The Mets have a “Cohen-Head” but they won’t have a minor league affiliation on Remulak.
When the Coneheads of Saturday Night Live fame would get upset, they would utter the phrase, “Mebs, Mebs.” Steve Cohen, the new head of the Mets, will not make the fans say “Mebs, Mebs.” Rather they’ll be saying Mets, Mets! All kidding aside, new Mets’ Owner Steve Cohen could not have had a better introductory press conference. Cohen literally “hit it out of the park.”
The new owner’s passion for the Mets emanated on that zoom call. This is a person who, along with their millions of fans, has lived and died with this team over all these years. The only difference between Cohen and a die hard Met fan is that he has the means to make the Mets an iconic team. He also has the smarts to be able to relate to the fans and he showed that today as well. “I’m not in this to be mediocre, that’s just not my thing. I want something great and I know the fans want something great. That’s my goal and that’s what I’m gonna do,” he said at a virtual presser to introduce the new boss.
Cohen sounded sincere in his answers and you have to be thrilled that he stressed winning a championship. “I want a team that’s built to be great every year. I don’t just want to get into the playoffs, I want to win a championship,” Cohen said. The new boss wants a championship but he doesn’t want to just settle for one. “I don’t wanna be good one year and bad three years. I wanna be good every year and that’s the goal.”
Don’t expect Cohen to spend like a “drunken sailor” but he won’t hesitate to provide the team whatever it needs. “When we need to fill a gap, we will fill it. It might be with a free agent or it might be with a trade.” That statement was music to Mets’ fans ears, who have endured the Wilpons’ failure to act like a major market team for much of their tenure. That label was applicable even before the Madoff disaster.
Speaking of the Wilpons, Cohen made it a point in his opening statement to acknowledge Fred Wilpon, Commissioner Rob Manfred, the other owners, and the fans but there was absolutely no mention of Jeff Wilpon.
Cohen and Jeff Wilpon did not get along and that was abundantly clear in February when the original deal fell through. There was a dispute over proposed control of the team. As part of the sale, it was reported Cohen agreed to allow Fred and Jeff Wilpon to keep their title of managing general partner and chief operating officer for the next five years. Cohen was reportedly under the impression that those titles would be just that and that the Wilpons would not really have say in any decision making. Reportedly, Jeff was not on board with that, thus the deal fell through at that time.
Being a minority owner gave Cohen a first hand look at how the team was run. Jeff Wilpon was named Chief Operating Officer in 2002 and he didn’t exactly get rave reviews for his appointment. Former co-owner Nelson Doubleday, who had sold his share of the team and was not Jeff’s biggest fan, didn’t hesitate to offer his opinion to the Newark Star Ledger a short time later. “Mr. Jeff Wilpon has decided that he’s going to learn how to run a baseball team and take over at the end of the year. Run for the hills, boys.” In an article, written by NY Post baseball columnist Joel Sherman in 2010, a baseball executive commented on Jeff Wilpon’s skill in running a baseball team. “Jeff is the problem with the organization and he’s never going to realize that,” the executive said.
Even though he declined to answer questions on how the previous ownership operated, some of Cohen’s responses contained some cryptic comments. For example, when he was asked about what type of person he was looking for as a president of baseball operations, Cohen said, “You want somebody who’s well rounded, who has skills in all those different areas (like scouting, analytics, etc.) I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime.” Jeff Wilpon hired an inexperienced general manager in Brodie Van Wagenen, who was learning on their “dime.”
Cohen appears to be someone who gets it and not just on the field. When he was asked about players who were kneeling during the playing of the National Anthem, Cohen said, “If my players wanted to express themselves, they’re entitled to do it, freedom of speech. The only thing I ask for, if they’re gonna do it, just make sure when you’re between the lines, you give a hundred percent.”
On the field, the new boss has the right idea. “We’re gonna strengthen our farm system, keep our players healthy and use the best analytics. We’re gonna 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 gonna get better. I plan to make the investments we need to succeed. We want to win now, but we’re also building for the long term,” he said.
The Mets will use free agency this off season, you can bet on that, but Cohen is not into making a big splash for the sake of making a big splash. “You can spend a lot of money today and then tie up your team in bad contracts for the next five years. You wanna make decisions, not what works for the next 60 games but works for the next few years,” Cohen said.
Cohen will make moves to improve the roster but he also has to take into account some players that are on the current roster right now, mainly Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto. Both of those players are scheduled to be free agents after next season.
Conforto is proven and needs to be a part of the future. Syndergaard will be out to prove himself coming off Tommy John surgery, but what if he finally lives up to his potential in 2021? Do you let him walk after a season like that, or even try to trade him if the team is out of the race?
To his credit, Cohen didn’t take the bait when he was asked about competing with the Yankees. “I’m not competing against the Yankees. This is the Mets, we’re gonna create our excitement. I’m competing against the 29 other major league clubs in MLB.”
Cohen is ready to put his imprint on the baseball canvas in New York. It’s a good time to be a Met fan.