New York Mets advisor Jessica Mendoza walks back her Mike Fiers bash

KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 26: Jessica Mendoza of ESPN speaks on set the day before Game 1 of the 2015 World Series between the Royals and Mets at Kauffman Stadium on October 26, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - OCTOBER 26: Jessica Mendoza of ESPN speaks on set the day before Game 1 of the 2015 World Series between the Royals and Mets at Kauffman Stadium on October 26, 2015 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Maxx Wolfson/Getty Images) /

ESPN reporter and New York Mets advisor Jessica Mendoza cracked on Mike Fiers whistleblowing. Then, she walked it back… A little.

Jessica Mendoza has two jobs, concurrently: she’s an ESPN baseball analyst, and the New York Mets pay her as a freelance advisor, and that’s cited often enough as one of a series of conflicts of interests involved when journalists engage concurrently as advisors to organizations whose work or selves their coverage includes. And it got Mendoza into a lively cyberspace scrum of her own Thursday morning, with Astrogate as the bell.

A few hours before the Mets and manager Carlos Beltran parted in further  Astrogate fallout, Mendoza appeared on ESPN Radio’s Golic & Wingo program to denounce . . . Athletics (and former Astros pitcher) Mike Fiers for blowing the whistle on Astrogate in the first place. And cyberspace blew up just enough over that critique that there were a few calls for at least ESPN to fire Mendoza.

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What irked Mendoza in the first place was the same sort of thing Fiers’s critics have hammered since the scandal first began to explode, namely that he took it public at all, never mind two years after his own days with the Astros ended and he’d slipped a 2017 World Series ring on his finger. It was one thing for Fiers to warn his subsequent Detroit and Oakland teammates to beware the high tech cheaters but something else to, shall we say, throw the dirty laundry out onto the street, Mendoza pretty much said:

"[T]o go public, yeah. It didn’t sit well with me. And honestly, it made me sad for the sport that that’s how this all got found out. This wasn’t something that MLB naturally investigated or that even other teams complained about because they naturally heard about, and then investigations happen. But it came from within. It was a player that was a part of it, that benefited from it during the regular season when he was a part of that team. When I first heard about it, it hits you like any teammate would. It’s something that you don’t do. I totally get telling your future teammates, helping them win, letting people know. But to go public with it and call them out and start all of this, it’s hard to swallow."

Hours later, with the Twitterverse blowing up almost as incendiary over Mendoza’s crack as over Beltran’s fate, Mendoza handed up what she hoped to be a clarification: uh, yes, baseball benefits when cheating’s exposed, and big props that baseball’s taking the right actions, but, uh . . .

"The point I should have been much more clear on was this: I believe it’s very critical that this news was made public; I simply disagree with the manner in which that was done. I credit Mike Fiers with 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."

Mendoza’s scramble to walk her original cracking back took her sightless past two critical points: 1) There were complaints from several baseball places to the commissioner’s office regarding suspicions about the Astros. But those complaints, if not falling upon deaf ears, didn’t exactly light the fire, then, particularly if many if not most had been anonymous. 2) The anonymity was likely rooted in baseball clubhouses being among those places where the culture’s strict rules include keeping your mouth shut and working it out internally before taking it outside the building.

A third point, which the Mets advisor purporting to be a professional reporter should have remembered and which anyone in the profession understands quickly enough is: There’d been whispers around the Astros and perhaps others engaging in such extralegal electronic sign espionage, but reporters faced a dilemma when a) they can’t get anyone to show willingness to put his name on the public record about it; and, b) a scrupulous editor is hard-pressed to pass a story anchored in deep cover whether the reporter has ten or ten hundred such sources.

It’s not unreasonable to think that Fiers, who did advise his post-Astro teammates about their high tech cheating, might well have tried telling someone, anyone, other than teammates what he suspected, perhaps hoping there’d be a reporter whose editor was willing to run with something so deep cover until at long enough last he couldn’t believe or accept any longer that no one could run with it. Broadcaster C.J. Nitkowski amplifies the point: Fiers could have pressed anonymously but ended up with nothing more than a column that would have ended there “because good reporters don’t give up sources.”

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“Ultimately, what matters most,” Mendoza wrote in her walk back, “is that [Fiers’s] observations were made public and the game will be better for it.” Nice of her to acknowledge that, at last.