It’s not clear exactly just which weak hitting infielder named Mendoza unwillingly gave his name to baseball enthusiasts’ term for batting mediocrity or who coined the phrase. It’s also not clear if the line is Bob Uecker’s .200 on the dot, career minor-leaguer Minnie Mendoza’s .188 in 16 at bats for the Minnesota Twins in 1970, or Mario Mendoza’s .215 after nine years in the bigs. It’s most likely the latter, attributed to Hall of Famer George Brett. Either way, Wikipedia tells us that the Mendoza Line is the cutoff point below which it is hard to justify keeping even an outstanding defensive player on a Major League Baseball roster.
The term came up during a broadcast of a Detroit Tigers’ game and it got me thinking, what is the automotive equivalent to the Mendoza Line? What car is the benchmark for motoring mediocrity? A car that would be on your list if a friend asked for suggestions, but would also be at the bottom of that list.
Remember, we’re not talking terrible here. People often confuse “mediocre” with “bad”. Websters tells us that mediocre means “of moderate or low quality” and gives one synonym as “so-so”. Low quality, not no quality. The “med” part is from the Latin for middle, and “ocre” is related to edge. A full etymology probably means “the [lower] edge of the middle”.
So what car, currently sold new, would you consider to be the lower edge of the middle, the worst car that still is worth keeping
on the roster in the garage? In keeping with Mario Mendoza’s good glove no hit reputation, it might be a car that has good handling but poor straight line performance, or a car with good performance but has an interior that seems cheap. Or, it could be a car that is not a class leader in any category, having no real commending aspects but also no disqualifying dings. So what’s your current benchmark for so-so cars?
By the way, while some think that the term disparages Mario Mendoza, it should be noted that he himself was at or above the Mendoza Line, since he did have a fairly long career in baseball. At least he’s remembered for staying in the major leagues, unlike Wally Pipp (who actually had a longer, more successful career than Mendoza before history made him a footnote to Lou Gehrig’s career).