Steve Cohen's purchase of this franchise injected a ton of energy into the club and the fanbase, but that energy wasn't enough to put them over the top. Hell, it wasn't even enough to push them over .500. Cohen hasn't even completed his first full year as the team owner (the sale went through on Friday, November 6, 2020), but already the honeymoon between the billionaire owner and most Met fans is a rapidly fading memory. In fairness, that was inevitable with anything short of an actual World Series title this year. Still, few of us were prepared for just how badly this team played after the All-Star break.
There was a solid consensus among pundits and knowledgeable fans that the Mets really needed to put a stable, sustainable front office structure in place this offseason, starting with the person who would lead the Mets forward out of their current miasma. Last year, things were quite rushed due to that November takeover, but there is plenty of time to find the right executive this time around. And let me state right here, before I get further into this piece, that it would be absolutely unforgivable if the Mets head into the winter meetings without new, solid leadership in place.
However, the big names tossed around in the press earlier this month for the PBO job never seemed realistic to me. A couple of weeks ago, I shared some thoughts on the subject. At that point, Theo Epstein had already bowed out of consideration. Epstein was always an extreme longshot, in my estimation. It was clear that Epstein is looking to do more than just repeat what he already accomplished in Boston and Chicago.
Although Billy Beane had not yet ruled himself out when I last wrote, I didn't believe that Beane was likely to take the job for the reasons I put forward in that post. And, of course, he didn't. As for the other big name, the Brewers' David Stearns, it really wasn't any surprise that Milwaukee owner Mark Attanasio denied the Mets' request to discuss the job with Stearns. Attanasio did the same thing last year, and there were no indications that he would act any differently this time around.
Yet the same local and national baseball media that touted these guys as candidates for the Mets' PBO job — denying the basic common sense logic that made all three extremely unlikely to come here — already began proclaiming that this year's search for a PBO was another failure. Example pieces are this one from Joel Sherman in the New York Post and this one from Brittany Ghiroli in The Athletic. There were plenty of others, also.
In his piece, Joel Sherman opined that the Mets are stuck in the same place they were last fall:
Epstein, Beane and Stearns were seen as the Mets gold standard. Now, none are even in play, leaving the Mets in executive "Groundhog Day" — like last offseason they have an open position that they can't fill. As of Monday, besides Stearns, they have not asked for permission to talk to an executive elsewhere. Really, it should be a heck of a job.
Last offseason, the first of Cohen’s ownership, the team wanted to hire a president of baseball operations, who would in turn enlist a GM. But Cohen ran into a myriad of issues with desired candidates either 1) comfortable where they were, 2) unavailable because they were under contract, 3) concerned about Cohen’s reputation from his hedge fund for, among other things, being tough on employees and/or 4) concerned about the general dysfunction that swirled around the Mets.
I believe this assessment is vastly premature. The media named these 3 candidates as top choices for the Mets, despite the odds. Then, once none of them panned out, the predictable stories like Sherman's and Ghiroli's started coming out. Essentially, they created an almost impossibly steep mountain for Cohen and Sandy Alderson to climb, then piled on with the criticism when they failed.
A few thoughts here:
- The Mets' job doesn't carry the same prestige as equivalent jobs with marquis franchises such as the Red Sox, Cubs, Yankees, and the Dodgers. Yeah, it's New York. Yes, there is a real opportunity to turn the Mets into an iconic franchise again, but that can only be accomplished by winning over a period of some years. Don't fool yourself into believing that prestige will be a factor in anyone taking the job.
- Steve Cohen has a lot of money, but the top candidates are already making a lot of money. Money alone won't lure the desired candidate to leave a great job that they already love in cities where there just isn't the overwhelming media presence of New York.
- Please don't tell me that it makes much of a difference that someone grew up a Mets fan or once briefly played for them. MLB is a business. Once someone makes their career in that business, their fan loyalty growing up just isn't going to be any sort of deciding factor.
- Being a PBO, GM (or whatever name you choose to give it) in New York City is the toughest job in the sport. No other place offers the sheer number of media types and the intensive scrutiny of this market. David Stearns, for instance, can make plenty of money in Milwaukee without dozens of folks calling for his head during every losing streak, on the air and in print.
"I wouldn’t pay attention to it," a former baseball executive told me recently, calling the rumors swirling around Alderson as nothing but "a cold war." When I asked why he used that term, he said there are more than a few people who didn't want Cohen to buy the Mets, and this is the only way they can "slow his roll."
But there's another potential issue lurking, regarding the curious timing of the promotion of Alderson’s son, Bryn, who along with Ian Levin was promoted to assistant general manager this summer when the Mets didn't have a GM or president of baseball operations. Bryn, who joined the organization as a scout in late 2011, was previously scouting director.
Sandy Alderson has said his preference would be to transition fully to the business side. But there is skepticism within the industry that it would even be feasible, and some in the game have pointed out that Bryn is now in a high-ranking position on the baseball side regardless. The dynamic of having a high-powered father-son duo is a potentially concerning component for any new front-office hire, one that sources say has adversely come into play before in the Mets’ current organizational structure. Who, some wonder, would really hold the power to make organizational decisions?
Vague mentions of sources and the wondering of some unnamed folks seem to me a pretty unfair way to go after Bryn Alderson. I've only ever read favorable opinions on the man. Mark Healy, who has much more extensive contacts than I do in baseball, noted the following:
I talk to a lot of people in the game on a regular basis, and I've never heard a bad word about Bryn, who carries the reputation of being a hard-working talent evaluator who works very well with others.
I think it's incredibly unfair to insinuate that Bryn Alderson's promotion was due to nepotism. I laugh at the idea that the ultra-competitive and ultra-successful billionaire Steve Cohen would conceivably allow Alderson to promote his son to a job he didn't merit. It's also farcical to believe that Alderson would promote his son to be a spy in the administration of the next leader of baseball ops. But sure, whatever you say. Bryn Alderson doesn't need Mark or me to come to his defense, but I really hate this sort of crap. If a pundit cannot produce a shred of evidence that Bryn isn't deserving of his current title, they should consider leaving the derogatory speculation out of their pieces.