Keidel: Pump The Brakes, We Don't Know What Type Of Owner Steve Cohen Will Be

Money Doesn't Guarantee Wins For The Mets

Jason Keidel
December 06, 2019 - 3:03 pm

So Mets fans have scooped fistfuls of confetti and are parade-ready with the news of a new owner in the near future. 

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What assurance do you have that Steve Cohen is more Robert Kraft than Daniel Snyder? Mr. Cohen - allegedly the real person upon whom the fictional character Bobby Axelrod is based on the TV show "Billions" - is a stranger to us. 

He lives in the tony hamlet of Greenwich, CT, is uber-rich and flies in a societal orbit beyond our sight. If that makes him a great owner, then anyone with a mammoth war chest could waltz into team sports and bag championships. 

Did the Jets win when Woody Johnson took over from Leon Hess? Did the Nets win under Mikhail Prokhorov? Have the Knicks won since the Dolans took over? It doesn't seem to matter, as the sportswriters, talk radio hosts and callers alike are clapping from their cubicles, doing cartwheels down the hallways and clearing their calendars for that World Series celebration in Manhattan. 

Mets fans are giddy mostly because Cohen is not a Wilpon. It's the stale air from the current owner that makes the future owner so appealing. Cohen gives the Mets a patina of a team on the rise. In romantic terms, he's got to be better simply because you're so sick of your ex. But the reality doesn't always match the fantasy. 

New York Mets chief operations officer Jeff Wilpon addresses the media during a press conference prior to a game against the Miami Marlins at Citi Field.
USA Today Sports Images

Ideally, the Mets land someone like Steve Ballmer - the oddly jolly billionaire owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, equal parts mascot and magnate, who has spent his Microsoft money wisely and now has remolded the moribund club into title contenders. He's engaged but not meddlesome. He spends big bucks on talent and backs off. He's a fan who happens to be the richest man in the NBA - with a net worth around $52 billion - and the 16th-richest person on the planet. 

Superficially speaking, we know Cohen is worth about $13.6 billion, making him the second-richest man in Connecticut, according to Forbes. He's a hedge fund titan who likes to feast among the margins, which is what placed him inside the SEC's crosshairs as part of an insider trading scandal and makes him such a juicy TV role. Perhaps he's edgy enough to keep the Mets on their toes and aggressive enough to put the Yankees on notice. 

So rather than being like Ballmer, the Mets would settle for someone like Steinbrenner. Indeed, the Boss was no stranger to the gallows of baseball, suspended twice for various transgressions, castigated and caricatured as the Bronx Bombers won seven World Series under his thumb. Despite his misguided missives, his gaseous sermons and laughable number of firings, George Steinbrenner is revered as the owner of record for the most important team in town, in baseball, and in American team sports. 

Cohen can't erase the Yankees' history or supremacy, but he can improve the Mets simply by spending some of his money on big-ticket free agents  Every winter the Mets hibernate while their fans stew over their hot-stove silence. They found gold in their farm this year, unearthing Pete Alonso and Jeff McNeil, but when Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg or any marquee player hits the market, the Mets demur. 

Of course, only the Mets announce new ownership five years ahead of time, before Cohen will finally own 80% of the club, at a valuation of $2.6 billion. In the meantime, Jeff and Fred Wilpon will resume their roles as father-and-son management and tormentors of Mets fans everywhere. So we have five years to develop Cohen into a charging messiah, ready to lord over the Mets, snag some premium players and rule the National League.   

Maybe the Mets need a little Bobby Axelrod to breathe some confidence into the team. Maybe Mr. Cohen, an unapologetic Mets fan, is the elixir for a team that toils in the shadow of the Yankees and hasn't won a World Series since 1986. Cohen is old enough to remember both of the Mets' world championships. We'll see if he's smart enough to deliver a third. 

Follow Jason on Twitter: @JasonKeidel