Free at last. Free at last. Thank Steve Cohen, the billionaire, New York Mets fans are free at last.
The slogan of the civil rights movement in America, seems appropriate with Cohen’s purchase of the Mets from the Wilpon family, which operated a National League franchise in the country’s biggest city like a mom and pop store.
In the days before the sale became official, Cohen brought back Sandy Alderson from baseball purgatory, also known as Oakland, and installed the former Mets general manager as the club’s president. Then, within hours of the sale closing, Alderson presided in a wholesale cleansing of the team’s baseball operations department.
Leading the exodus was Brodie Van Wagenen, the former player agent who was installed as general manager two years ago by the Wilpons, equipped with a nickel and dime budget in multi-million dollar environment.
Van Wagenen had help managing the budget and player moves from Jeff Wilpon, who fashioned himself a baseball expert because his father had purchased a baseball team. He was as tuned in on talent about as much as Mr. Met.
And so, Van Wagenen began remaking the roster and tooting his horn, challenging the rest of the National League to “Come get us.’’ And that’s what they did. In two seasons on the job Van Wagenen’s Mets managed to miss the playoffs twice, even in the hybrid 2020 campaign when baseball expanded the postseason to 16 teams and it seemed that everybody except the Durham Bulls were invited.
When he had to hire a manager, he came up with Carlos Beltran, who lasted 2½ months and left before managing a game, swept up in the Houston Astros sign stealing scandal. That was not a good job of vetting by the Mets braintrust.
And then there was the roster. Van Wagenen’s theory was “win now,’’ so he traded away prospects for old friends. That’s how 37-year-old Robinson Cano and his albatross of a contract arrived to play second base. The contract, paying about $24 million, was negotiated by his former agent, Brodie Van Wagenen.
Another trade produced Marcus Stroman, who pitched for half a season and then opted out with covid-19 concerns as soon as his service time reached free agent eligibility.
And it’s not like Van Wagenen ignored the free agent market. He let third baseman Todd Frazier, a former client, walk after the 2019 season, then traded a player to be named later to Texas to get Frazier back before letting him walk again following the 2020 season. The Mets still owe the Rangers the player to be named later.
The signing Van Wagenen will be remembered for best though, was the two-year $20 million deal he gave journeyman infielder Jed Lowrie, who arrived with one good leg. Lowrie made a cameo appearance last year and went 0-for-7 in his brief stay at Citi Field. He, too, was a former Van Wagenen client.
Now the Mets are too.
Photo by Rich Graessle/Icon Sportswire