Friday, October 30, 2020

Welcome to the Promised Land

As I sit here writing this, the Wilpon era has just ended. With word that the final hurdle of approval by the mayor has been overcome, this thing is in the books. It's a great moment for Mets fans, but the real work is only beginning. The goal has to be to put a real playoff contender on the field in 2021, and that's going to be no small task.

I wrote last week about how the Dodgers were an obvious model for how a smarter, better financed Mets organization should operate. The Dodgers are a big market team that smartly leverages some small market club principals. This ensures that the money they're spending is being used wisely and the team enjoys the maximum possible success for their money. Remember, before the Madoff revelations came out, the Mets ran very respectable payrolls and still struggled to sustain more than fleeting success.

Their are also obvious parallels in the recent history of the Mets and Dodgers. The current LA ownership bought the club in 2012, when the Dodgers were in a similar place to where the Mets are today. LA was languishing under the awful and parsimonious ownership of Frank McCourt at the time. The new ownership immediately upped the payroll, but they also implemented a lot of improvements to the organization that weren't as public facing, but had everything to do with the club's ability to sustain consistent success. If the Mets could even approximate the success that the Dodgers have enjoyed, Mets fans like myself would be overjoyed. That success would pay off with greater revenues for the team, and the fanbase would grow even if the Yankees continue to enjoy success.

By the way, I'm impressed by Cohen's initial statement, as tweeted by the Daily News' Deesha Thosar:

It's smart to invest some money in goodwill with both the city and employees right off the bat.

Once the final details of the sale are complete and Cohen and Sandy Alderson are fully in place, we'll no longer have to speculate on how the organization might proceed. We'll be able to start making judgements on what they actually do. One thing is for sure, however, Steve Cohen will never again be as wildly popular with Mets fans as he is today. Right now every fan is able to project his greatest hopes onto the relative blank slate that is the new owner, but he'll obviously not be able to do what each and every one of us hope to see. I suspect there might be some disappointment if he doesn't sign Realmuto, George Springer and Trevor Bauer to deals before the first real snowfall, but that doesn't seem a likely approach for a man whose first move was to hire Sandy Alderson. But no one can really predict with any certainty exactly how the winter will play out.

I don't expect to be 100% on board with every single move the club makes. There will be moves made and moves not made that I won't agree with, and it would be extremely silly of me to believe otherwise. It's the God-given right of every sports fan to passionately argue for our own point of view in what's best for our team. On the other hand, I think the vast majority of us would agree we want to see intelligence, smart decision making and adherence to a solid plan in the overall operations of the Mets. What was really rough about the last decade of the Wilpon era in particular was that there was no sense of any of that. The Wilpons were much more interested in convincing the fans that the club could contend in order to sell tickets and service their debt than they were in doing the hard work and smart investments to make it happen.

I do think the Mets have to make a significant free agent signing this winter. I literally can't imagine a scenario where they don't. There is a need to establish credibility with the fan base, and at least one major free agent signing is the way to do that. Beyond that, however, I think I'd be surprised to see a spending orgy that lands multiple top free agents. I think a lot of 2021 spending will be on building something the Mets have lacked for a long time, true 40-man roster depth - something that both the Rays and Dodgers in their respective ways utilized to get to this year's World Series. I thought Tim Britton really had a good take on this in a piece in The Athletic yesterday:

The Mets are getting to the point that the front half of their roster can be competitive in the National League, especially with a big addition or two. Concentrating on spots 21 through 40 on the roster, though, is necessary to compete with teams like the Dodgers.

What does that look like in practice? It means not trading away pieces like J.D. Davis and Amed Rosario just because you may not have an everyday spot for them right now. It means not handing a starting spot to someone like David Peterson or a bullpen spot to Brad Brach and Robert Gsellman. It means bringing in major-league caliber players who will flood the market once the non-tender deadline hits.

More than anything, though, it means developing enough talented players with options to maintain roster flexibility throughout a season — where needing an emergency starter doesn't mean you have to sacrifice a decent prospect’s spot on the 40-man.

Over time, this can be accomplished by smart scouting and development and keeping a constant eye out for players discarded by other teams that represent some hidden value. Bur that, of course, is the work of years. For 2021, this will involve trying to bring in as many good players as you can that are victims of other teams' cost-cutting. The Mets aren't going to be able to go completely hog-wild at the top of the market and still achieve that in enough quantity to significantly deepen the roster for 2021.

We'll be talking about this stuff plenty in the coming months. Today is a day to rejoice. Deesha Thosar just tweeted out the official statement from Cohen that seems like good words to end on for today:

Statement By Steve Cohen:

I am humbled that MLB's owners have approved me to be the next owner of the New York Mets. Owning a team is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility.

I would like to thank the owners and Commissioner Manfred and his team for welcoming me to Major League Baseball.

And I want to thank Fred Wilpon for inviting me to buy into the franchise in 2012. Fred is one of the game's true gentlemen and I consider it an honor to be the new owner of this iconic franchise.

Most of all, I'd like to thank Mets fans for their unwavering support throughout this process.

My family and I are lifelong Mets fans, so we're really excited about this. With free agency starting Sunday night we will be working towards a quick close.

Let's go Mets!

Please stay safe, be well and take care. I'd also say, "have a great day", but you already are, aren't you? Let's go Mets!


 Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos

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