In unenviable position, Cohen says all the right things on state of Mets

June 28th, 2023

On a day when there was very little Mets owner Steve Cohen could say about the state of his baseball team -- other than perhaps that $370 million didn’t buy him nearly the team he thought it would -- Cohen said all the right things in his press conference at Citi Field. In the process, even talking about what is a very bad baseball team right now, Cohen sounded the way you want owners to sound in sports, which means like an adult in the room.

There was nothing he could say to make his fans feel better about the Mets being a mile-and-a-half behind the Braves, and nowhere near a Wild Card. But he showed up on Wednesday and answered questions, and he took it all. He didn’t threaten to fire Buck Showalter, who was Manager of the Year 79 games ago, with a team that over-achieved its way to 101 regular-season wins. Cohen didn’t threaten to fire general manager Billy Eppler, who spent all of Cohen’s money on these players.

Cohen was on this day exactly what he has been from the time he got the team: The Mets fan who pays the bills, one who has found out quite quickly that you can rarely spend your way to the World Series, even if you are the richest owner in all of professional sports.

“I’ll take responsibility,” Cohen said at one point, when asked where the blame should go for the Mets being in fourth place in the NL East, closer to last place than first. “I’m the owner.”

At another point, he simply said, “It’s been terrible.”

It has been terrible. The Mets came into Wednesday night’s game against the Brewers at 36-43. Only three teams in the National League had a worse record than that. A year ago at this same point in the season, the Mets were 19 games over .500. Now they are 26 games worse than that as they reach the official halfway point of the ‘23 season. They were 14-7 after 21 games. They have gone 22-36 since. They have occasionally looked like the Oakland Double A’s.

They lost Edwin Díaz, who had one of the great seasons a closer has ever had in 2022, to a knee injury during the World Baseball Classic. Now the closer who has replaced him, David Robertson, age 38, is the only consistent and reliable relief pitcher at Showalter’s disposal.

When Showalter didn’t bring Robertson, who had recorded a 5-out save the day before, into the 8th inning of a 6-3 game against the Phillies on Sunday (a game the Mets ended up losing 7-6), SNY announcer Gary Cohen said that Showalter had lost the game without going to his “best” relievers. Except that after Robertson, there are no “best” relievers on the Mets lately. And if Robertson had come into the 8th on Sunday, one or more of the relievers who blew the game in that inning would have had to pitch the 9th.

In the end it was another bad loss in two months of bad losses, as the Mets, one of the best teams in baseball a year ago, have looked like one of the worst. Díaz’s absence is only one of the reasons. Another, just as big, is this: Not a single player on the team is better in 2023 than he was in 2022, and that includes Pete Alonso and Francisco Lindor.

That is why the owner of the team was in the media room on this day, taking questions and probably feeling as if he were trying to stand in against the curve. But what Cohen did not do on this day was give the New York tabloids a big, loud quote on which to build a back page, because that would have solved nothing.

When asked about the upcoming Trade Deadline he said this:

"I'm preparing my management team for all possibilities. If we don't get better, we have decisions to make at the Trade Deadline. That's not my preferred end result but I'm preparing all contingencies."

After he explained that he really wasn’t going to fire either his manager or general manager before this season ends, no matter how it ends (Cohen did say he is still looking for a team president and president of baseball operations), he added this:

“Listen, I’m a patient guy. Everybody wants me to 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.”

But this was New York, and Cohen, just because of his personal wealth, is the most colorful owner since George Steinbrenner, once the home office for impulsive. George would frequently threaten to fire everybody except the bat boys when things went bad for the Yankees, and they went bad a lot in the 15 years between 1981 and 1996 when the Yankees were out of the World Series, and he was the one trying to spend his way back.

Now it is Steve Cohen’s turn in the barrel with what is, right now, the worst team money can buy.

“Hope is not a strategy,” the owner of the Mets said.

Not in hedge funds, not in baseball. Steve Cohen has now found out the hard way, one hard loss after another.