The New York Mets staked their claim as the “evil empire” of sports when they snatched star free agent infielder Carlos Correa from the jaws of defeat early Wednesday morning by agreeing to a bonkers 12-year, $315 million contract in a shocking shakeup.
The San Francisco Giants and Correa could not finish off a 13-year, $350 million deal becuase the Giants found issues with Correa’s physical, thus voiding the deal. And then Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler decided to take matters into their own hands, continuing the greatest offseason shopping spree in sports history, signing nine free agents to deals worth more than $800 million.
The Mets confirmed some owners’ worst fears when Steve Cohen became owner.
One of the questions that Major League Baseball faced when going through the approval process in October 2020 was that Steve Cohen was able to spend so much money on free agents, so much so that it became an issue during last winter’s collective bargaining agreement talks.
When Cohen was going through the confirmation process of becoming the Mets’ owner, the vote of approval was 25-4, with the four dissenting votes coming from franchises that have won a combined four pennants over the past 45 years. The most vocal voice against approval was Chicago White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf. Reinsdorf was most famous for breaking up the Chicago Bulls’ dynasty in the summer of 1998, and his White Sox just signed the largest free agent contract in team history last week: a 5-year, $75 million pact with Andrew Benintendi.
Reinsdorf is one of the number of owners that have been accused by fans for penny pinching instead of investing in talent, and his no vote in the Cohen approval process both at the MLB ownership committee vote and the final vote seemed to validate White Sox fans’ concerns about him as an owner that won’t spend to win, amplified by his handling of Tony La Russa’s chaotic second stint as White Sox skipper.
If one includes Correa’s $26.25 million projected salary this year and the luxury tax payments, the Mets will have a payroll of $495 million next season, which as of Wednesday is the same as the bottom 11 payrolls in baseball combined, which include teams that had major fire sales last year in the Washington Nationals, Cincinnati Reds and the Oakland A’s.
The term “evil empire” can never be used lightly, but it can be when it comes to the Mets.
The term “evil empire” is something thrown around to describe certain enemies. It dates back 45 years as a reference to Darth Vader’s Galactic Empire in the original “Star Wars” movie. U.S. President Ronald Reagan and many American conservatives used it to describe the Soviet Union during the 1980s, and even alternative rock band Rage Against the Machine used the phrase as their title to an album they released in 1996.
In sports, it has been referenced to teams like the Mets’ crosstown rivals, the New York Yankees, who got that label from the Red Sox 20 years ago this week when Jose Contreras signed with the Yankees. Also, the New England Patriots of the NFL when Tom Brady was their quarterback and the Golden State Warriors in the NBA when Kevin Durant joined a Warriors team that went 73-9 the year before, both earned such designations from the fans.
Such contenders today could include the Dallas Cowboys with owner Jerry Jones and the Los Angeles Lakers with LeBron James, but the Mets claimed that title with a Carlos Correa free agent agreement.
This deal could somehow get San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers fans united on hatred of the Mets and Correa. Dodger fans could talk about how they felt cheated out of a 2017 World Series title from Correa’s Astros, and Giants fans could talk about how Correa was the star they never had. This is similar what Mets and Red Sox fans had for years about their shared hatred for the Yankees.
In a three-year span, the Mets went from a loveable punchline to the envy of the sports universe. Mets fans should embrace the jealousy the rest of the league has on their team. Steve Cohen has changed the landscape of Major League Baseball forever with his offseason shopping sprees.
And the Mets have built a championship-caliber roster in the process, with the best starting rotation in the National League, a strong bullpen, and an elite lineup with no major weaknesses if Francisco Alvarez can produce next year.
It is World Series or bust, words Mets fans have been waiting to scream for a long time.