How Steve Cohen can fulfill the promise Mets fans saw in his introduction

Tim Brown
·MLB columnist
·7-min read

Dear Steve,

We can call you Steve? You seem like a Steve guy.

Congrats, we think, on buying the New York Mets, the dead shark in formaldehyde of baseball franchises.

You’ve gone from owning 8 percent of the boozy shark, about a tail fin’s worth, to almost all of it, and we Dorys are … are … we forget.

Ecstatic! Ecstatic, is what we are!

We are here to ensure you get the most out of your $2.475 billion. We’re very good at advising other people how to spend their money, because it’s easy and no matter what happens we can still pay our Netflix subscription.

Tuesday afternoon went great, by the way. You were charming. You were likable. You wore an unassumingly sensible pullover and still outdressed every one of a hundred homebound ball writers on a Zoom call, this without actually calling them out for not having done laundry in three weeks. When you stressed a point your eyebrows arched impressively, especially the left one, like church steeples. You promised just enough.

“Well, you know, only one team wins the World Series every year, right? So that’s a pretty high bar,” you said. “But if I don’t win a World Series in the next three to five years — I’d like to make it sooner — then I would consider that slightly disappointing.”

FILE - In this Sept. 3, 2019, file photo, the New York Mets logo is seen on Brandon Nimmo's sleeve as he prepares for an at-bat during a baseball game against the Washington Nationals in Washington. Major League Baseball owners voted Friday, Oct. 30, 2020, to approve the sale of the New York Mets to billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen. The sale from the Wilpon and Katz families values the franchise at between $2.4 billion and $2.45 billion, a record for a baseball team. The sale is likely to close within 10 days.(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)
The New York Mets have a new owner — hedge fund billionaire Steve Cohen. And he impressed fans in his introductory press conference Tuesday. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

That’s not exactly a promise. It will be taken as a promise. Steve said three years, they’ll say on the 7 train. Three ain’t so bad. We can do three. What’s three?

You were deferential without being meek. Smart without being a know-it-all. Self-deprecating without being needy. That’s a nice skill. No wonder people trust you with their Netflix money.

On your baseball operations acumen: “I played Little League once. You know? But that’s about it, right? I’m going to let the professionals — Sandy [Alderson] and the people we bring in, let them run baseball… Ultimately, they’re the experts.”

“I’ve got a lot to learn,” you continued on the subject of Alderson, your new team president and veteran baseball man who will turn 73 later this month, “and I can’t think of a better person to learn from.”

On your years as a minority owner of the Mets: “I sort of equate a minority owner to being like a season-ticket holder. You don’t really have a lot to say. So that was that.”

On the four of 30 owners who voted against approval for your purchase: “I felt like I was going to get approval. I do know some of the owners already. And they know me. I thought that was pretty helpful. I wasn’t really worried about it. I felt pretty good about it … Listen, I can’t speak to what they were thinking. All I know is I did get 26 votes and you need 23 to be an owner, so I accomplished my goal.”

You slayed it with the memories of trips to the Polo Grounds and Shea Stadium, the upper deck at Shea, you said, which makes you one of us. For a few years after that anyway. You remembered Cleon Jones caught the last out of the 1969 World Series (Davey Johnson hit the fly ball), and had Mookie Wilson’s grounder through Bill Buckner as a great Mets moment, though, honestly, how Jimmy Qualls’ single off Tom Seaver qualified as another of those moments had us lost for a second. Didn’t matter. You had this Stevie from Great Neck vibe going by then, which played.

“You want us to win the World Series,” you said to Mets fans. “And so do I.”

Everybody wants to, of course. The Mets themselves have wanted to for 34 years. They just finished in fourth place again. They’ve won a single NL East title in going on a decade and a half. A lot of this rolled downhill onto the Wilpons, an outcome that often was warranted. After a while, when enough general managers and managers and organizational plans and opportunities for dignity go whizzing by, one after another thrown away in search of a flashy better — or soberly cheaper — way, they sell and a city parties.

For you, Steve. With you. That’s a lot. You didn’t just buy a baseball team. You bought all those summer nights. You bought space on all those bedroom walls, a hook on all those hat racks and the backyard soundtrack to all those one-man games. You bought the best of our childhoods. And the escape from whatever comes next.

That’s not something you actually buy. Though, bad metaphor, you just did. That’s really something you actually earn. If 45 minutes on a Zoom call can be believed, stick with your instincts here. Don’t lower beer prices 50 cents and take three laps around the concourse and expect to be the people’s team owner. If you’re really going to do the social media thing — and good luck there — show up in the losing streaks too. Dance after the big wins and still remember lots of line drives get caught too. Laugh at the dumb stuff. There’s so much dumb stuff — it’s baseball. Do Mets baseball with the people. You say “for” them. With them is better. Recognize your privilege in all ways. Then be an ally.

Also, Uncle Steve — we can call you Uncle Steve? — don’t focus so much on payroll. Everyone else will be talking about payroll. They only love you for your money and the cool dead shark thing. Blindly throwing cash around only works at, OK, everything else. The mark of a good owner is not payroll. The mark of a bad owner is, often, payroll. Don’t fall for every binder that comes across your desk, is all we’re saying.

“I’m not going to talk about a budget today,” you said Tuesday. “Sandy and I have been in conversations on that. But what I do believe is that this is a major-market team and it should have a budget commensurate with that.”

Later, you added, “Well, you know, listen. We’re trying to formulate those thoughts today. I can promise you we’re going to act like a major-market team. Are we gonna act like drunken sailors in the marketplace? No. Listen, I want to be thoughtful.”

So, yeah, pick a lane. Stay in that lane. That means committing to a plan and the people you choose to implement the plan and the dollars pledged to the plan that won’t show up in tomorrow morning’s standings. That’s the hard part.

You’ve watched the game for long enough and been on the periphery of the game for long enough to know the Dodgers didn’t win the World Series because they gave Mookie Betts $365 million. In fact, asked what organization you believed was worth modeling yourself after, you said, “I like what the Dodgers are doing.” So you know they won because they drafted and developed Alex Verdugo and Connor Wong and traded Alex Wood for Jeter Downs because they had a surplus of drafted and developed pitchers, and then traded Verdugo, Wong and Downs for Betts. The contract came later. First came the organizational depth to go get him, along with the organizational wealth to take on half of David Price’s contract. Then the hammer.

What we might have liked best Tuesday afternoon, Steve, is the hammer. You didn’t swing it, but let folks know you had it just in case. That’s the guy who could turn an underachieving franchise into something presentable. The guy with standards. The guy who’s tired of all the losing.

On the next president of baseball operations, you said, “I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime.”

On what you expect from employees, you said, “I don’t suffer people who give me responses that are mediocre.”

On how the new Mets might conduct themselves, you said: “I want professionalism. I want integrity. I’m not going to put up with maybe the type of stuff that’s happened in other places … And let’s not forget the fans. Provide a product … that is extraordinary.”

Godspeed, Steve.

Regards,

The Dorys

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