On the day in March that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement, New York and national reporters, huddled in the lobby of the league’s downtown Manhattan offices They rushed to book trips. Spring training, delayed indefinitely by the lockout, was just hours away from the start, and just about everyone wanted to be in Port St. Lucie, Florida: spring home of the New York Mets.
Months earlier, before a certain work stoppage (owners did, in fact, lock out players as soon as the previous CBA expired), the Mets had emphatically ushered in a new era. The year before, the team had been purchased for a record price by a billionaire who made other billionaires look like mere billionaires. The hope was that Steve Cohen would be different from the Wilpon family, who for two decades were synonymous with the team’s ineptitude and financial limitations.
Cohen turned out to be unlike anything MLB has seen before.
A spending spree in the 2021-22 off-season generated significant interest in the new New York Mets. The media flocked to his spring training camp as quickly as possible, following Cohen around the facility as he jovially greeted employees and joked about how unfazed—and, indeed, flattered—he was by the new CBA’s attempt to reduce what other MLB owners feared. it would be an exceptionally aggressive approach to payroll in Queens.
Nine months later, it seems that last winter’s bounty was Cohen simply testing the waters. This time, he smelled blood and acted accordingly. We’re not even into the new year, but it’s already eminently clear that no matter how you approach it, this offseason’s story again begins and ends in New York. Once again, despite a Superman-sized coronation in the Bronx, the Mets are challenging the yankees for “MLB Main Character” status. And Cohen himself has become a standalone hero to the Mets faithful and a villain to the other 29 fan bases.
Sure, flags fly forever, while dust-gathering reminders of greatness come and go. The relevance, however, is the glory in real time. It is fickle and fleeting if you don’t work to sustain it. But somehow, doesn’t it make everything sweeter?
*** *** ***
The exciting 24 Hours of Baseball Christmas in New York kicked off Tuesday at 10 a.m. justin verlanderhe donned a Mets uniform for the first time and considered what gave him the confidence to come to Queens as a man on a mission to collect more rings.
“Steve,” he said simply, referring to Cohen.
Exactly one day later, Derek Jeter watched from the end of the dais as the reigning American League MVP. aaron judge he was introduced not only as a lifelong Yankee, but also as the 16th captain of the storied franchise.
“There are a lot of unfinished business here,” Judge said of the city.
In between, a bomb blew both significant but largely ceremonial developments out of the water. Carlos Correa — whose introductory press conference in San Francisco had been suspiciously postponed after the team reportedly flagged a medical issue with his fitness —was not going to be a Giant after all. He is It’s going to be a New York Met.
The swift unraveling and reinstatement of a $300 million deal to remove a superstar from the center pillar of a careful franchise looking to reinitiate spending and instead make him the final piece in a lenient effort to buy unsurpassed respectability from from a team that had been targeted. of the joke, not to mention, move it across the country, it’s a wild tale it pays to get fully involved. but in summary: The Giants stalled, Correa’s agent Scott Boras gave them a commitment deadline, they missed it, and Cohen pounced.
In the early hours of Wednesday morning (even early on the West Coast), the Mets and Correa agreed to a 12-year, $315 million contract have him play third base while his friend, countryman, and man of over $300 million Francisco Lindor It falls short. For the Giants, this represents an impressive failure of an offseason that started with clouds (either, at least 6 foot 7) waits and, from the outside, anyway, it looks like a red flag for future free agents. For the Mets and Cohen, it’s a blow and the knockout of an offseason. already notable for historical spending.
Much of Cohen’s spending had been for retain or rebuild 2022 101-win team. The Mets re-signed closer Edwin Díaz, outfielder brandon nimmo and reliever Adam Ottavino. Verlander takes charge jacob degrom‘s place like Max ScherzerKodai Senga and Jose Quintana’s co-ace replace Chris Bassit and Tajuan Walker in the middle of the rotation. All that, plus a reliever david robertson and catcher Omar Narváez, put the Mets’ payroll well above the highest competitive balance threshold before the Correa deal. So what’s another $26.25 million in average annual value?
The kind of key player who was supposed to turn around San Francisco’s fortunes, Correa is the addition to a stacked lineup no one saw coming. No one, that is, except Cohen, who told the New York Post: “We needed one more thing, and this is it.”
The icing on a multi-scoop sundae concocted by a hungry kid who got a credit card will boost the Mets’ 2023 payroll to about $384 million, the highest in baseball history. Add the taxes accrued by the different levels of CBT and the total disbursement, according to Spotrac, it is around 500 million dollarsnearly $200 million more than the Yankees, who have the next-biggest bill.
We’ll be seeing that number a lot in the next 11 months, but beyond the newsworthiness and impact of the label, let’s consider why it matters. It is an important reminder of why the union fought so hard during negotiations last year to prevent what is often seen as a soft cap from being tightened. It’s a clear testament to how a baseball-minded billionaire — Verlander noted approvingly that Cohen does not view the team as an investment: it can reshape the landscape of the league on a whim. He is the source of existential crisis for some Mets fans as they view his new role as supporting Goliath.
But also: Despite what they may say, you can’t buy rings. You can only buy odds and expectations. And relevance.
*** *** ***
“The more I play this game, the more I realize that talent isn’t everything. The playoffs are a game of dice,” Verlander, a man who won a world championship a month and a half ago, said Tuesday. “This is a fun game.”
Maybe not funny, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone had a laugh when asked Wednesday on the YES broadcast of Judge’s press conference if this new signing closed the gap on the Houston Astros – who eliminated a 99-win Yankees team already led by Judge before scoring a World Series victory.
The Yankees outbid the Giants (who else?) by offering Judge a nine-year, $360 million contract, making him the highest-paid position player annually in baseball history. Boone responded that he “loves[s] where we are on paper right now, but it’s December.”
Given their preferences, baseball teams would prefer to be talked about in October or early November. The fans would prefer that too. The Yankees are proof that high payrolls and promising regular seasons that don’t end in runway shows go out of style after a while. Frustration mounts, and resentment toward the team’s architects festers.
But being the darlings of December, getting your guy and their guy to also host press conferences instead of leaking reports about second-place deals, being the recipient of the dislike of 29 fanbases and the laudatory article topic: that’s pretty cool as far as guarantees go. That will get the media to come to his camp and the crowd to show up on Opening Day.
Baseball is a long season. It helps to have an overabundance of hope from the start.
Shortly before the news that Correa I was going to the giants broke up last week, there were reports that the Mets might make a last-minute offer. For a few hours, Twitter had a field day. This Cohen guy was a dream come true who would stop at nothing to make the Mets a private All-Star team just to see his fans smile.
I and many others thought it was just a trading strategy. Cohen would remain a recurring character on baseball Twitter because he is a rare winger and occasionally online. But come on, he’s not some faerie god dude or bogeyman or actually made of money.
And then this?
Mets fans woke up Wednesday morning to find that the sports world was talking about how good they must be. Next summer, there will be no better city for baseball than New York. Raise your fists if everything goes well and point your finger if it doesn’t.
For now though, just enjoy it – this is the fun part.