“No stop sign
No one is going to slow me down.
“Highway to Hell” – AC/DC
PORT ST. LUCIE – Steve Cohen used the word “cautious” to describe how his baseball team currently manages its payroll.
But given the Mets’ financial situation, it was an odd choice of words, like suggesting to be careful once you’re already swimming in the deep end of the ocean surrounded by great white sharks.
After all, the Mets owner currently has the highest payroll in team history and the third highest in major league history. And it’s not pointing exactly south – or even neutral. Cohen expects to rake in $290 million and it’s loaded with as much symbolism as “Lord of the Flies” — a reference, for those purposes, filled with even more symbolism.
Cohen’s co-owners set a new $290 million fourth luxury tax threshold specifically designed to try and put a harness on Cohen, which is like trying to contain a tidal wave.
Car Cohen, speaking to reporters Sunday morning at Clover Park, revealed that he has yet to tell his baseball operations department to avoid a player based on cost and remains open to whatever comes his way. was brought.
“I’m okay with that,” Cohen said of a threshold push directly at him. “And I’m willing to live with that, and we’ll leave it at that.”
Of course, Cohen leaves nothing to that. The addition of Chris Bassitt on Saturday and Adam Ottavino on Sunday added about another $13 million to the payroll. That bumps the Mets up to about $286 million in payroll for luxury tax purposes. They can redirect a JD Davis and/or Jeff McNeil and/or Dom Smith, but that will likely be offset (and more) by the addition of a left-handed reliever, backup outfielder, and a few more items to deepen the roster .
Consider that the highest the Wilpons ever hit on a luxury tax payroll was $193 million in 2020. They were trying to parlay one final knockout to win it all while simultaneously improving the sex appeal of the listing for a sale. That’s why other owners loved the Wilpons. Even when they were going to spend like never before, other owners were going to be fine with his limits. They were never going to upset the Office of Commissioners with a payroll more worthy of a mega-team in New York. It also worked for the Wilpons — the pre-Madoff debacle and certainly after — because their comfort zone was pinching a dime rather than spending it.
And the Wilpons fade in the rearview mirror with every dollar invested. Cohen, if any, inhabits George Steinbrenner 2.0. Cohen bristled with comparisons to the former Yankees owner. But the luxury tax was designed nearly a quarter century ago with Steinbrenner’s payroll restriction front and center. And any reporter who covered spring training with Steinbrenner couldn’t avoid the similarities to how Cohen is now viewed.
There are all the questions about when he might come, will he speak, and then the Pied Piper type procession to follow him wherever he might go at a spring training facility once he arrives because who knows what he will say?
Cohen was tame, especially being the target of his co-owners. He acknowledged that the unprecedented fourth level of taxation with high penalties is the “Cohen tax” and said “it’s better than a bridge with your name on it or something.”
He didn’t place championship or bust expectations on his roster, saying, “Listen, you know everything looks good on paper. It’s hard to know what will happen in real life. Law. So, you know, I’m looking forward to a great season. I think we’re going to be really competitive. And we’ll see what happens.
This response provided an introduction more to Cohen’s speech pattern than his club. He often begins his thoughts with “Listen” and detours with “Right” to emphasize his point. There’s a bunch of “You know” and not in the previous quote, but sprinkled throughout his conversation is a bunch of “OK”.
Most important to Met fans, especially after a parsimonious past, was the absence of the word “stop.” Cohen’s wallet and imagination remained open. Money makes supporters happy when teams spend it. But a high payroll does not even guarantee the playoffs and even less a championship.
So while the new boss is getting top marks so far in his drive to invest in the payroll while simultaneously tormenting his rival owners, the longer-term question of where that track remains gripping – stairway to the paradise or highway to hell?