Steve Cohen, despite the success he attained in a previous venture, is finding a different beast in baseball. How is he coping with it so far?
If Steve Cohen ever thought he would be able to apply the blueprint of wild success from his Point 72 hedge fund project to the New York Mets, he’s quickly learning that baseball is a business beast of its own.
Money and talent at the upper management level speak volumes in Cohen’s previous business venture. With the Mets, not so much.
Targeting an up and coming enterprise in the tech industry, and following that up with the purchase of significant stock in that company when no one is looking, is proving to be a different animal than, for example, targeting and signing George Springer.
This is foreign territory for Steve Cohen, despite his allegiance to the Mets as a fan since the days they played in the Polo Grounds.
Even so, it would not be a good idea to sit down with Steve Cohen to play a game of Mets Trivia for fifty bucks a pop.
Steve Cohen And The “Wierd” Business Of Baseball
The trouble is, though, that unlike the company you targeted as a hedge fund manager that was flying well beneath the radar, available talent in baseball is a mere click away from a search on a particular player of interest.
Back in the day, the number of companies on a par with Cohen’s Point 72 hedge fund was likely limited to a handful.
Whereas in baseball, the 24/7 media coverage of the Hot Stove League, complete with rumors of the day, puts as many as 29 teams in the crosshairs of what Cohen and the Mets are trying to accomplish on any given day.
In practical terms, in baseball, it’s not as simple as Steve Cohen calling the top trader on his payroll, directing him to purchase X amount of shares from Company Y before the close of business today.
But Steve Cohen is a quick study and more than he knew even before he said it, he’s in this for the long term – and day by day Mets fans are hopping on board with that plan.
Are Mets Fans “Soft” On Steve Cohen
A case in point stems from a story I wrote yesterday that proposed the Mets as a team handcuffed in their ability to make trades due to a weak farm system, as well as a free-agent market seemingly frozen in ice due to the uncertainty of the 2021 season.
In flocks, Mets fans responded with comments containing a singular refrain asking to give Steve Cohen a break because, after all, he’s only been here for a few weeks, and the best is yet to come in a season where Spring Training is still six weeks away.
Point well taken, but I’m not as easily convinced that Steve Cohen is quite ready to fold the tent until “something” breaks, and the Mets become the free-swinging entry ready and able to smash the baseball market this winter.
Steve Cohen wants that parade down the Canyon Of Heroes in Manhattan (yesterday) as bad as any Mets fan.
But his allegiance to Mets fans goes no further than the allegiance he affords to himself as a winner in which a 2021 season that falls short of (at least) an appearance in the playoffs – is unacceptable.
The Steve Cohen Dilemma
Grateful, perhaps, to the wide range of support Cohen has and continues to receive from the bulk of Mets fans, he remains frustrated and stymied by his ability to quickly turn the tide that improves the Mets team for 2021.
The Steve Cohen we see now is a man torn between the temptation to go all-in on the upcoming season – give Trevor Bauer the $40 million he wants for one season.
Make Springer an offer he can’t refuse, and challenge Sandy Alderson to designate a player or two on the Mets roster that will, in a trade, yield a proven major league starter., or perhaps even Nolan Arenado and/or Francisco Lindor.
Yes, but the only problem with this scenario is it ignores a Steve Cohen who has had more than a decade to think of himself as the Mets owner, imagining going full-throttle with all the resources at his disposal, only to be stuck in second gear.
The Proverbial Crossroad And The Road Less Traveled
All of which points to an interesting question. Will the ship captain stay on course during this lull in the action, deciding to bide his time while working on his other stated goals, like going full bore on upgrading the Mets farm system?
Or, will Cohen acknowledge the obvious, which is that the Mets can do whatever the hell they want, fans in the stands or not, revenue losses again or not, uncertainty about the number of games to be played. So on – the dollars are there to make it happen?
Moreover, why do the Mets need to wait around while the bulk of the league tries in vain to come up with a workable budget for 2021, in the absence of a firm schedule and playing rules (first and foremost the DH rule in the NL) that are (supposedly) being negotiated by MLB and the Player’s Association?
Put another way, does Steve Cohen have to run his team like the rest of the baseball owners – playing nice in the sandbox?
Or, will he decide to forge his way of operating the Mets onto a path that breaks from the pack – a la Charlie Finley, Bill Veeck, and the ultimate transgressor of the gentlemen’s game, George Steinbrenner?
There are risks associated with either strategy, not the least of which is that only one of the three have a plaque in the Baseball Hall of Fame, despite numerous failed efforts to support their election.
Mets: What Going All-In Looks Like
The 2021 Mets need a third baseman, a centerfielder, a shortstop, one front-line starter, and a solid number four or five starters to put the team in the competition with the Dodgers, Braves, and (now) the Padres, the elite of the National League.
Because if you are talking about a team capable of a World Series appearance, in each case J.D. Davis, Amed Rosario, Brandon Nimmo, and Steven Matz, all of whom are good players, do not get you there.
Nolan Arenado, Francisco Lindor, George Springer, Travis Bauer, and Jake Odorizzi, together with Jeff McNeil, Michael Conforto, Jason deGrom, James McCann, Dominic Smith, and Marcus Stroman do get you there – this year – now while most of the league is dragging its feet.
Luxury tax? – as they say in New York – fuggedaboutit. Steve Cohen is already on record as stating he foresees a time when the Mets will exceed the payroll salary cap, and by the way, let’s start calling it what it is – and not merely a payroll “threshold.”
So why not this year.
Putting Sandy Alderson On The Hot Seat
Now, some of you probably see a problem here, which is how do the Mets pry Arenado and Lindor away from the Rockies and Indians if they have only a handful of their Top Prospects playing above A-Ball in their minor leagues?
Well, this is why Sandy Alderson gets paid the big bucks, and we don’t. I do know this, though. Both the Rockies and Indians are in this as a salary dump, and instead of prospects, they will listen to offers that include players from the Mets roster with controllable years ahead of them.
Thus, it might be necessary to part ways with Davis, Nimmo, Rosario, and even Dominic Smith, who would be a prized catch for the Indians in the DH assured American League.
Go For It – Why Not?
So there you have it, the choices laid out for Steve Cohen in what has been a lackluster offseason in all of baseball.
Jump the gun, parting ways with your peers forever, or play along to get along, letting the chips fall where they may need this year.
My take for what it’s worth? Hold on to your seat. This man has been biting at the bit since this time last year when he was forced to pull out of the deal by the Wilpons.
And the go-for-it hedge fund mentality – risk be damned – will forever be part of Steve Cohen and his eventual legacy as an owner of the New York Mets.