We have overused the word “culture” in our sports vernacular for a decade, and it has become a tired cliché. The word has been beaten to death.
But in this situation, we can grant an exception for using this word. Third-year Mets' owner Steve Cohen has changed the culture of how the Mets operate as a franchise since he purchased them for $2.4 billion. After all the years the Mets stood on the sidelines in free agency under previous owner Fred Wilpon, they have spent plenty of money on players with no regard to budget.
This offseason, Cohen spent $807 million to make sure his team would win a postseason series and a championship after falling short of the team’s goals last season, losing the deciding game to the San Diego Padres in the best-of-3 Wild Card Series.
He highlighted the Mets' offseason by signing Justin Verlander, Kodai Senga, Jose Quintana, Omar Narvaez, David Robertson, Carlos Correa (pending physical) and Danny Mendick. He also resigned Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo and Adam Ottavino.
The Mets boast a $382 million payroll, and it’s going to go up before this is all over. This would make even the Wilpons' cringe. When they owned the Mets, they were obsessed with cutting payroll rather than expanding payroll.
This is a great thing. Cohen's spending shows that he is all about winning. No one should criticize him for it. Growing up as a Minnesota Twins fan, I sure do appreciate an owner who goes for it rather than keeping his money to himself and investing in other business ventures.
There’s no doubt that small-market team owners such as Jerry Reinsdorf are furious at Cohen. There should be criticism of them for pocketing the money rather than investing in their team and trying to win. Too many owners focus on having a payroll below $100 million rather than wanting to win. For them, the priority is to not lose money. This is not a way to run a sports franchise, and it isn’t fair to the fans who want to watch their baseball team.
Under the Wilpons, the Mets and their fans were held hostage concerning payroll. They wanted to win, but they also did not want to pay the price to win. After a 2015 World Series appearance, they did not bother improving the team the last few years. It got to the point where the team rotted and never made the playoffs again after a 2016 Wild Card game appearance with the San Francisco Giants.
Yes, this is refreshing. Mets fans don’t have to apologize. Cohen doesn’t have to, either. It’s his money, and it’s his team. His job is supposed to be winning or why else should he be in this business?
If anything, maybe Cohen is forcing other owners to start doing the same thing he is doing.
The Philadelphia Phillies and San Diego Padres have done their part this offseason. They are going for it, too.
Maybe most owners do not have the money Cohen has, but that does not give them the license to just do nothing. The Twins, Colorado Rockies, Kansas City Royals, Oakland Athletics and some middle-market teams have done absolutely nothing this offseason. Their actions show they are punting 2023. How is that encouraging to those fanbases?
The Mets fans lived in that world once under the Wilpons. It wasn’t fun. From my standpoint, I hadn’t gone to many games until last year when Cohen spent money to win. I plan on attending many games this year, including trips to Boston, Baltimore and Minneapolis.
Look, there’s no guarantee spending is going to result in a championship. The Mets may not even get out of the first round. Shoot, they may not even win the NL East as they battle the Atlanta Braves and Phillies. But this gives them a chance. That’s all a Mets fan wants.
Cohen’s spending gives Mets fans a reason to look forward to next season. It gives the Mets a reason to be excited about going to Port St. Lucie when spring training arrives. It makes Mets manager Buck Showalter revitalized when he prepares for the 2023 season.
There’s so much to look forward to heading into next season. That’s a great thing. It sure beats the alternative.
Here’s the beauty of a long season and postseason: There is no guarantee of anything. Games against the Braves and Phillies will be so important. Then, they have to fly out to the West Coast where it gets harder. Every game matters each month. That is the benefit of a long season and the reason we can look forward to it.
This is a far cry from what it used to be under the Wilpons, when Mets fans hoped for the best.
High expectations are a good thing. It gives a reason to go to the games and watch them. It gives a reason to spend a day or night at a watering hole to watch the Mets and celebrate with the fans. It gives something to look forward to every day during the baseball season.
That’s the culture change Cohen created with the Mets. This is where we can say this is not a cliché or hyperbole.
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