ATLANTA — If you are a Mets fan, you hope that this is Steve Cohen’s process.
You hope that after a year on the job — he was approved as Mets owner by the other owners on Oct. 30, 2020 — Cohen sees baseball’s standards as foolish. After all, in his day job — the one that made him billions of dollars — he would not feel rushed to make a hire equal to president of baseball operations. He would not act quickly on handing a responsibility like that over without feeling he had canvassed the best options and developed a feel if the relationship with his nominee would work, probably over many conversations.
You hope that Cohen saw flaws in not being able to hire a president of baseball operations last offseason that led to a spiral of Jared Porter, Zack Scott and more organizational humiliation and decided there is a different path that he is not making publicly known.
You hope that the part of the industry — a significant part of the industry — that is baffled or just downright scoffing at how the Mets are conducting this search will be surprised and appreciative by who ends up getting this job. After all, Padres GM A.J. Preller has a lot of industry detractors, many who thought his style would not land an independent, difference-making manager. Then news surfaced Thursday night, shockingly, that the A’s had let one of the most respected managers in the game, Bob Mevlin, interview and ultimately accept the San Diego position.
So, Mets fans can hope that Cohen’s approach nets a similar kind of reaction in who he names or in how he structures a different way to make baseball decisions.
Because the alternative to this kind of hope for Mets fans is ugly. It is to believe that the optimism for, at minimum, a better-run organization associated with Oct. 30, 2020 and the removal of the Wilpons might have been misplaced. Because it would mean that for the second straight offseason so many of the best and brightest want nothing to do with Cohen’s Mets and/or the organization is lost in just how to orchestrate this process.
What certainly is lost — no matter what — is time and opportunity. For example, it is submerged now because they are working their way down the masthead, but the Mets need a manager too. And while they found out that Oakland’s Billy Beane was not interested in running baseball operations, the Mets missed out on discovering that the A’s were willing to let Melvin — an ideal fit for what the Mets need — go.
There is no doubt that Cohen has been frustrated by MLB rules when it comes to hiring. In running Point72, Cohen does not have to seek permission to have conversations with those he wants to pursue. He doesn’t have media and fans inquiring and judging the process daily — heck, how many people even know when Cohen has an important job opening at his fund? He doesn’t have a specific calendar that forces decisions in the way that the baseball calendar does — for example, it is more and more looking like the Mets are at a reality in about 10 days of not having a general manager to represent them at the GM Meetings.
The Mets have been in a scramble too often the last few years. They named Luis Rojas the manager a few weeks before spring training in 2020 after firing Carlos Beltran following revelations of Beltran’s involvement in the Astros sign-stealing scandal. Cohen’s approval three days after the World Series ended last year gave the Mets a late start to enact a lot of business, namely forming a baseball operations group.
Time shouldn’t have been such a pressure point this time around. Yet, a year into Cohen’s stewardship, the Mets still don’t have a president of baseball operations, a GM or a manager.
They have definitely been derailed by interested parties under contract not being granted the right to speak with them. Plus, the baseball executive world has changed over the last decade with top front office personnel not necessarily in an endless climb to get to a big market because they are being compensated well elsewhere and/or the lifestyle fits them and their families and/or they do not feel the threat of firing constantly that they might in a bigger locale.
But there are uniquely Mets issues too, including concerns about what role president Sandy Alderson will have moving forward and if any of the process is being tilted to protect the role of his assistant GM son, Bryn. And there are concerns about Cohen’s temperament and involvement.
Part of the Mets fans’ hope should be that Cohen has gained wisdom and humility from his year in the baseball business and can convey to worthy candidates that he needs not just a leader, but someone to educate the owner on best practices. Because I am not sure worthy candidates will line up if Cohen is not able to sell that.
Someone will eventually take Cohen’s money and this job. But if there is going to be this much time, deliberation and criticism of the process, the Mets can’t just hire someone.
A year into the job, Cohen has the hope of Mets fans at stake.