In their public debut as the Mets’ new bosses on Tuesday, owner Steve Cohen and president Sandy Alderson had a clear theme: Everything you think you know about the Mets — the laughingstock reputation, the track record of mediocrity, the micromanaging — can and will change now.
That includes what matters most, winning a World Series, which the Mets haven’t done since 1986 — more than half of Cohen’s life ago. He said if the Mets don’t win it all within the next 3-5 years, it would be "slightly disappointing," perhaps an intentional understatement.
"I'm not trying to make money here," Cohen, a 64-year-old Great Neck native, said. "I have my business at Point72 (Asset Management, a hedge fund). I make money over there. So here, it's really about building something great, building something for the fans, winning."
"We're going to build a process that produces great teams, year in and year out. You build champions, you don't buy them. And we have a great core on this team. And we're going to get better. And I plan to make the investments we need to succeed."
The short version of Cohen’s vision for the Mets, as expressed during his and Alderson’s 90-minute introductory news conference: Excellence should be the norm. That pertains to various areas of the front office — analytics, which he wants to build up, as well as scouting and player development — and of course the uniformed personnel on the field. The Mets have a bunch of good players already, Cohen said, and he wants to add more.
The specifics on how to do much of that he will leave for Alderson and the senior staff he is hiring. Cohen joked that his experience playing the sport topped out in youth ball, so "I’m going to let the professionals, Sandy and the people we bring in, run baseball."
Alderson, further, said he will not make baseball decisions. As team president, he oversees the entire organization on Cohen’s behalf. He is in the process of finding a president of baseball operations, and that person will help decide what the rest of the front office looks like.
"I expect to have a seat at the table, but I don’t expect to be seated at the head of the table," he said. "We’re going to have a process, it’s going to be collaborative. This person is going to have a lot of runway. We’re going to build the organization around him."
Alderson said he wants "the most accomplished baseball person we can find" and he interviewed his first candidate on Saturday.
"This shouldn’t take a long time," he said, refraining from assigning himself a public deadline or timeline.
Cohen said he is looking for an experienced baseball executive, adding, "I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime."
Steve Cohen says he and Sandy Alderson have "the same philosophy": "We want to find great players and make them better."— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 10, 2020
Cohen adds that the Mets have a great core and he plans to make appropriate investments to make the team better.
Steve Cohen just now: “You build champions, you don’t buy them.”#Mets— David Lennon (@DPLennon) November 10, 2020
How involved in baseball operations will Steve Cohen be?— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 10, 2020
"I’m going to let the professionals, Sandy and the people we bring in, let them run baseball," he said. "It'll be a two-way conversation, but ultimately they're the experts."
Sandy Alderson says he has talked to Luis Rojas a few times, including Monday.— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 10, 2020
Alderson said he told Rojas it is "very likely" he will be the Mets' manager in 2021. But Alderson adds that the eventual president of baseball operations will have a say.
Steve Cohen on owning the Mets: "I’m not trying to make money here. … It’s about building something great, building something for the fans, winning."— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 10, 2020
More Cohen: "I’m not in this to be mediocre. That’s just not my thing. I want something great." https://t.co/ugaZG7t6ak— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 10, 2020
Steve Cohen: "If I don’t win a World Series in the next 3-5 years, I’d like to make it sooner, I would consider that slightly disappointing."— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 10, 2020
Steve Cohen on his ideal president of baseball operations (analytics versus scouting background): "I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime. Hopefully we can find someone who is well-rounded and has abilities in multi areas."— Tim Healey (@timbhealey) November 10, 2020
Sandy Alderson:— David Lennon (@DPLennon) November 10, 2020
“We want to be iconic. The Mets have a chance to do that. We have that opportunity … But to get there, we’ve got to be sustainably excellent.”#Mets
Sandy Alderson on current talent search for both the front office and roster:— David Lennon (@DPLennon) November 10, 2020
“I think the Mets have become a very attractive landing place. Suddenly. Overnight.”#Mets
In the meantime, Alderson is running the day-to-day operation, already speaking with Mets executives still with the team, agents representing free agents and some of the Mets’ players.
Soon, they will get to spending. That excellence Cohen will demand? That also includes the Mets’ budget.
"What I do believe is this is a major-market team, and it should have a budget commensurate with that," Cohen said. "We’re starting to see players maybe being off-loaded because of financial concerns. And I think Sandy and I want to take advantage of that."
Alderson added: "Today, given what we want to achieve, it's not about how much less we can get somebody for, it's more about getting that somebody. I don't want to create the impression that we're just going to go out and sign a bunch of players. But I think we now can emphasize the acquisition rather than the cost."
The Cohen-Alderson partnership was born last December, when Cohen was first in talks to buy the team from the Wilpons, a version of the deal that eventually collapsed. They met over brunch organized by Andrew Cohen, Steve Cohen’s business partner of no relation. Alderson knew Andrew Cohen because he was on the Mets’ board of directors, representing Steve Cohen and his minority share of the team.
Over the summer, as Steve Cohen’s pursuit of the Mets approached finality, Alderson, the general manager from 2010-18, decided he wanted to come back.
"I think it was Steve Cohen," Alderson said. "You just heard him over the last few minutes, and I think that’s what excited me, was the opportunity to come back and work for, work with, a guy like Steve, whose vision parallels my own."
Alderson, 72, said he committed to this job for "a couple of years, but it’s open-ended." He doesn’t want to run the Mets forever — or "die with my boots on." But he does want to finish what he started as GM last decade.
"The Mets, they’re a storied franchise," Alderson said. "Some of the stories have been good, some of them have been bad. If we want to be an iconic franchise, which I think we are capable of doing, we have to write more good stories than bad, and occasionally we have to write a really epic story."