Like everyone else, I’m interested in what new Mets owner Steve Cohen has to say Tuesday during his introductory Zoom conference with the media.
Then again, how can his words possibly live up to the hype?
Cohen already is worshipped as the presumptive savior of the franchise. And we’ve been spending his $14 billion for weeks now. Should we stop at George Springer and J.T. Realmuto? Or how about Trevor Bauer along with a trade-and-sign for Francisco Lindor?
Why not all four?
Maybe Cohen will address that question Tuesday. Or toss it to his new president, Sandy Alderson, also scheduled to be in the Zoom room. But there is one thing both need to be wary of as they embark on this winter remodeling of the Mets.
The expectations placed on Cohen/Alderson are red-lining at ridiculous levels, beyond even the Yankees, who have diligently crafted the impression -- because of to massive pandemic-related losses -- that their bucks stop with re-signing DJ LeMahieu this offseason.
But the time-tested sales strategy of "underpromise, overdeliver" isn’t going to fly with the Cohen Mets. After being starved by the Wilpons, the Mets’ faithful want everything on the menu, with zero regard for the prices now that Uncle Stevie is picking up the check.
Cohen got a taste of that over the past few days in his Twitter exchanges with the fans, which served as a good icebreaker, at a comfortable distance. And from what we’ve witnessed so far, Cohen has been quick to act. One of the first things he did upon being approved was restore prepandemic salaries for team employees, as well as provide relief for seasonal vendors hurt by an empty Citi Field this summer.
A week later, within hours of closing the Mets’ sale, Cohen gave Alderson full authority to clear out the front office, firing general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and his lieutenants, even going as far as to ax the well-respected Omar Minaya, who had a friendly relationship with Cohen. That last move in particular was a nod to Alderson’s complete control of baseball operations, and perhaps an omen of things to come.
Cohen just dropped $2.475 billion on the Mets. This isn’t a time for half measures in Flushing, and based on Cohen’s somewhat ruthless rep in the hedge-fund world (he’s the inspiration for "Billions" Bobby Axelrod, after all) we can postulate that he intends to run the Mets in similar fashion. At least one outgoing Mets exec felt that way, too.
"I hope that your energy, competitiveness and resources will be welcomed by Major League Baseball," Van Wagenen said of Cohen in Friday’s statement. "The sport can benefit from your fearlessness and aggressiveness."
We’ll certainly be asking Cohen how he plans to deploy those resources. Despite being a megabillionaire, and now the richest singular owner in MLB, in what manner does his personal fortune impact the Mets’ previously existing financial mess? The franchise itself was sagging under a reported $350 million in debt before his purchase. And will Cohen be mindful of the sport’s luxury-tax threshold (currently at $210M) for this upcoming season, especially with no guarantee of gate-related revenue for 2021?
Cohen, who grew up in Great Neck, has been a Mets fan longer than a hedge-fund mogul. But no one is exactly sure yet where those two passions intersect, which is something else Cohen can clue us in on. After decades of the Wilpons operating with fluctuating budgets from year to year, and doing so secretly, will Cohen provide some rough estimates as to how high the spending could go?
At the moment, Cohen can’t get any more popular, unless maybe he reads off his free-agent shopping list during Tuesday’s call. He’s super rich, a true Mets’ fan, and not a Wilpon. That’s all he’s needed up to this point. But it gets harder from here, and the honeymoon doesn’t last forever, for him or Alderson.
Even the Wilpons had winters where they used to scoop up All-Stars like Tom Glavine, Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Billy Wagner, Carlos Delgardo, Moises Alou and Johan Santana. As you can tell by the names, that was a long time ago. But none of them were able to win a World Series ring in Flushing.
Alderson came close to doing it during his previous tenure as GM, and now Cohen has enlisted him to try again, with even greater responsibility (and presumably more money). First comes rebuilding the front office, then creating a championship-caliber roster, and Cohen definitely seems eager to get underway.
He’ll kick it off Tuesday by speaking directly to an adoring audience that will be hanging on his every word. But still anxious to see if Cohen can truly transform the Mets into what he already has them imagining.