It has been just over a year since billionaire hedge fund manager Steve Cohen officially purchased a controlling share of the Mets from the Wilpon family. It has most certainly been a rollercoaster of a year, with the Mets leading the division for the first half of the season, only to watch the rival Braves hoist the World Series trophy in November. Even off the field, Cohen has simultaneously far exceeded the leadership of the Wilpons and also fallen short of expectations on occasion. One full year into a supposed new era of the New York Mets, let’s take a look at how things have (or haven’t) changed.
While the Wilpon administration had numerous problems, by far the most obvious was their miserly spending habits. Since the Madoff Ponzi scheme crippled their finances in 2008, the team’s payroll ranked far below what would be expected of a team in New York. Save for Yoenis Cespedes, the team avoided the top tier of free agents every offseason. Thus, once ‘Uncle Steve’ arrived on the scene, fans couldn’t wait to see how the richest owner in MLB would approach free agency.
To his immense credit, Cohen has already scaled the Mets’ payroll up to the third highest in the league in 2021. This ranks just behind the Dodgers and Yankees, essentially where a team with New York’s market should be. Cohen has shown no aversion to spending money, which earns him a solid grade in the eyes of fans. The only knock on him in this area is that for much of last offseason it was expected that the team would spend big on one of the top available free agents. While this did not come to fruition, Cohen has since proven his ability to spend, handing Francisco Lindor a massive extension and dropping 125 million on three free agents in one day just last week.
The most disconcerting aspect of the Wilpon regime was the culture that surrounded them. From a personnel perspective, they seemed to perpetuate a domineering culture in which all were subject to the decisions of Jeff Wilpon. This manifested in a variety of ways, including forcing star players to pitch while injured, as well as more serious claims of harassing a female executive for being pregnant and unmarried.
While Cohen is far from the scourge that Jeff Wilpon was, he still played a crucial role in hiring the likes of Jared Porter and Zack Scott, both of whom have made headlines for all the wrong reasons. Their actions are certainly not the fault of Cohen; but accountability starts at the top. Again to his credit though, Cohen has reportedly been much more involved in this offseason’s GM search, taking extra scrutiny in the eventual hiring of Billy Eppler.
On-Field Success: C
The ultimate goal in all of this is for Cohen to put out a perennially competitive New York Mets team. Year one of this quest was, in many ways, a failure. The team struggled to a 77-85 record, collapsed in the second half despite a very winnable division, and saw many key players regress from their career norms.
During the Wilpon years, their team often incurred the phrase “LOLMets,” as they continually embarrassed themselves both on and off the field. From the rat/raccoon incident to the late-season implosion, Cohen’s Mets have yet to shake that moniker. Cohen set out to turn the Mets into a juggernaut, an east-coast version of the fearsome Dodgers. One year has not been enough time for that transition, but the results in 2022 will go a long way towards this narrative. If the team continues to flounder, Cohen may be seen as another ineffectual owner, while the Mets remain the laughing stock of MLB. However, a successful playoff run after a six-year drought would make him into the hero Queens wants him to be.
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