“The New Mets. The Magic is Back.” – Della Femina Travisano & Partners ad campaign, 1980
“I’m proud to be a part of the new Mets. I call it the new Mets because this organization is going in the right direction, the direction of winning.” – Carlos Beltran, 2005
Mets fans of a certain vintage can claim they’ve seen it all. I actually have living relatives who attended games at the Polo Grounds, can you believe it? We’ve seen this team struggle – far too often for most of our liking, for sure – and when the depths of despair are plumbed to the bottom, when it becomes too much to bear, something marvelous and unexpected happens to restore our enthusiasm and joy. Trust me when I tell you that there are few more enthusiastic or joyous fans than Mets fans. We saw that in 1969 after seven years of initial futility. We saw it in 1980, when the Nelson Doubleday – and yes, Fred Wilpon, to be fair – ownership group brought in intelligent baseball people. We saw it in 1998 when manager Bobby Valentine and Hall of Fame catcher Mike Piazza willed a rag-tag band of castoffs and culls into a playoff team. And finally, we saw it in 2005, when general manager Omar Minaya started spending Fred Wilpon’s money like a Mardi Gras drunk, starting with Pedro Martinez and Carlos Beltran. In each instance, this fan base got revved up by one thing: hope.
That hope is palpable right now. Here in 2021 – Happy New Year, everybody! – most of the elements of those earlier catharses would seem to be present. New ownership? Steve Cohen. More resources to infuse into the team? Steve Cohen is a multi-billionaire. Smart baseball people on board? The Team President is Sandy Alderson. Jared Porter is the new GM, a young man who spent an awful lot of time with Theo Epstein with both the Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs, so you’d think he knows a bit about reviving ballclubs that haven’t won in awhile. That’s enough to bring hope to any fan, even before a single move was made. And now, one has been made.
The other day, in the midst of an absolutely terrible afternoon for other aspects of American life, Alderson and Porter pulled off a deal that would have been unthinkable six months ago. They sent two shortstops, a minor league pitching prospect and an extremely young outfielder over to the Cleveland Indians for a megawatt talent, shortstop Francisco Lindor and courageous fan-favorite pitcher Carlos Carrasco. It is incalculable how much this move means to this franchise. This could be bigger than picking up Piazza in ’98 or signing Beltran in ’05. This is seismic. Now, there is talk about signing free agent All-Star outfielder George Springer or swinging a trade with the Cubs for Kris Bryant. Heady stuff, this.
See, we fans have gotten used to coming up just a tad short. The prior ownership was crippled by a lethal combination of having little cash with which to work – through no one’s fault but their own, let’s be honest – and being deathly afraid of bad PR. Of course, as so often happens, that fear almost guaranteed that they would be plagued by nothing else. So, the Wilpons would make a public overture to a huge free agent, only to see him sign elsewhere, or they’d take themselves out of the running early and completely, on some ridiculous sounding pretext. It certainly looks like those days are done. Cohen is just brash enough to not give a flying you-know-what about bad PR. He is a fan, much like we are, but he is also intelligent enough to realize that just because he’s been watching baseball his whole life, he won’t say he “knows” baseball – one of the many failings of the team’s original Chairman of the Board, M. Donald Grant. No. Steve Cohen appears to be content with approving the big-ticket acquisitions, signing the checks and enjoying the perks of the owner’s box without trying to get his fingers in the pie or take credit for other people’s hard work. He’s a fan who wants his team to win and will give them every possible resource to do just that.
Ya gotta have hope.