Brodie Van Wagenen, the 44-year-old former CAA agent who is now GM of the New York Mets, has stirred up fresh talk about links between pro sports teams and media outlets that cover them by hiring ESPN’s Jessica Mendoza as a team adviser.
Mendoza, the team said, will have a role in player evaluation, roster construction, technological advancement and health and performance, as she continues in her role as an analyst for Sunday Night Baseball. In a statement through the team, the former U.S. Olympic softball player thanked ESPN and Disney for their “understanding and confidence as I balance both tasks moving forward.”
Van Wagenen, who was co-head of CAA Sports and repped Mets players before joining the team as GM last fall, called Mendoza “incredibly well respected throughout the industry” as well as a “world-class athlete and experienced television analyst with an extremely high baseball IQ.”
An ESPN spokesman said in a statement that her dual role is hardly a novelty. “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,” the statement said. “We have complete faith in her ability as a leading MLB voice for ESPN.”
Mendoza, who first joined ESPN in 2007, made history in 2015 as the first woman to appear on a post-season game broadcast.
Her ESPN colleagues Alex Rodriguez (New York Yankees) and David Ross (Chicago Cubs) also have official affiliations with their former teams. On Monday, the Mets hired former pitcher Al Leiter as a baseball operations adviser and he said he will remain a studio analyst for the MLB Network, though he cut ties with YES, the regional sports network owned by the New York Yankees. It’s worth noting that Leiter’s hiring has not drawn the kind of scrutiny that Mendoza’s has.
Across the dial, Major League Baseball retirees commonly maintain official ties with teams, particularly if they spent their careers widely identified with one team. At Fox, David Ortiz, for example, works with the Boston Red Sox and Frank Thomas with the Chicago White Sox.
Active players also sometimes create unusual circumstances for networks. ESPN, for example, hired CC Sabathia to do on-air work during the upcoming season, his last as a pitcher for the Yankees.
Overlaps exist in other pro sports leagues, with ex-players like Tracy McGrady appearing on air while continuing to work with teams (in his case the Orlando Magic) and Magic Johnson on ESPN and ABC as a part-owner of the Los Angeles Lakers.