Steve Cohen is still very much an open book as a baseball owner. He has honored every ounce of his declaration that he’s as big a Mets fan as anyone you know, still at heart a Long Island kid sitting in the cheap seats at the Polo Grounds — and that has manifested itself both positively and negatively, mostly on Twitter.
However you feel about Francisco Lindor, the $341 million Cohen shelled out to make Lindor a Met for the rest of his career is exactly the kind of economic splash he promised from the start. And if one of the loudest beefs about the prior ownership was that they didn’t seem to care as much as fans would’ve liked … yeah. That’s not an issue anymore.
If things haven’t exactly gone smoothly in his maiden voyage, it is absolutely fair to grant him a mulligan. You should be allowed that much for your $2.4 billion.
So what happens now? Cohen’s own words at his introductory press conference back in November ought to offer a few clues. Start with this one: “I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime.”
That was always going to be the problem for Luis Rojas, the manager who was hired under a different regime but retained under this one. Rojas has the makings of a good major-league manager in him but he isn’t there yet, and that’s manifested itself the past few weeks in a growing pile of strategic blunders.
It is clear why Rojas is a popular organizational figure. In many ways he is the perfect minor-league manager. Skippers in the bushes are charged with many responsibilities: developing players; protecting them; teaching them fundamentals; schooling them how to be professional; educating them on the game’s daily grind.
The one thing a minor-league manager isn’t required to do? Win. That’s the biggest difference. A minor league manager never — ever — places winning above his other essential duties. Which means the one skillset missing when a manager makes the leap is the only one for which he’ll be judged: the bottom line. Did you win today, or not? It explains Rojas’ maddening lack of urgency as the season has spiraled out of control.
There was something else Cohen had to say back in November.
“I am not trying to make money here,” he said. “Here, it’s about building something great, building something for the fans, winning.”
If that’s true, then Cohen has to commit himself, at all costs, to bringing a new voice to the organization and phasing out Sandy Alderson, allowing him the victory-lap as team president he was supposed to have from the jump. The Mets aren’t just a bad baseball team right now — although make no mistake they’re VERY bad; since July 26 they have played 27 games against the Braves, Reds, Phillies, Giants, Dodgers and Cardinals, their alleged contemporaries as NL contenders, and lost 22 of them.
No. They are also stale. They feel a lot like teams of recent vintage — most of them put together by Sandy Alderson. And that’s not even citing the fact that Alderson’s three most recent impact hires — Mickey Callaway, Jared Porter, Zack Scott — turned into abject off-the-field fiascos.
Cohen has to be unambiguous and unsentimental about this: the new boss, whoever that boss is, will BE the boss. There will be no shared authority. There will be no collaboration. Alderson will have his fiefdom on the business side of things — a golden parachute for long and meritorious service — but he will have no say on the baseball end.
That will automatically take care of certain things — Rojas, for instance, since the New Boss would almost certainly want his own man in the dugout. And change is what the Mets need, most of all, what they crave. They need a new way because the old way simply doesn’t work.
Cohen has a reputation for saying what’s on his mind in his other business, too. None of it reached the Twitter silliness of Thursday when he tried to publicly out a source The Post quoted in a story — a story, irony of ironies, in which that very source talked about how damaging Cohen’s Twitter use might be toward attracting top-drawer candidates.
“The difference,” a long-time Cohen observer told me, “is his offbeat behavior with the hedge fund also came with an unspoken command: fix what needs to be fixed, get [stuff] heading in the right direction. Or else.”
The Mets are Cohen’s very expensive hobby. He still seems to be having a blast. Good. He paid enough for the privilege. But you know the best way to best enjoy this pricey toy? Hire good people, let them do good work, and then tweet to your heart’s content as they put together a string of 94-win seasons. That has to be priority one for Steve Cohen for 2022, now that 2021 is about to be cast off to the ages.