Steve Cohen knows what he knows, but he also knows what he doesn’t know – and that’s why step one of building the Mets’ baseball operations department in his vision was bringing in baseball lifer Sandy Alderson.
“I played Little League once, that’s about it, so I’m going bring the professionals in and let them run baseball,” Cohen said in his introductory press conference Tuesday. “I’m sure they’ll bring recommendations to me and it will be a collaboration, but they’re the experts. Generally, I ask probing questions and expect reasonable answers – I hold everyone accountable, but it will be a two-way conversation, because they’re the experts.”
Alderson, specifically, is the expert that knows both the organization itself and the sport at large.
“He knows the Mets organization; a lot of the same people he brought up as players are now doing great things,” Cohen said. “Plus, he’s a total professional who has a lot of experience. I have a lot to learn, and I can’t think of a better person to learn from. I have a lot to learn, so that’s why I need to surround myself with real professionals. Over time I’ll get better, but I have a day job too, so I have to make sure the team is operating at full power even when I’m not around.”
Personnel decisions are still at-large – Cohen said that when it comes to hiring a president of baseball operations, he “wants someone well-rounded” but “I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime” – but there was one that Cohen was immediately willing to let Alderson spill the beans on.
“I have talked to Luis (Rojas) a couple times since Friday, and we talked about his situation and his staff. What I told Luis is that it’s very likely he’ll be managing the Mets in 2021, but I left the door slightly ajar in respect to the process we’re going through to find a president of baseball operations,” Alderson said.
That is a glowing endorsement for sure, as Alderson later said of the dismissals of most of the Mets’ front office that “in my experience, any time there's a change of leadership at or near the top, there are going to be changes made below. It's not because people aren't capable or competent; things have to be aligned with personalities."
Personality, and everyone being on the same page, is an important part of the culture Cohen wants to build.
“We’re gonna build a professional organization, and build out all of our processes. We want to be excellent in all areas of this game, which will require resources, and I’m fully committed to making this happen,” Cohen said. “Analytics are important, but just like in my hedge fund, you have to combine that with the human element, too, because even with the best information, not every decision is the right one. I don’t want this to be mediocre – I want this to be great, and I know the fans do, too.”
The balance Cohen wants Alderson and company to find, though, is the dichotomy of trying to build a winner as soon as possible, but one that also is set up for long-term success.
“We’re starting with a good base, and we have to work on parallel tracks. We have to build up our management team and processes to sustain excellence over a long time, but we want to win today, too, so we’ll have to make sharp baseball decisions right now,” Cohen said. “That’s Sandy’s department, they’re going to be the experts, but I’m not in this for a short-term fix. I don’t want to be good one year and bad three; I want to be good every year. That’s the goal, and the team I want to build.”
Cohen did mention immediate holes to fill, including behind the plate and on the mound – although he did say “we have the best pitcher in baseball” – and is ready to make it work.
“We have a pretty good core of offensive players and good young players to build around, but we came in fourth three years in a row, and results speak for themselves,” Cohen said. “It comes down to us making good decisions and taking advantage of opportunities, and we’re going to do it. I’m a very motivated, proactive guy; I don’t sit back and accept mediocrity. You have to set goals for the team, and they should be high goals. We have to go out and get and develop great players, and provide them with the resources they need.”
Cohen isn’t worried about competing with the Yankees – “we’re competing against 29 other MLB clubs, but this is the Mets, and we’re going to create our own excitement,” he said – but he did have one last message for both baseball and anyone who may become part of the Mets family.
“Only one team wins the World Series every year, so that’s a high bar…but if I don’t win in the next three to five years, I’d consider that slightly disappointing. I’m not hitting the baseball, all I’m doing is providing the resources to my management team, but ultimately, I have to be accountable for that.”
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