All Steve Cohen had to do Friday was cross the T’s and dot the I’s on his $2.475 billion purchase of the Mets.
He left the dirty work to new club president Sandy Alderson, who, Corleone-style, proceeded to whack everyone who had ties to either the Wilpons or general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
Full autonomy was always something of an inside joke during Alderson’s previous stint with the Mets, as well as the handful of general managers who preceded him under the Wilpons. In Flushing, the title of GM carried the appearance of a buck-stops-here position, but that authority was on a very short leash, with COO Jeff Wilpon holding the other end.
Everyone knew it, Alderson painfully so.
But now, under Cohen’s ownership, Alderson truly wields the hammer. Just as he always wanted. And Cohen, who needed Alderson’s MLB gravitas to help get this sale approved by the owners, apparently signed over complete control of baseball operations to him.
It’s one thing to pledge full autonomy, but what happened Friday was the real deal. Alderson was green-lighted to clean house in the front office — keeping only John Ricco — and one dismissal in particular signaled to us that this indeed is Alderson's show now.
That was the removal of Omar Minaya, a widely respected executive with a long Mets front-office history (off-and-on) who was a ground-breaking minority figure in MLB circles.
Minaya also had a previous good relationship with Cohen, as did Alderson, which made me believe that Minaya — a survivor by nature — would stick with the new regime.
But it didn’t happen. Instead, Alderson threw Minaya overboard with Van Wagenen and the whole of the GM's lieutenants, including assistant GM Allard Baird, systems chief Adam Guttridge and development head Jared Banner.
All were euphemistically described as "leaving." Nice touch, like the party was over.
Alderson thanked the bunch of them but singled out Minaya in the statement.
"I especially want to thank Omar for his long and distinguished service to the Mets in many important capacities," Alderson said.
One of those capacities, you may remember, was being forced on Alderson as a surprise "special assistant" by owner Fred Wilpon in December 2017. It was Alderson who replaced Minaya as GM seven years before that, and the move created an awkward pairing at best.
All this time later, maybe Alderson still harbors some resentment from that. Or maybe he just viewed Minaya as a holdover from the Wilpon Era and preferred a fresh start, with a staff loyal to him.
Either way, Alderson's move to coldly erase the core of the front office was in direct contrast with the smiley-face and rainbow emojis Cohen had been dispatching since getting cleared by the owners a week ago — including less than two hours before Alderson dropped the ax Friday.
"This is a significant milestone in the history of this storied franchise," Cohen said in a statement. "I want to thank everybody who helped make this happen. The 2021 season is right around the corner and we’ve got a lot of work to do, so I’m excited to get started."
Soon after came Alderson’s hit list of senior leadership "departures." Tough break for Van Wagenen & Co., but in the grand scheme, from a Mets standpoint, Alderson's hostile takeover of baseball operations — and the consolidation of that power — has to be considered a positive development.
For nearly two decades, we preached that the Wilpons would have been best served by hiring a baseball person to run the baseball side of their business and then staying the heck out of the way, aside from writing a big check once in a while. But neither Fred nor Jeff could stay at a mutually beneficial distance, and that interference reached unprecedented levels with Van Wagenen’s hire. The former GM even spelled it out for everyone Friday with his exit statement.
Van Wagenen described Fred as the "head and heart of the organization" and then called Jeff the "day-to-day leader of the Mets." Finally, Van Wagenen said the quiet part out loud.
Of course, both angrily turned on Van Wagenen when the GM was caught criticizing the commissioner on a hot mic — defending Mets players, we might add — revealing what the Wilpons value most in a GM: being the fall guy.
Luckily for Alderson, that doesn’t appear to be the case under Cohen, a lifelong Mets fan from Great Neck with the same goal as the rest of the Flushing faithful — to win a World Series.
For now, the mega-billionaire seems happy to simply pick up the tab for Alderson's franchise renovations, which began Friday with the front office.
So Alderson will return to his executive suite at Citi Field next week, outlasting the Wilpons, with a chance to win the title they never did, backed by the financial resources they never had. And perhaps most important, Alderson finally will have the full autonomy he never was granted before.