The Tenth Inning
 The Tenth Inning Blog
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Mets fans may be setting their expectations too high

At Steve Cohen’s introductory press conference last Tuesday, New York Mets fans heard just what they wanted to hear. “I’m here for the fans. It’s not just about making money. We will act like a major-market team. I’m shooting for a World Series championship in 3-5 years. We can now emphasize the acquisition and not the cost.” That’s how the New York Mets’ new billionaire owner characterized his planned ownership of the team, and it was music to the ears of Mets fans, who have long been frustrated with previous ownership.

Cohen generated a lot of excitement and anticipation with his press conference comments. Mets fans now believe they can look at upcoming seasons with more than just a hope and a prayer. After all, the Wilpon family that had a significant ownership interest in the Mets since 1986 seemed to rarely put the fans first. The franchise nearly crumbled when Fred Wilpon reportedly lost $700 billion in the Bernie Madoff investment scandal. At one point, he had to borrow money to make monthly payrolls. His biggest critics complained that he wasn’t willing to shell out the dollars for one or two transformative players needed to make the team a perennial contender.

Are Mets fans being set up by Cohen? Is he just saying all this as up-front PR work to win the hearts of the fans early on? The prosperous manager of hedge fund, Cohen portrays himself as a fan with a lot of sentimentality for the Mets era of the Shea Stadium days. But will he make decisions based on the emotions of a fan, or objectively like a businessman? Obviously, he must know how to run successful businesses in order for him to have accumulated the wealth he currently has. (He’s now the richest owner of a major-league franchise.) Does he think he just needs to spend a lot of money on the Mets to make them competitive? It sure will help, but there’s more to it than having a fat wallet.

Here are some other critical issues Cohen and the Mets must address.

They need a GM to replace Brady Van Wagenen, who was let go after Cohen purchased the team. Van Wagenen was largely an experiment by the Wilpon family, since his background was not in baseball operations, but as a player agent. The experiment failed. The good news is that revered front office executive Sandy Alderson was hired by Cohen as president, so now it will be his task to find the right person for GM. The Mets will need someone capable of making personnel decisions to spend Cohen’s money wisely.

Alderson and the new GM will have to determine whether Luis Rojas should be retained as the Mets’ manager. He was called on to manage the Mets in February 2020, when Carlos Beltran was forced to step down because of his involvement in the Astros’ sign-stealing scandal in 2017. But Rojas was a relatively inexperienced manager. The verdict is out on whether Rojas is the right person long-term.

The Mets have some big holes in their roster. A top-of-the-line starter behind Jacob DeGrom is probably the biggest gap, followed by some middle relievers and a catcher. If Cohen wants to part with a good chunk of his fortune, he couldn’t go wrong with current free-agents like starter Trevor Bauer, catcher J.T Realmuto, and relievers Brad Hand and Roberto Osuna.

Unlike the Wilpons, Cohen seems prepared to be in the same spending realm as the Yankees and Dodgers so he can secure the top free agent(s) who can fundamentally change the club from being a pretender to a contender. But how many times have we seen teams spend a lot of money on free agents, only to be disappointed that they could never jell with the team? Teams like Tampa Bay and Houston have shown how to successfully build a team with complementing pieces. Cohen says he wants to build a perennial winner. His new front office might need to take some lessons from those teams. That includes building a sustaining farm system to backfill players when they become too expensive to retain.

All of these issues won’t be resolved by Cohen and his staff overnight. He says he expects the team to be a champion in 3-5 years. Well, it could take that long to address them. In the meantime, euphoric Mets fans must be patient and temper their expectations.

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