Mets fans, after decades of poor efforts from the Wilpons, have been blessed by the Mets being acquired by Steve Cohen. He has made big free agent signings and key personnel extensions in a significant way.

That matters because Cohen has also gotten results. The Mets’ NL East best 101 wins demonstrates spending results in winning when done in a smart way, and when there is clear talent differential available, being able to go get it increases fan energy and fan spending.

There are rumblings amongst the owners about how Cohen is upsetting the apple cart and how unfair it is to the small market teams. There is talk about how the spending cap isn’t painful enough. All markets are not equal, but the small-market/large-market divide used to be driven by local media markets, and frankly, those have all but dried up.  Even MLB has acknowledged the Regional Sports Networks (RSNs) could go under, and have simply stated “they have a plan”, without elaboration.

For decades, the New York Yankees were the gorilla in the room with respect to huge payrolls, and hey won a lot of championships in the 1990s. The Oakland A’s were exploiting “market inefficiencies” to be competitive at a small-market(?) payroll budget.

When the 2000s rolled around, most teams studied the Oakland model and adopted those practices, starting with the Boston Red Sox, whose new owner at the time, spent and spent and broke an 86-year curse. Combining sabermetrics with a fat wallet could really change the landscape of who is in the playoffs.

Then came the national TV contracts, and big data. Now teams do not rely on local broadcasts. The national ESPN, MLBtv, Apple, Prime all have changed where revenue comes from. And those are shared equally.

What we now see in San Diego, a small local media market, spending for quality talent and closing the gap on the Los Angeles Dodgers. Signing a legit Hall-of-Fame player like Manny Machado until he is 40 is a very smart deal. Teams are starting to catch on that there is money to be made in winning.

The future of baseball is in higher, potentially deferred, salaries, and the Mets have a tremendous opportunity to win int eh coming years before other team catch on.

People think of the Ted Turner Atlanta Braves, and the relative market size without TBS as a driver, but the Braves are owned by Liberty Media, and you can see that each summer, the Braves make acquisitions to shore u their team for the pennant race, and they have already secured their good core players for another five to seven years.

Yes, Steve Cohen is arguably the richest individual owner

Most teams are not owned individually, but rather with a lead owner and supporting partners.

There are several issues with the competitive balance, where the Pirates just put the revenue sharing in their pocket. The Larry Dolan-owned Guardians have a terrific front office, and would prefer to win as inexpensively as they can, but while their media market is smaller, the money doesn’t come from there any longer, and Dolan has more money than the Yankees. The Pirates primary owner, Tom Nutting, has about the same as Jim Crane of the Houston Astros.

When you hear your friends chirping about Cohen’s spending, there is always a Baseball-Reference link to payrolls and then owners who are just not interested in checking out the return on investment for good players.

Bringing this back to Cohen and the Mets; his spending has to stay smart, because the Braves have deep pockets and are smart, and the Phillies have deep pockets and are getting smarter, all of which makes for a competitive field to get to play the Padres or the Dodgers or the Cardinals, to get to play the Yankees or Astros.

Everyone has money, and lots of teams are smart. Mets fans are lucky to have an owner that is in it to win it, because he understands something the Dolans do not – Flags Fly Forever.

4 comments on “Steve Cohen disrupts the spending limits

  • Brian Joura

    You say the Braves have deep pockets but I’m not sure that’s correct. They were below where a deep pockets team should be. Opening Day payroll thru the 2021 season never eclipsed $131 million. Then they win the World Series and OD payroll jumps to $177.8 million last year and will be higher than that this season. Sportrac has their payroll currently at $190.4 million. That’s a nice jump in two years but still leaves them with a lot of room before they hit the first tax threshold at $233 million.

  • T.J.

    For many years, I assumed as a Met fan that I would be stuck with Wilpon ownership forever. So, like many others, I was very happy with the change. As a Met fan, it is great to see an owner that will spend over the top. As a Met fan and someone who tends to side with labor, I don’t mind seeing the short-armed owners squirm a bit. However, money doesn’t guarantee winning, and the widening gap between the top payrolls and bottom payrolls likely isn’t great for the game. Small payroll teams pocketing revenue sharing is also bad for the game.

    Hopefully there are changes that can be agreed upon between the three parties – high payroll owners, low payroll owners, and the players.

    • BobP

      I agree 100% with everything you’ve said. While I’m thrilled to be out from under the Wilpons, I don’t think its good for baseball to have some teams with significantly more financial resources than others. It’s exciting to hear about the Mets being in the mix for every big free agent that comes available, but I think back to how annoyed I would get at Yankees fans who had a sense of entitlement to every big name free agent. I don’t want Mets fandom to become that way. I want the Mets to win as much as anyone, but it would take a bit of the shine off if they put a $30 million/year player at every position.

      • T.J.

        It is kind of unchartered waters for us senior Met fans, and it still feels a bit strange to me. I especially don’t care for the reactions/overreactions every time there is a bit of news on another team’s player that the Mets “may” be interested in…”Ohtani said this”, “Machado no longer option for Mets” etc. Cohen’s plan right now is clear…spend big time to be elite now while he puts in the infrastructure for the system to produce enough studs to keep them in the championship mix virtually every year. How well this plan goes will depend on how many studs fill the 25 man roster in the next few years. So far, they have held the assets…Alvarez and company…which I like Let’s see how disciplined they are at the deadline and next offseason.

        Interestingly, I see the lack of commitment to Alonso at this stage as very shrewd. I love Pete, but barring a Judge-like season, he is potentially the most replaceable star asset they have, especially if Vientos shows he can succeed with power in the bigs. If so, Pete’s big contract may come from another team as Cohen uses that money to fill the pitching prospect void. There are many moving parts, but outside of Lindor, and maybe Nimmo, Cohen has avoided the gigantic financial commitment that extends way beyond the peak seasons.

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