‘I’M NOT CRAZY ABOUT PEOPLE LEARNING ON MY DIME’
One year ago, Steve Cohen was introduced to the New York media as the new majority owner of the Mets franchise. At the time of his arrival, Cohen was perceived as the Oliver Warbucks of baseball. He was a well-known hedge fund CEO who had built a multi-billion hedge fund operation. Oh, and he was a New York Mets fan.
Not just a spirited cheerleader marketing his toy, but a real Mets fan. He — and his extended family tree — have loved the Mets since the team’s inception in 1962.
“I went to my first Mets game with my dad at the old Polo Grounds,” he told the media in his initial statements. “Years later, my friends and I used to sit in the upper deck at Shea stadium. They’re all rabid Mets fans.”
We also later discovered that the combination of wealth and fandom were the basis of how and why Cohen came to own the famous “Buckner Ball” from Game 6 of the 1986 World Series.
“I’m all in,” Cohen told the world. “Let’s go Mets.”
Cohen said all the right things. His spoke like a Mets fan. He commiserated, to a degree, about the team’s history. But his knowledge and experience of failure only fueled hope and bright light on the future of the franchise.
So, Mets fans eagerly waited to hear from Cohen. With measured hesitation, they tuned in to that first conference last November looking for clues and cracks in the facade. It’s got to be in here somewhere, they thought. He will slip and say something. Mets fans were just waiting for the moment.
It never came.
Just how much better could this story get? Steve Cohen appeared to be the savior that fans dreamed about. He was a Mets fan and he had the financial wherewithal to attract championship-level talent.
OK, wait. What’s going on here? This simply is too to be true. What’s the catch, pondered Mets fans? When will the other show drop and all this hope blows up in the collective face of the loyal fan base — again?
You couldn’t blame Mets fans for the “glass-half-empty” bent. History reveals a long, ugly track record littered with failures and embarrassment sandwiched between a couple miraculous years.
Steve Cohen has a vision. He told the media — but spoke directly into the hearts of Mets fans — that his goals were to win a World Series and create long term success by developing talent systematically using the best resources (both data and people).
I recently spent an afternoon watching Cohen’s first press conference. It should be required homework for any New York Mets fan. Go back and watch it, maybe even a couple times to let the message really soak in.
Do you remember your impressions when you first heard Cohen?
When I went back and listened again, here were my takeaways:
You gotta set goals for the team … and for the fans. We should set high goals. We shouldn’t accept just making it to the playoffs. That means we’re going to have to go out and get great players, develop great players, provide them with the resources that they’re gonna need.
New York fans have high expectations and I want to exceed them. I want an exceptional team. I don’t just want to get into the playoffs. I want to win a championship.
We have to build our baseball management. We’ve got to install processes and ways of doing things that sustain excellence over long period of time.
File those thoughts away.
As a new owner in a new industry, Cohen spoke philosophically about leadership, management, expectation, goals, vision, etc. He talked about how he would translate his business principles to the business of baseball.
“I can only tell you the way I run my business,” he said. “At Point72, I’m very measured and very calm and try to be very thoughtful about things. I think impulsive decisions tend not to work. So, I want to make sure there are checks and balances within the organization.”
But if you rewind to November 2020 and listen closely, knowing what we know now, there were deeper messages about how and what would happen if people and performance didn’t measure up.
“I hold people accountable, just like I do in my business at Point72,” said Cohen.
“I’m a motivated, very proactive type of guy,” he later added. “I don’t sit back and accept mediocrity.”
Cohen later reiterated: “I don’t suffer people who give me responses that are mediocre. I see through that quickly. I’m not a micromanager but I’ll hold my people accountable.”
Almost one year to the day that Cohen made those statements, Mets fans began to see his words morph into actionable, decision-making changes; the same business philosophy that Cohen employs with Point72, his hedge fund.
Cohen’s first “told you so“ moment came shortly after the 2021 season came to a close when the team announced it would cut ties with then manager Luis Rojas.
When the news broke, I could hear Cohen’s voice echoing in my head:
“I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime,” said Cohen.
Translation: If you are not prepared to win now, you have no place on a major league roster (player, coach, etc.).
Throw this one in the file too.
Rojas slide into the role of manager in the spring of 2020 after the team announced that then new manager Carlos Beltran would be let go as a result of his connection to the Houston Astros sign-stealing controversy. Rojas, highly regarded, had never managed a major league team. He was just 38 years old.
Following a miserable year of front office musical chairs, Cohen started the off-season with a clean slate. Amid mixed feelings and heavy debate, the team cut ties with rookie interim GM Zack Scott.
The move led to more chaos after multiple big names rebuffed the seemingly open invitation to oversee baseball operations. The news led to debates that the Mets did not have their own house in order, making the position undesirable.
Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson eventually hired Billy Eppler. The former scout and later assistant GM of the New York Yankees (2004-2015) and GM of the Los Angeles Angels (2015-2020) brought his own unique set of skills and question marks.
But Eppler also brought a wealth of knowledge and respect.
Remember when I asked you to file those thoughts away?
- It’s reference time.
- We must build our baseball management
- We’ve got to install processes that sustain excellence
- Set goals — high goals
- We’re going to have to go out and get great players … provide the resources they need
- I want an exceptional team. I don’t just want to get into the playoffs. I want to win a championship
Either Billy Eppler took notes of the press conference or – despite the setbacks in 2021 — Steve Cohen never wavered from the original vision for the franchise.
Over the past two months the New York Mets hired a new general manager (build management) and signed multiple free agents (resources, people and financial).
Only 5 Mets managerial candidates are known so far — Showalter, Ausmus, Espada, Quatraro, Kelly — but with upgraded vetting and a couple interview rounds expected, no hire is expected this week. There also could be a mystery candidate or more (unknown).
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 7, 2021
Former Mets manager Terry Collins believes the Mets should hire Buck Showalter, “It’s time to make an impact and I think the impact is Buck Showalter. Nobody crossed the T’s and dots the I’s better than Buck. He’s one of the most prepared guys I’ve ever been around.”
— Metsmerized (@Metsmerized) December 7, 2021