Thursday Thought: Cheap MLB owners are terrified of Steve Cohen

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New York Mets owner Steve Cohen has jumped to the front of Major League Baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. A group of small-market owners lobbied hard for a fourth tier of the Competitive Balance Tax, which would only impact one team right now: the Mets.

The fourth tier of the CBT might as well be called the “Cohen Threshold,” because it’s designed to target him and the Mets.

These small-market owners are the ones you’ve heard a lot about over the last few months because they don’t care about winning baseball. Art Moreno of the Angels, Mike Ilitch of the Tigers, Ken Kendrick of the Diamondbacks, and Bob Castellini of the Reds all strongly oppose raising the CBT thresholds, even though it will likely never impact them. Three out of these four owners also voted against Cohen purchasing the Mets, according to the tweet below:

Ben is right. Cohen stepping in and making moves to set up his franchise for success does make the cheap owners look bad. The Reds have had a promising core of players for several years now, but they never pursued winning the way they should have and now they are rumored to be breaking it down and entering a rebuild. They could’ve gone on a special run these last few seasons, if they had a good owner who cared about winning.

The big takeaway from the last couple of months is how little owners care about winning. 21 of the 30 owners are billionaires, yet there was only one team that went over the CBT in 2021. There were six teams that were just shy of the threshold (Red Sox, Astros, Yankees, and Padres), who were all within $2 million of the $210 million threshold.

What makes it frustrating is that we know the profit margins have grown exponentially in baseball. Team values are the highest they’ve ever been, wealthy people are paying a ridiculously trivial percent of taxes, and MLB has announced so many partners and sponsors that funnel money into the sport. In the last week they announced partnerships with Apple and Peacock to stream games, and as part of the CBA negotiations, there will be advertising patches on jerseys. Yet with all of this money coming in from baseball, most owners don’t expect to spend more on their baseball teams? Are you kidding me?

Thankfully for Mets fans, Steve Cohen is so rich that none of this applies to him. He agreed to the fourth tier and voted for it without issue. He’s still looking to improve the team after the lockout, with reports that he wants another left-handed bat and another starting pitcher. This isn’t going to change Steve Cohen, but it does change how we think about the rest of the owners in the sport.

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