This isn’t some argument that Steve Cohen is some type of hero. Or even a good guy. I’ve made it pretty clear what I think of any billionaire and the possibility of them being decent people. Camel going through the eye of a needle and all that.
Still, I couldn’t help but rejoice yesterday waking up to the news that Cohen had gone full Simpsons Oil Tycoon and signed Carlos Correa at the first opportunity once the Giants blanched for whatever reasons they might have had (I lean toward shithead ownership, but I’m designed to do so). And this is as someone who grew up despising the Mets. For Cubs fans my age, it wasn’t the Cardinals we hated most. It was the Mets. Strawberry, Hernandez, Darling. Gooden. These were the names of the horsemen of the apocalypse as far as we were concerned. That kind of bile doesn’t subside in one lifetime.
This is what baseball is supposed to look like. At least when you’re one of the big monsters roaming the countryside. It’s a good reminder that all of the Mets’ previous splashes this winter were just to make up for what they lost. Verlander in for deGrom. Senga in for Bassitt. Quintana in for Walker. Nimmo in for…well, Nimmo. Diaz…you get the idea. But that’s the thing. Having guys like deGrom walk out on you aren’t supposed to be an excuse to play the “Woe is me!” card like most of the teams in MLB would. Look at what the Red Sox did with Mookie Betts or Xander Bogaerts when they couldn’t wait to tell anyone how those players wouldn’t take their oh-so-reasonable offers before punting them. That’s going well for them though, right? I haven’t checked. Certainly haven’t heard anything about it.
All Cohen has done is show everyone what money could be there. Sure, he may be the richest owner in baseball, but it’s not like he’s the only one. While his fellow owners may want to use the Mets’ winter as Exhibit A as to why they need their luxury tax system and how no other team can compete, there isn’t any fan buying that. All the fans are asking, “Why won’t my team do anything like that?”
Cohen’s Mets will pay more in luxury tax penalties than a few teams are spending on their payroll at all. It’s not that owners are capable of embarrassment, but that’s how it should be taken, will be taken, by almost everyone outside the league.
Cohen, and the Dodgers’ owners, only got into the cabal because they were buying teams from the most incompetent. They were distressed assets. The McCourts and the Wilpons. The teams had to go, and MLB didn’t really have time to say no to anyone. You can be sure they won’t make this mistake again.
I don’t know what the endgame is. If the Red Sox could be shamed back into spending the like the Red Sox they already would have. Cubs ownership has already been outed as greedy, clueless, in-fighting Omaha hillbillies and yet not much has changed there, Dansby Swanson signing be damned.
And still, the money being handed out is still being handed out by the usual suspects. We expect the Mets to carry a large payroll. Same for the Yankees. The Giants can’t get anyone to take their money, or back out at the last minute, but that’s not an out of left field either. When do the Royals hand out a big contract? The Marlins? The Pirates? Fuck, even the Rockies tried it last year with Kris Bryant. Too bad he’s made of children’s wishes, but at least it was something.
Of course the Mets aren’t guaranteed anything. You can already see where it might go wrong, given that their rotation has a combined age of Mesozoic and Senga almost certainly can’t pick up too much of the slack. Maybe the bridge to Edwin Diaz falters.
But it would be better, in the long run, if Cohen’s spending along with the Dodgers and Padres made every other team’s fans feel it was pointless. And turn away. And get the networks bitching about falling ratings. Maybe even attendance. It won’t happen, but it’s the only way. The Mets shouldn’t be seen as the evil anomaly. They should be the way.
And maybe it shouldn’t be just baseball. Auston Matthews will hit free agency soon. Maybe he should wonder why he’s capped at earning around $13 million a year when his compatriots in other sports can earn three times that. Sure, it would take another elongated work stoppage in the NHL to break the system, and that’s one the players don’t really have the stomach or capability for. Not to outlast the owners at least. But a boy can dream.
I know that most teams will use Cohen’s largesse as an excuse to not even try. They’ll say there’s no hope of catching them, so why spend the money? They’ll be portrayed as an ill, poisoning the atmosphere for everyone. There was a time when fans bought that. The Red Sox-Yankees 100 years war of the 2000s felt like that to a lot of fans.
But it’s not that way anymore. Fans know about all the revenue streams that flow into teams now. They hear all about the TV deals. They get more and more frustrated and skeptical of claims about financial losses or handicaps. Maybe the tide never fully turns, but it’s trending that way.
The owners already enacted their weapon, which was expanding the playoffs and making it that much harder for teams to win the World Series. The Mets could trip up anywhere. The Dodgers have consistently. The Padres have yet to reach a World Series in this new era of making it rain. The Rays have appeared in as many World Series as the Yankees over the past 15 years. That will always be their out.
As stated above, the Mets still have holes. And something of a tight window. Scherzer and Verlander are only around for a couple of years, and are health concerns still. It could very well not work. And if it doesn’t, nothing will change much. But something has to break. Still, only half the NL is actively trying, and that’s debatable.
Maybe Cohen burns it all. We can only hope, even if putting anything on the Mets is just about the worst feeling in the world.
This is my last TMA of the year, so to all of you who stop by every morning, thanks so much. It really does mean a ton. Merry New Year!