LOS ANGELES — The comebacks. The grit. The discipline at the plate. The “phenomenal job” by GM Billy Eppler, the head honcho in the front office. The manager who is “perfect for New York.” Those are just a handful of the elements that have led Mets owner Steve Cohen to refuse to turn the TV off — even when it’s late at night, even when the Mets are trailing, even when he has to wake up early the next morning and get back to his day job.
Cohen hopped on his private plane to Hollywood on Thursday night and arrived at Chavez Ravine on Friday afternoon to watch the remaining three games between the Mets and Dodgers in what he described as a test for his players.
“Just watching them come back,” Cohen said of the most enjoyable part of the season so far. “How much fun is that? You’re never out of it. The real problem is I can’t turn the TV off because I gotta stay up and watch. Before you could turn the TV off and say, ‘They’re not going to come back.’ Now I leave the TV on.”
Despite the early success the Mets have enjoyed this year — they opened June with a double-digit lead in the NL East, they lead the majors with a .290 batting average with runners in scoring position, they have the third-best winning percentage in MLB — Cohen said he will always want more and expect nothing but the best for his organization.
“I will never feel satisfied. That’s not who I am,” Cohen said Friday in front of the visitor’s dugout at Dodger Stadium. “I’m always trying to figure out where else we can go next. I’m always in a state of constant improvement, and that’s the way I want this organization to work.”
So, what’s next? Will Cohen make a splash at the trade deadline and take the Mets over a $300 million payroll?
“Either I will or I won’t,” he quipped. “There’s only two possibilities: 299.9 or 300.1. Maybe I will do the 300.1 just for fun.”
Forget the 9.5-game lead the Mets currently have over the defending champion Braves, Cohen said. What has stood out to Cohen is how the club is playing the game. After firing off an infamous tweet last season, in which Cohen called out his hitters for having an undisciplined approach at the plate, he has thoroughly enjoyed the patience the Mets are showing with just over 30% of the season completed.
It’s simple for Cohen: “This is different” than his first year owning the team, he said. But, as a lifelong Mets fan, he knows no matter how well the Mets are playing now, to keep his expectations in check. It’s still early and he’s not going to get excited. Cohen said he ‘ll save his excitement his for August.
“I still have a lot to learn,” said Cohen. “I think I’m a little more seasoned this year, and … three years from now, I’ll probably feel a little wiser than I do today. I’m surrounded by, I think, quality people today, which is really helpful. They make me look really good. Surrounding myself with the right people goes a long way. We’ve made significant progress as far as rebuilding the franchise.”
Cohen, who will turn 66 on June 11, is in his second year owning the Mets. The hedge fund guru, estimated by Forbes to possess a net worth of $17.4 billion, bought the club for $2.4 billion in November 2020. The Amazin’s finished his first season spending the majority of the year in first place, only to collapse in August, finish in third with a 77-85 record, and miss the playoffs for the fifth consecutive year.
Then he flipped the organization on its head. After a long and dramatic search for a general manager, Cohen and team president Sandy Alderson landed on Eppler to lead the front office. Then the Mets brought veteran skipper Buck Showalter out of the shadows — he hadn’t managed since he was dismissed by the Orioles following the 2018 season. Finally, Cohen declared the Mets to be a win-now team by committing $130 million on free agent and future Hall of Famer Max Scherzer. That monumental splash set the expectations for the 2022 Mets: they immediately became on-paper contenders.
“Another workhorse, detailed guy on top of everything,” Cohen said of Eppler. “Really informative. He Gets me answers when I need them. I can’t be happier as far as really doing the job. Buck and him are getting along great, so I really think it’s a step up.”
All of which has resulted in the Mets really playing like contenders. No matter that Scherzer is currently sidelined on the injured list with a moderate-high grade oblique strain. No matter that Jacob deGrom, who has been rehabbing from a stress reaction on his right scapula since April 1, hasn’t pitched in a big-league game since July 7, 2021.
Cohen said, if someone had told him back during spring training that deGrom and Scherzer will at best make around eight starts each in the rest of the regular season, he would’ve expected that to be a problem. But, as the following months unfolded, acquired players Chris Bassitt, Starling Marte, Eduardo Escobar, Mark Canha and others all adapted to their new team. The people he appointed to lead the Mets showed him they’re capable of navigating the challenges. And those are just a couple of the reasons Cohen on Friday was relaxed about the state of his organization. Of course, winning helps.
“I’m doing this for the fans,” Cohen said. “I’m enjoying this. I can’t not enjoy it. Because when it’s not going well, it’s frustrating. So when it’s going well, you gotta let yourself enjoy it. But it’s still early in the season. I’m not getting excited. I’m trying to stay disciplined, measured, allow it to occur. We’ll see where it goes. The goal is to get into the playoffs. When we get into the playoffs, then we’ll see what happens.”