Steve Cohen is worth $14 billion. That makes him a most unlikely candidate to earn recognition as “the people’s choice.” But, then, we are talking about the New York Mets. And as Cohen, a lifelong fan, can surely expound on: the Mets are always a little bit different. In almost every way. And now, pending …
Steve Cohen is worth $14 billion. That makes him a most unlikely candidate to earn recognition as “the people’s choice.” But, then, we are talking about the New York Mets. And as Cohen, a lifelong fan, can surely expound on: the Mets are always a little bit different. In almost every way.
And now, pending one last hurdle, they are about to have as an owner the most popular billionaire in New York City. Go figure.
“I am excited to have reached an agreement with the Wilpon and Katz families to purchase the New York Mets,” was Cohen’s simple 20-word statement released through the team Monday afternoon. It caps a roller coaster for Mets fans who saw Cohen go from a certainty to out of the bidding entirely, then back in, and finally to where we sit now, with Cohen only needing 23 of baseball’s 30 owners to approve him.
Mets fans haven’t been this happy since Marty Barrett swung through a Jesse Orosco fastball on the evening of Oct. 27, 1986. The Mets won their second World Series that night, and stood atop the baseball world — but for many Mets fans, that team and that time symbolized something else: the one time the Mets were as one with the swagger of their city.
The Mets’ prior championship, in 1969, had been a feel-good paradox, good team and better fortune. It is hard to conjure anything representing New York City being an underdog but those Mets were. And in many ways, so have the good Mets teams that have followed — in 1999 and 2000, in 2006, in 2015. Much of that was the re-emergence of the Yankees after the close of the ’80s, re-staking a claim to the town’s baseball soul that’s held strong for close to 30 years; they cast an enormous shadow.
But a large part of that was weak ownership, reluctant to spend dollar-for-dollar with the Yankees, hamstrung by its association with Bernie Madoff, highly unpopular among much of its constituency. Nobody likes being a kid brother in sports. The Mets have been the kid brother for more than a generation, and acted the part.
Not anymore. Not with Cohen. And that is what enlivens Mets fans’ spirit now. Yes, he is worth that $14 billon, and as Forbes pointed out the next three richest baseball owners — Ted Lerner (Nationals), Christopher Ilitch (Tigers) and Greg Johnson (Giants) — are worth $13.1 billion combined. And Cohen will surely take advantage of that.
But what Cohen represents as much, for Mets fans, is an attitude. He is one of them. And all you need to do is look at his career: he loathes losing. It is anathema to him. And that makes him even more one of them.
And it’s that attitude that made him more appealing to Mets fans than the marriage of Sports and Page Six that J-Rod would have been, and certainly more than the plenty-rich guys who own the Devils. This is what Mets fans have craved. And this is what they get now.
And look: what made George Steinbrenner Steinbrenner wasn’t just deep pockets — in fact, he didn’t invest most of his own money at the start. It was his willingness to own the Yankees, in his best days, as a rabid fan might: hustling Reggie Jackson. Jumping into free agency with both feet. Fighting opposing fans in elevators (let’s assume that story was true. It’s a better world if it was).
The money helped, too, as Cohen’s money will help. But the foundation in The Bronx was built with swagger. It is easy to imagine a similar blueprint emerging in Queens now, too. And easier still to see why that makes Mets fans smile this morning.