We are Mets fans. We aren’t used to this.
No, this isn’t yet another “Woe is us, we can’t ever get a break” article. This isn’t yet another lament about the hardships of being a Mets fan. This is not about being snakebit, baby. The Mets currently sit near the top of the shabby chic of Major League Baseball, filling the void that used to be occupied perennially by the Boston Red Sox, Chicago Cubs and Cleveland Indians – though in this last case, they keep hanging onto the top spot, not having won a title since 1948. No, this is a look to the future, minus a lot of the apprehension that would accompany such a foresight in years past. The Mets officially have a new owner and almost immediately, there is a different feeling around this ballclub: it feels pretty damn good.
Earlier this week, new Mets’ owner Steve Cohen introduced himself to the fans and media in a Zoom press conference that blew the dust off this stodgy franchise and vivified the fan base – not only the fan base, but some of the players, as well. Pitcher Marcus Stroman was extended a qualifying offer during the interregnum between the exit of former owners Fred and Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz and the approval of Cohen by the other owners. It was widely believed that Stroman would certainly test the waters of free agency and get a larger deal than the $18.9 million qualifying offer would afford. The day after Cohen’s inspiring presser, Stroman accepted the qualifier, noting that he was looking forward to playing for the new ownership and that what Cohen had to say played a big part in his decision.
Meanwhile, we also have a new team President, a familiar face who needed no introduction – or should I say re-introduction? Sandy Alderson let us see that he is healthy and eager to finish the job he started as GM back in 2010. He looks ten years younger. Freed from the financial shackles imposed by the cash-starved Wilpons, Alderson appeared to glow in the prospect of finally being able to run the team the way he wanted. Besides just the baseball side, he will now be able to fill empty offices with a robust analytics staff – basically an R & D department which most other clubs employ to the max and an area in which the Mets have historically lagged. He will also beef up the scouting and development arm of the operation to his liking, without having to go begging for a few extra pennies in the budget.
Cohen got instant street cred with the baseball geeks when he stated “Champions are built, not bought.” While it might not be sexy, it is sound. We need look no further than across town, at the fifth Yankee dynasty. The Yankees of the late-‘90s/early-‘00s were constructed during the time when owner George Steinbrenner was under suspension and thus, no longer allowed to throw money at a problem or trade a promising youngster for an aging big name. Team President Gene Michael had free reign to shape the roster into the dynamo that won three consecutive titles – the third of which shall not be mentioned. Alderson would seemingly have similar carte blanche, with Cohen’s blessing and oversight. One of the great things to hear from Cohen was that he would leave personnel decisions to the baseball department – music to Mets fans ears after the epoch defined by Jeff Wilpon’s meddling.
Obviously, right now, this is all theoretical. With a brand new regime, there is always a honeymoon period until the action starts. We still don’t know who Cohen/Alderson will hire as GM yet, for example. That decision will be crucial – one fine candidate was taken off the board as it was announced yesterday that Kim Ng has been hired by the rival Miami Marlins to run their operation. As regular readers of this space might note, I have been calling for the Mets to hire her for roughly ten years now. Of course, there are other candidates out there and there is more trust in Alderson to find the right one than there was when Jeff Wilpon foisted Brodie van Wagenen on us. In any case, we are finally rooting for a team where it feels like the owner has our back – much as Yankee fans felt when the senior Steinbrenner was in charge. That is definitely new and different.
We are Mets fans. We aren’t used to this. But we could be in a hurry.