That sound you hear is the collective New York Mets fanbase letting out one, big sigh of relief.
The Mets and star shortstop Francisco Lindor came to terms on a 10-year, $341M deal which will keep him in orange and blue, presumably, for the rest of his career. For Lindor, he becomes the highest-paid shortstop in the game. For the Mets, they get their franchise cornerstone for the next decade. For Mets fans, they get to finally relax. The fans, players, and front office alike are looking ahead to playing meaningful baseball games with their franchise shortstop.
If you spent any amount of time on social media in the few days leading up to the deal, you were immediately thrust into a typhoon of pessimism, optimism, and what can only be defined as Wilponian-PTSD. Some thought new owner Steven Cohen was being too stubborn by not increasing his offer to Lindor while others thought the demands from Lindor and his agent were unrealistic. Regardless of where you landed, the outcome has produced the same emotion for all: jubilee.
But now that the Lindor-saga has settled, it would be remiss of Mets fans to not give credit to their new owner (and crowd-appointed savior) for making good on his promises to the fan base. What Cohen has done in his first offseason as the owner of the club shouldn’t be overlooked in any way. Between the New York media and the crazed fanbase, Cohen came in with big pockets but even bigger expectations and he’s delivered on all of them thus far.
When Steve Cohen sat down in front of the New York Media in November to talk about what fans could expect with him at the helm, he promised that the franchise would act like a “major-market team” and that centered around spending lots of money, albeit not like a “drunken sailor”. While not every offer made by the Mets was accepted, the willingness to open up the wallet was evident. George Springer received an offer for $120M, while Trevor Bauer received an offer for $105M (over three years) and Lindor inked a deal that is $200M more than any position player has received in the team’s history. This is also in light of the front office discussing extensions with both Noah Syndergaard and Michael Conforto.
Changing the Mets Culture
When Cohen shared his thoughts on the professionalism and integrity he hoped to establish from the top down, it wasn’t just empty words. Before any roster decisions were made, Cohen ensured that stadium workers would receive financial compensation for the COVID-impacted season.
In an even bigger test, when reports came out that newly hired general manager Jared Porter had engaged in inappropriate and unsolicited sexual behavior with a reporter in his former job, Cohen fired him immediately.
While it was a rough stretch from a public relations perspective, especially considering the later allegations towards ex-manager Mickey Callaway, the Mets bore the storm, took responsibility and worked to improve the culture; Cohen hired an outside firm to focus on workplace culture.
In addition to addressing the behavior of the personnel, Cohen has always addressed the personnel in general. Notorious for their lack of investment in analytics, the previous ownership made little to no effort to catch up with the rest of major league baseball in the trend towards using advanced data to win games and develop players. Cohen has shifted that by expanding the Research and Development department to almost twenty employees.
Improving the Relationship with the Fanbase
The divide that existed between previous ownership and the Mets fanbase wasn’t visible, but it was certainly tangible. Without delving too deep into all the shortcomings of the Wilpons, everyone will agree that Steve Cohen’s twitter interactions have been a much better experience than Jeff’s burner account.
While he took a short hiatus from Twitter due to the drama surrounding the GameStop controversy, Cohen’s interactions with fans have been both entertaining and refreshing. Fans have felt heard for the first time in decades and their suggestions have actually shifted things in both Citi Field and more notably, with the return of the black jerseys.
Cohen said in his first comments to the media concerning fans, “They’re the customer. I need to listen and I want to listen.” Cohen has not only listened but acted and it’s resulted in a rejuvenated fanbase that has put all their support behind the hedge fund billionaire.
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While the Mets still have to produce on the field, the extension of Lindor is just the latest proof that Cohen’s promise to build a perennial contender is something he intends to deliver on and that is something no Mets fan can put a price on.