WASHINGTON -- Early this season, Steve Cohen said, he had trouble sleeping after games, though that sensation has faded as he’s become more familiar with his role as owner of the Mets. Sometimes, when the team is on the West Coast, Cohen even admits to calling it a night midgame -- “I’ve got a day job,” the famed hedge-fund manager quipped. But overall, he has surprised himself by the extent to which he remains invested in every pitch.
“I knew I would care about every game, but I didn’t realize how much I would care,” Cohen said Sunday morning, after flying a couple hundred miles south to watch the Mets in their series finale at Nationals Park. “I live and die on every inning.”
So count Cohen among those less than thrilled to see the Mets drop a 5-2 game to the Nats on Sunday, serving up three Kyle Schwarber homers in the series finale and losing three of four in Washington overall. It was a forgettable weekend for the visitors, who scored just nine runs in four games. But the Mets remain in first place, where they’ve spent the last six weeks. And they have an owner, Cohen, who is committed to keeping a winning product on the field.
What form that takes leading into Trade Deadline season remains to be seen. Earlier this month, general manager Zack Scott pointed to starting pitching as the New York’s most obvious area of need, considering the lengthy injured-list stints of Noah Syndergaard and Carlos Carrasco. A third starter, Joey Lucchesi, joined those two on the IL this weekend, while a fourth, Jacob deGrom, has battled minor aches and pains all season. As such, the Mets have relied heavily on Marcus Stroman and Taijuan Walker, the latter of whom allowed four runs on 10 hits in Sunday’s loss.
Amidst that backdrop, Cohen said he is open-minded about upgrading the team, and even about blasting past Major League Baseball’s $210 million luxury-tax threshold if necessary.
“That’s something to think about, right?” he said. “Because there’s a price to pay if you go over it for the following year and the year after it. We’re not going over for a million, two million bucks. That’s stupid, right? So if you’re going to do it, you’re going to do it. So we’ll see. We’ll see what’s available.”
For now, Cohen is deferring all such decisions until a later time. The Mets are currently in evaluation mode -- considering “big decisions” in the short- and medium-term future, while acknowledging that “no one has an unlimited amount of money.”
When reminded that he has more funds than most, Cohen -- MLB’s richest owner by far, worth an estimated $14 billion, according to Forbes -- shrugged.
“You’ve got to be disciplined,” he said. “We’ll figure it out. We’ll get there. We don’t have to figure it out now.”
In most other matters, Cohen is satisfied. He likes the jobs that both Scott and manager Luis Rojas are doing, keeping the Mets afloat despite injuries to so many significant roster pieces. Now that the heavy lifting of last offseason is complete, Cohen only spends about an hour each day dealing with Mets matters -- and even then, it’s mostly on the business side of the organization. He prefers to leave baseball operations in the hands of Scott and team president Sandy Alderson.
He also likes to win, and is hopeful the Mets will do more of that soon. Team officials -- Cohen included -- are taking a longer view of this season, which means not panicking after dropping three of four to the Nationals over the weekend.
The bigger picture is that the Mets have controlled the NL East for the better part of two months, doing most of it without injured hitters Michael Conforto, Brandon Nimmo, Jeff McNeil and J.D. Davis. The first three should all be back before the end of June, potentially sparking an offense that ranks 29th in the Majors in runs scored.
In the interim, Rojas pointed to New York's pitching staff, which leads the league in ERA, and its defense, which is markedly improved from last season, as primary factors for the club’s success.
“We didn’t play our best baseball here, but I don’t think we played our worst,” outfielder Kevin Pillar said, adding: “I’d much rather be up four games than down four games in the standings.”
So would the Mets’ owner, who has real power to change things if the team starts to lose its grip on the NL East. Cohen said he speaks to Scott and Alderson “all the time,” which isn’t likely to change as the Mets prepare to refine their roster in advance of the playoff push.
“If Sandy doesn’t pick up, I go to Zack,” Cohen said, laughing. “If Zack doesn’t pick up, I go to Sandy. And if one of them picks up, I may go to the other one anyway. You’ve got to stay current. It’s part of the gig.”