When we recall the greatest teams in pro sports, we almost always credit the quarterback or cleanup hitter, maybe a coach or a manager. But the farther you get from the field, the less notoriety you normally get. Indeed, the reclusive owner in the dimly-lit suite, the one who writes the checks, rarely gets the applause.
Without pounding out a Google search, do you know who owned the '50s Yankees? How about the '60s Packers? Maybe the '80s 49ers?
Generally speaking, we recall an owner for some outsized characteristic, like a demonic desire to win (Al Davis of the Raiders and “Just Win, Baby!” comes to mind) or an insane media presence (‘sup Mark Cuban?). Our very own George Steinbrenner had both, and those of us who worshipped the Yankees as kids and kept a partially pinstriped heart loved The Boss because he, like we, had to win, and threw epic, childlike tantrums when we didn't. Steinbrenner wasn't just a fan, he was a fanatic, just as we were. Steinbrenner was so adamant about winning and so sensitive to our matching need to win that he would apologize to NYC every time his team failed to win a World Series.
One of the reasons Mets fans are so giddy today is it seems such a man just bought their ball club. Steve Cohen's signature still hasn't dried, yet Mets devotees are strutting, chest-out, into the future, and it's easy to see why. First, Cohen is not a Wilpon, and doesn't address the media or the masses with that frigid, corporate monotone that left you wondering if the bottom line meant way more than the top of the division.
Cohen doesn't have a dark obsession with payroll, didn’t get hustled by Bernie Madoff, and doesn't think the Mets are the lost descendants of the Brooklyn Dodgers. He also knows a California-chic dude shouldn’t run this blue-collar ball club. Brodie Van Wagenen may be a great player agent - or motivational speaker, should he try it - but the silk suits and Pollyanna approach to Big Apple baseball just doesn't work.
New Yorkers wake up pissed off. We don't get 75 degrees every day or endless blue skies or boardwalks with salt air and rollerbladers cruising down happy avenue and pretty boulevard all day. We get wet snow and slush splashed on us by speeding cab drivers and a middle finger in the middle of traffic. Brodie's Malibu charm didn't fit into our cold, hardscrabble view of the world.
Cohen responds to tweets asking if he will buy the Jets (not a chance, he says). He is from here and, as much as a billionaire can be, he is one of us. He's been fun and funny and self-effacing, yet still knows that winning is the only metric by which he will be measured. And as the holidays race toward us, Mets fans would love, say, Trevor Bauer under their Christmas tree.
So instead of the blow-dried Brodie Van Wagenen belching bromides at us all winter, Cohen put a former Met and Marine on the case. Say what you will about Sandy Alderson, but he did build the club that went to the 2015 World Series, and was ahead in the 8th inning of every game they lost to the Royals. Is it a coincidence that the Mets have stumbled so profoundly since Sandy and Terry Collins left the team? Would Sandy have picked the very green and goofy Mickey Callaway to run the dugout? Would Sandy have traded for Edwin Diaz and the Mesozoic Robinson Cano, who just got nailed (again) for PED use?
Does anyone doubt the Mets are in infinitely better hands today than they were a month ago? The team didn't just get richer, or smarter, or more experienced. It got better just by letting adults with no clashing agendas run the franchise. Steve Cohen has the money to improve the team, the passion to see it through, and the wisdom to delegate to true baseball people. And maybe soon New Yorkers will see that there are two New York baseball teams.
Follow Jason Keidel on Twitter: @JasonKeidel