Earlier this afternoon, new Mets owner and CEO Steve Cohen and Team President Sandy Alderson held their introductory press conference. The event had a hopeful, borderline lighthearted tone, and was about as far from a Wilpons press conference, tonally, as you could get.
Cohen was up first, and started by thanking Fred Wilpon, Rob Manfred, his fellow owners, and Mets fans. He stated that he both wants to win championships and be an integral part of the community, calling owning the team a ‘civic trust.’ Cohen announced that his wife Alex would be running the Mets Foundation, as well as pointing out that she currently runs the Point 72 Foundation, the charitable wing of his hedge fund.
“I’m going to be an owner that builds a team that has continued success,” said Cohen, emphasizing that you build, not buy, championships. “We want to win now, but are also building for the long term.”
When asked why Cohen felt that Alderson was the right person for the job, he said “[Sandy] knows the Mets organization...he’s a total professional and has had a lot of experiences in baseball, and I’ve got a lot to learn.”
The question of how involved Cohen will be was raised. “I played Little League once. That’s about it. I’m gonna let the professionals, Sandy and the people we bring in, run baseball.”
When asked about the status of manager Luis Rojas, Cohen deferred to Alderson. “What I told Luis is that it is very likely he will be managing the Mets in 2011 [sic], but I’m leaving the door slightly open” in order to allow the new President of Baseball Operations to have some say in the managerial decision.
Cohen said that he wouldn’t address the budget today, but added “This is a major market team, and it should have a budget commensurate with that”
Cohen was asked if he saw the team as a job or a hobby, and he said it was more work than a hobby. “Essentially, I’m doing it for the fans. I can make millions of people happy, and what an unbelievable opportunity that is. I’m not trying to make money here...It’s really about building something great, building something for the fans, winning.”
Cohen singled out the Dodgers as a model franchise to aspire towards, but was clear that he wanted the Mets to have their own culture. “We are going to build out our processes, whether it is analytics, whether it is scouting, whether it is development of our players. I’m not in this to be mediocre; I want something great, and I know the fans want something great.”
When asked about some of the ideas tossed out on Twitter, Cohen said “Having an Old Timers Day would be fun. I don’t know why we wouldn’t do that.” He clarified that this would be dependent on having fans at the ballpark.
On fans, Cohen said “They’re the customer. I need to listen and I want to listen. I’m not in this for a short term fix. I’m in this to build a sustainable franchise. I don’t want to be good one year and bad for three years.”
Cohen said that his previously announced financial support to Citi Field workers should start “fairly soon.”
When asked about the protests and general tenor of social justice that impacted not just baseball, but the entire country this year, Cohen said “I think these are important questions that America is discussing. Black lives do matter. I think it’s important that we have a diverse set of employees, not just for diversity’s sake, but for diversity of thought.”
He added that players are free to express themselves politically, as long as “between the lines, they give 100%.”
When asked about the luxury tax threshold, Cohen stated “I promise you we will act like a major market team. Will we act like drunken sailors on the market? No.”
When asked to give a timetable for his vision, Cohen was bullish. “If I don’t win a World Series in the next 3-5 years - and I’d like to make it sooner - that will be slightly disappointing”
In one of the most memorable moments, Cohen was asked about the other bidders for the teams and whether he has heard from any of them. “Who were the other bidders, I don’t remember?” was his retort.
On the search for a President of Baseball Operations, Cohen seemed to emphasize both experience and a diverse skill set. “I want a well-rounded person. I’m not crazy about people learning on my dime.”
Asked about the vote from the other MLB owners, Cohen was asked if he was disappointed in not being a unanimous choice. “I got 26 votes, you need 23 to be an owner. I accomplished my goal.”
Finally, Cohen addressed what he sees as the start of a Mets culture. “I want professionalism. I want integrity. I want to hire the best and brightest. I want to develop a great farm system, develop our players. And let’s not forget the fans. When they interact with me, [I want their experiences] to be extraordinary.”
The attention then shifted to former General Manager, and new Team President Sandy Alderson. When asked what made Sandy want to return to the Mets, his response was simple and direct: “It’s Steve Cohen.”
Alderson was asked about the dismissal of a number of front office personnel on Friday, and emphasized that he wanted the new President of Baseball Operations should be able to build the organization as they see fit, though he did seem to hint at some potential issues beyond just a clean slate. “In terms of how we envision the team being structured...all of those have to be aligned with the personalities. It’s not just competency, it’s about how people interact.”
Alderson mentioned that the interview process is already underway with potential baseball ops presidents. “Two things happened on Saturday: we had a new President-Elect, and I interviewed my first interview for head of Baseball Operations.”
Until a new Baseball Ops team is assembled, the team is not sitting around waiting. “I’ve got a small but very capable group remaining, we talk every morning, I have already been in touch with agents for free agents, I’ve talked to some of our own players currently, and I’ve also reached out to Luis Rojas, so there’s a lot going on, most of it behind the scenes.”
Alderson also stated that he will not be the sole, or even the dominant voice in baseball discussions. “I’m not going to make the baseball decisions. I expect a seat at the table, but not at the head of the table.”
In terms of the current team, Alderson acknowledged the lack of pitching depth up and down the system, as well as the need for both a catcher and for generally better defense, even taking the blame for some of the defensive issues on the team.
In terms of the future of the franchise, Alderson both looked backwards and into the future. “The Mets are a storied franchise. Some of them have been good, some of them have been bad,” said Alderson. “We want to be a fully built out, professional organization. At the same time, our employees have pride...in the way that the Mets function.”
Alderson was not shy in talking about the increased budget he will likely have to work with, and how this tenure with the team will be different from his last time. “I don’t think my view of how to run a successful baseball team has changed. What this will do, perhaps, is give me the opportunity to implement those changes.”
Echoing Scott Boras’s language, Alderson was asked in what aisle the Mets would be shopping this off-season. “We’re going to make sure we’ve got enough meat and potatoes, but we’re going to be shopping in the gourmet section as well.” He then joked that he needed directions to find that gourmet aisle.
“It’s not about how much less we can get someone for, it’s about getting that somebody. We can now emphasize the acquisition, rather than the cost.”
Alderson announced that the Mets will have minor league teams in Syracuse, Binghamton, St. Lucie, and Brooklyn, with Kingsport and Columbia seemingly being phased out due to the reorganization of Minor League Baseball. This puts all of the Mets higher-level minor league teams in the state of New York for the first time.
In talking about his hiring prospects, Alderson said “First and foremost, the Mets have become a very attractive landing place, overnight.” He mentioned that both front office personnel and players seem excited to play for the Mets, insinuating that the new ownership has a lot to do with that.
Perhaps the quote that best sums up the day came from the close of Cohen’s opening remarks, addressing Mets fans. “I know you will judge me every day. I’m all in, Let’s Go Mets”