Between signing catcher James McCann, hiring a new general manager, and being right in the middle of rumors regarding top tier free agents and trade targets, there has been a lot of buzz around the Mets over the past couple of weeks. Amidst all the excitement, something else happened that may seem rather mundane on its surface, but was almost just as significant, even if only in a symbolic way: new Mets owner Steve Cohen and his wife Alex surprised a group of season ticketholders at Citi Field by handing out memorabilia in person and sticking around to chat and take pictures.
“We want to thank our fans for going through a season that was obviously incredibly difficult,” Cohen said during an interview at the event. “We just wanted to thank them for the support. Our fans are the best fans in baseball. And so we just wanted to say thank you.”
This gesture is small, but it represents something much larger—a willingness to meaningfully engage with fans, which puts Cohen in stark contrast with the previous Wilpon-led ownership group. Cohen also has a Twitter, where he tweets daily and often replies to fan questions, which is something likely beyond the scope of Jeff Wilpon’s imagination. Cohen has shown a willingness to listen to what fans have to say about what would improve their experience, including things like bringing back Old Timers Day or having the team wear the black jerseys of the late ‘90s through the aughts. Regardless of how one feels about any of these traditions in particular, Cohen’s conduct is in every way a complete change in tone from the previous regime, who balked at making themselves available to the media and to fans and who shied away from embracing the franchise’s past and its iconic players. These seemingly minor changes are ways Cohen can have an impact beyond his billions, not just when it comes to sowing the seeds of goodwill among the fanbase, but potentially repairing damaged relationships with former players as well.
It isn’t all symbolism and tweets, though. Cohen has already walked the walk in more tangible ways, such as reversing the salary cuts Mets employees took back in March due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And so far this offseason, having already signed their catcher, the Mets are still in on multiple big ticket free agents and we recently learned that team president Sandy Alderson expects the Mets to engage in “serious contact extension talks” with Michael Conforto.
Of course, what ultimately matters when judging the success of this ownership change is the results on the field. After enduring a twenty-year period of near-daily incompetence and organization-wide dysfunction, Mets fans are primed for excitement for just about any change at all. Steve Cohen is still very much in the honeymoon stage with the fanbase and we’ll have to see if these changes in tone and approach endure once that honeymoon period wears off. That said, if making a surprise appearance and chatting with fans is any indication, the Cohen era is certainly off to a good start.