Steve Cohen is off the MLB owner’s reservation, and for that, he’s become a pariah among his peers, a target in a new luxury tax agreement.
When his fellow MLB team owners approved Steve Cohen to replace the fiscal “prudence” of the New York Mets in November 2020, it did not escape notice that four of his peers voted “no.”
According to SNY’s Andy Martino, those four owners who opposed Cohen’s ownership were Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox (who had been previously publicized as being against Cohen’s ownership); Arte Moreno of the Los Angeles Angels; Bob Castellini of the Cincinnati Reds; and Ken Kendrick of the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Before you shed a tear for these Robber Barrons, please note:
Arte Moreno Net worth: 3.6 billion USD (2022) Forbes
Ken Kendrick Net worth: $600 million (estimate; 2020)
Bob Castellini Net worth: $400 million (2020)
Other owners privately discussed the fear that Steve Cohen, a larger-than-life personality who brought back remembrances of former Yankees owner George Steinbrenner and his free-spending ways.
Cohen played nice in the sandbox for all of the 2021 season, finishing eighth in team payroll spending and well below (by $8 million) the luxury tax limit of $210 million.
Steve Cohen – The Pariah Unleashed
The cacophony of Mets fans and most likely the desires of Steve Cohen himself ruptured the tax limit during the brief period of trades and free-agent signings that were open to all teams before MLB imposed a lockout in early December.
A blitz adding Max Scherzer ($43 million), Starling Marte ($14 million), and Mark Canha ($12 million) helped to jettison Mets 2022 payroll to $265 million – and that’s before the team moves to fill additional holes whenever the season gets underway.
Of significance about the current talks between owners and players regarding the luxury tax limit is that the Mets’ current payroll at $265 million exceeds even the proposed $245 limit by the MLBPA, shattering the $220 limit proposed by MLB owners for 2022.
In any labor negotiations, “United We Stand” is a prerequisite for the success of both sides. As such, Steve Cohen, while not the direct subject of talks, is the pariah his fellow owners feared since he bought the Mets.
Steve Cohen rests on the logical assumption that he stated during the season last year when he reasoned there’s no sense in exceeding the tax limit by a million or two, so if you say “go,” make it worthwhile.
This he has done, and it follows that more (spending) is yet to come.
Unlike George Steinbrenner, who argued venomously against the imposition of the tax, claiming that owners of teams receiving proceeds from the tax would not reinvest the money into their teams, pocketing the revenue instead for themselves, Cohen has yet to argue against the tax.
His position (seemingly) is to ignore it, silently saying bring it on – I’ll pay it – despite the ongoing disagreements as to whether or not payroll totals equates directly with a team’s success.
The recent success of the Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s, and Miami Marlins – all with payrolls at the bottom tier- is enough to challenge the theory that you have to spend more to win more in baseball.
Nevertheless, from a player’s perspective, with who would you align yourself? The penny-pinching Marlins who, for a measly $10-15 million payroll difference drove Derek Jeter from his CEO post because it “wasn’t what (he) signed up for” – or a franchise that sees players as the straw that stirs the drink.
Ousted From The Country Club – Hero To Fans
Steve Cohen is not unique in the shunning by his peers. Bill Veeck (Indians and White Sox), Steinbrenner (Yankees), Mark Cuban (Dallas Mavericks), Al Davis (Oakland Raiders), and others have also found themselves beyond the reach of the country club that is team owners, regardless of their professional sport.
How Steve Cohen’s stance affects this year’s talks to arrive at a new agreement between owners and players is another matter.
The word we hear most often floated is “greed.” It is not a word foreign to Cohen because how else does one amass a fortune worth $14 Billion – and counting?
But the proverbial “proof in the pudding,” so to speak, is this. Is there even a single major league team currently available for sale?
Not one, not a single MLB team. The obvious inference (then) is to conclude that there is not a single MLB owner losing money on his investment.
Or, (though we’ll never know because team financial records are closed), an (unnamed) MLB owner is satisfied to “balance” his books by claiming a baseball loss that is easily offset by their “other” wealth and investments.
The issue of greed runs through the current negotiations between owners and players.
Fans marvel, for instance, at the dispute about a minimum player’s salary – the difference between $640,000 and $750,000 – a sum more than ten times the sum of an average head of household earnings in 2021.
And yet, the crux of the matter goes far beyond Steve Cohen and his overt challenge to his fellow owners and MLB payroll limitations.
The honest discussion is mired between an oligarchy of owners wet in their ways in a subset that rests between the haves and the have-nots.
The Haves Versus The More Thank Haves
Except, in this case, there is cause to wonder about the pain of the so-called have-nots – especially when put in comparison to citizens like you and me, who see the hit on their earnings every time we fill our car with gas or shop in a grocery store.
In a perfect world, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and MLBPA president Tony Clark would rush to a location in Florida to hammer this thing out, dividing the spoils, and everyone would be richer for their time.
But as we are witnessing, children are at play, and that is not likely to happen.
Amidst the skirmish, why then should Steve Cohen and the Mets not employ his resources, along with the Dodgers, Red Sox, Astros, and any other team owner who says – “I want to Win” – and if winning still means having the best players available, then I’m all in regardless of the salary hit.
Good for Steve Cohen and the minority of his counterparts.
Let the world of baseball catch up to him – instead of the reverse in which he’s the boogie-man.
As we’ve said, the Steve Cohen subset is only a minuscule portion of the current negotiations, but make no mistake, it is part of the whole.
But from the standpoint of a fan in New York City who has waited for a decade or more (of the Wilpons) – with almost $11 billion at stake and available for distribution now –
Welcome, Steve Cohen, not as a pariah but as a savior to the sport of baseball.