspective, it stands out that he survived in the minors for over a decade, especially in spite of that performance. The only logical explanation for Mendoza’s longevity is that he’s simply the kind of guy who people can’t help but want to keep around.
Following Mendoza’s years in the Yankees’ system, the club immediately placed him in a coaching role, quickly ascending the ranks of the organization without an OPS slowing him down. Almost another decade later, in 2018, he completed his climb to the majors, getting his first cup of coffee not as a player, but as the Yankees’ Major League quality control and infield coach — a role the team invented for Mendoza. When the team parted ways with bench coach Josh Bard after the 2019 season, Mendoza got the job as Aaron Boone’s right-hand man.
Now, with Boone unexpectedly out while recovering from pacemaker surgery, Mendoza has been placed at the club’s helm. Though in most circumstances, this kind of interim promotion would barely pass for news, there’s been an outpouring of support for Mendoza’s leadership as fervent as it was immediate.
Already in charge of the logistics that govern a smooth spring training Yankees experience, Boone teased that an absence from Mendoza would be more detrimental to the team’s preseason day-to-day than his own. Boone joked about his own absence, “Probably some of my coaches are like ‘he’s out of my hair for a couple of days.’”
Infamously candid general manager Brian Cashman gushed in support of Mendoza, “Carlos is extremely talented … the players trust him. He’s a superior candidate for the next chair within the industry and we’re fortunate right now that he’s here. He’s served us well every step of the way in whatever capacity (he’s been in).” Cashman even went on to state his support plainly: “His day is coming. He’s going to be a major league manager and he’s going to be good at it.”
As long as the Yankees’ faith in Boone remains high, there might not be room for Mendoza’s rapid ascension up the coaching ranks within the organization. However, this past winter, Mendoza already interviewed for both the Tigers and Red Sox managerial openings, but each team decided to employ managers newly available off of a season-long cheating ban in A.J. Hinch and Alex Cora. It seems as though Mendoza’s decades-long climb to the big leagues is bound to reach its pinnacle soon, even if he’s not in pinstripes when he earns a chance to finally manage a big league club.