The news of the Mets getting sold by the Wilpon’s is too good to be true. The family that has owned a part of the franchise since the mid-80s is finally going to relinquish control of the Mets, ending an era of ups-and-downs and financial stinginess. Steve Cohen, hedge fund manager of Point72 Asset Management, will take over 80% of the Metropolitans, possibly becoming a majority owner as quickly as next year. Steve Cohen will be the richest owner in the MLB, with a net worth of over 13 billion dollars (yes, billion, billion with a “b”). Money will no longer be an issue for the Mets, and their fans can finally stop hearing about the Yankees going after Gerrit Cole and the Mets going after Rick Porcello. Steve Cohen will be the end of the Wilpon era in Mets history, but is he really what Met fans need?
On the surface, Steve Cohen looks like the ideal person to own the New York Mets. He’s the 35th richest man in the United States, higher than other owners like Jerry Jones and Stan Kroenke. The biggest weaknesses of Fred and Jeff Wilpon was that after the 2008 Recession, the Mets operated like that of a mid-market baseball team. New York is not some mid-level city, it’s one of the most famous cities in the world and its teams regularly represent that image in the free-agent market. The Knicks, Jets, and Mets have been some of the worst teams in their respective sports for years, but only the Mets have been unwilling to lay down the big bucks for top players. Under the Wilpon family, the Mets payroll fell from as high as 2nd in the MLB to 22nd in 2014. When the Wilpons were willing to sign top players, they went after guys like Carlos Beltran and Billy Wagner. Last season, the Mets’ most famous FA signing was Jed Lowrie, who has yet to play a single inning at Citi Field. If one thing is for sure, Cohen will spend a lot of money to make sure the Mets have one of the best rosters on paper. Considering he grew up just twenty minutes from Shea Stadium in Great Neck, Cohen is already emotionally invested in the club, which will allow him to feel better about spending a lot of money. Guys like Anthony Rendon and Stephen Strasburg will no longer feel like shiny items in the window of a department store. You know you can’t have it, but you still really want one. Under Cohen, we will now be shopping in that department store.
Side note: Steve Cohen once bought a sculpture for over $140 million and a painting for over $150 million, each of these purchases are larger than any contract the Mets have ever signed.
Even though Steve Cohen will be the second richest owner in all of sports (Steve Ballmer of the LA Clippers still tops Cohen), there are still some shady questions surrounding the future Mets owner. For starters, Cohen’s company, SAC Capital Advisors, pleaded guilty to insider trading charges, wire fraud, and security fraud, being forced to pay almost two billion dollars in damages. Even though Cohen ran the company that bore his initials, he escaped jail time and opened a different hedge fund in 72Point Asset Management. His court case even inspired the HBO show, Billions, with the antagonist loosely based on Cohen and his insider trading case. Mets fans know all too well about what legal issues can do to their beloved franchise after the Bernie Madoff scandal. Is Cohen going to lead the Mets down another legal road similar to that of the Wilpons, or was this just an isolated incident?
Steve Cohen is a hometown boy that grew up rooting for the Mets. He’ll be the richest owner in baseball, and will forever change the outlook of the Mets franchise. Cohen’s Mets will make major moves, rivaling that of the cross-town Yanks and rival Phillies. His background is shady, but does that matter? There are many questions surrounding the potential new majority owner, but only one matters: is he the Mets savior?