Thursday Thought: Most owners don't understand their purpose, but one does

Apr 8, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets owner Steve Cohen (right) and his wife Alex
Apr 8, 2021; New York City, New York, USA; New York Mets owner Steve Cohen (right) and his wife Alex / Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Mets are in an interesting position with their owner. Steve Cohen is by far the richest owner in baseball and one of the wealthiest owners in all sports - #4 in the world, according to Forbes. He behaves differently than most owners because of this.

As we saw with the last Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), and we’re seeing again now with the unnecessary lockout for this CBA, the owners love to pinch pennies. They could afford to give players everything they want and more, and it wouldn’t even make a dent in their finances. They’d still profit, just by an infinitesimally smaller margin.

The owners act like their purpose is to collect profits, when really their purpose is to provide whatever the players and fans want or need.

Even though they have billions in the bank, their greed is never satisfied. If that sounds familiar, it’s because sports are a microcosm of society. The rich will do anything to protect their money  and reduce expenses, no matter the impact on others. 

Let’s look at Oakland A’s owner John Fisher. He’s the 9th richest owner in baseball with a net worth of $2.9 billion. Yet the A’s team payroll in 2021 came in at $71 million, 23rd in baseball. A top 10 net-worth owner with a bottom 10 team payroll is just pathetic. Just to make it worse, they’re going into a rebuild and preparing to part ways with several core players like Matt Chapman, Matt Olson, Chris Bassitt, and Frankie Montas that teams should be building around. The A’s have been known to do this for a long time, dating back to Billy Beane’s Moneyball season in 2002 under the previous ownership regime. 

Do I even need to mention the Wilpons? Mets fans were tortured for years by cheap tactics and post-Bernie-Madoff-scandal disarray. It’s beyond me how they put out a small-market product in New York for as long as they did and slept at night.

What the owners don’t realize is that nobody cares about their wants or finances. 

Nobody buys jerseys with their team’s owner’s names on the back. Nobody goes to the ballpark to stare at the owner’s suite. We go to see the players, who need to have their needs provided so they can perform at their peak ability. 

Imagine how much better off the game would be if owners treated players better. If minor leaguers were paid living wages, they wouldn’t have to waste their time working multiple jobs to pay the rent for an apartment they’re sharing with three teammates and their significant others. If their workout facilities were at a major league caliber, they’d be faster, stronger, and more durable by the time they reach The Show. Small investments like that now could lead to more profits down the road, since that’s what the owners so desperately crave.

Thankfully, for Mets fans and for baseball, Steve Cohen is different.

Since Cohen took the helm in fall of 2020, he has made the organization better at his own expense. He’s beefed up the analytics department, started to pay minor leaguers better, and as of last week, is planning on a massive new 4K scoreboard and several other ballpark updates over the next two years.

And, ya know, paying Max Scherzer $43 million per year for the next three years. The Mets’ payroll currently sits at just under $250 million, and they’re not done yet.

At his introductory press conference, Cohen talked a lot about buying the team for the fans, saying “... I can make millions of people happy. What an incredible opportunity that is.” He also talked a lot about providing resources to the baseball operations department to make improvements both to the front office and the team. Suffice to say, he’s more-than lived up to his word.

Cohen and his wife, Alex, have also committed to building up the area surrounding Citi Field to make Queens more of a destination instead of just a ballpark in a city. They’re doing great work in the community too with their personal foundation and the Mets Foundation .

I wish more owners operated like Uncle Steve. The game would be in a far better place in terms of optics, finances, and most importantly, the relations between the league and the player’s union. We wouldn't be in a lockout right now if there were 30 Steve Cohens.

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