MLB owners needed less than 30 minutes Friday to approve Steve Cohen as the new principal owner of the Mets. Fans from Flushing to St. Lucie loved seeing the news that Cohen will succeed the Wilpon family, a group that became hated by the populace during its 40-year run in the ownership suite.
Cohen is already off to a good start on the PR front, aside from not being the Wilpons (see Noah Syndergaard’s statement to the New York Post for that): The new boss announced that he will donate $17.5 million to help small businesses in New York City, restore team employees’ salaries to pre-pandemic levels (a $7 million commitment) and set up a $2.5 million fund to assist seasonal stadium workers.
The loving feeling will be gone, gone, gone in a hurry, however, if Cohen doesn’t turn the team into a winner — and destroy the LOLMets narrative — overnight. Can Cohen succeed in doing that? Let’s answer that question with three more questions.
Will Steve Cohen buy every high-priced free agent this offseason?
The more irrational among Mets fans want J.T Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, George Springer, Marcus Stroman AND Brad Hand for Christmas just for starters. Cohen’s the richest owner in baseball but he’s also a businessman who won’t allow his fandom to cost him money. In other words, he won’t dip into his personal fortune to fund the payroll.
Besides, a spending spree won’t go over well with the people who just voted him into power, his fellow owners. Baseball is pushing the narrative that it needs to pinch pennies in a pandemic. Cohen blowing that up with a contrarian spending spree wouldn’t be politically savvy, even if it makes the club better and the fans less angry.
Will the reunion with Sandy Alderson help?
Alderson is best known for being the general manager for the Mets’ last World Series team, the 2015 squad that lost in five to the Royals. Critics of his overall body of work (two winning seasons in eight years) say that year was a result of luck. He left the club two years ago because of a recurrence of cancer, but he hinted at the time that his record made him vulnerable to being replaced. Now he’ll be the team president and a guiding force for a front office that’s fronted for the moment by GM Brodie Van Wagenen, who, like the Wilpons, isn’t well-liked by the fans.
Will greater attention to analytics make a difference?
Data is key to Cohen’s success as a hedge fund manager, so expect him to expand the analytics department to at least league-average size. The $2.45 billion question is whether a beefed-up staff can crunch the numbers finely enough in time to find hidden gems the way, say, the Yankees have in recent years.
The good news for the Mets is that this offseason’s free-agent market will be flush with depth options thanks to budget cuts by other clubs. It won’t take extensive data mining this winter to improve the pitching and outfield at a reasonable cost. The Mets can apply some of the savings to one or more of the big gifts that fans want to see under the tree.