'I'm a patient guy': Cohen maintains Eppler, Buck are safe

Mets owner insists rash moves would only hurt team's long-term objectives

June 29th, 2023

NEW YORK -- In his day job as a hedge-fund manager, Steve Cohen rarely faces the public interest that’s followed him since he purchased the Mets three years ago. For the new owner, increased fame came with a learning curve. Recently, Cohen has offered regrets over his early proclamation that anything less than a World Series title within three to five years would be a disappointment.

Such bombast helped cultivate an initial public image of Cohen as fiery, petulant, impulsive -- the modern equivalent of George Steinbrenner. It’s an image he not only considers fictional, but that he’s trying to soften with glimpses into reality.

It may be true that Cohen is maddened by the current state of the Mets: a fourth-place team that fell to 36-44 after a 5-2 loss to the Brewers on Wednesday night at Citi Field, far closer to the worst mark in the league than the best. His investments in the club have no doubt performed far worse than his holdings in the S&P 500.

But disappointment does not have to beget reactionism. To the contrary, Cohen believes a firing spree would do nothing but hurt the long-term fortunes of the Mets. If he dismissed general manager Billy Eppler or manager Buck Showalter because of one bad half-season, Cohen believes, he would hurt the organization’s reputation. And so, when asked directly on Wednesday if the jobs of those two are safe, Cohen responded: “Absolutely.”

“I’m a patient guy,” the owner continued during a 23-minute press conference. “Everybody wants a headline. Everybody says, ‘Fire this person, fire that person.’ But I don’t see that as a way to operate.

“If you want to attract good people to this organization, the worst thing you can do is be impulsive and win the headline for the day. Overall, over time, you’re not going to attract the best talent. You’re not going to want to work for somebody who has a short fuse. Listen, I know fans, they want something to happen. I get it. But sometimes, you can’t do it because you have long-term objectives.”

Despite those words, Cohen -- in his first press conference since April, which he advertised on Twitter as a chance to “get it from me straight” -- offered hints at future change if the Mets cannot improve. Most significantly, Cohen said he continues to search for a president of baseball operations to become Eppler’s boss -- a hire he wanted to make before the 2022 season, but that apparently fell down his list of priorities when the Mets won 101 games.

Now, Cohen appears reinvigorated to make the hire. The hottest rumors surround New York native David Stearns, whose contract with the Brewers is reportedly up after this season. What effect a hire of Stearns or someone else could have on the futures of Eppler and Showalter is unclear.

“My view is this is a very complex job and there’s a lot to do, and it’s a lot on one person,” Cohen said. “That’s still out there. We’ll see. At some point, we will fill that position.”

For now, Cohen intends to continue monitoring the roster to determine how he and Eppler should attack the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline. It’s a question neither man can answer right now, because both want to keep alive the possibility of a resurgence. If the Mets rise up the standings over the next four weeks, it’s possible the team could buy assets at the Deadline. If they don’t, they could sell. Or, as Cohen suggested, they could do very little.

A measured approach may not make for sexy headlines, but it’s the image Cohen wishes to project. One of the world’s richest people appears most comfortable being seen as an everyman. Initially on Wednesday, he intended to address the media informally in the Mets’ dugout, but that became unwieldy once word of his appearance spread. To keep things casual, the Mets swapped out their usual press conference table for a stool and a high-top table. Cohen wore a quarter-zip and swiveled in his chair. At one point, he spilled water on his shirt.

It was light years removed from the image of a modern-day Steinbrenner, who might do and say anything and address the consequences later.

Like Steinbrenner, Cohen wants his team to be better, ideally as soon as possible. But he’s going to be more calculated in his bid to achieve it.

“Fourth place is not the goal, OK?” Cohen said. “Anytime you end up in fourth place, to sit and do nothing is probably not a great place to be. … We’ll figure out what went wrong and figure out how to fix it.”