The Mets announced David Stearns as the first-ever President of Baseball Operations today, putting a nice bow on an exhaustive two-year search that Steve Cohen initiated when assuming ownership of the organization.
Cohen, who joined Stearns at the podium, noted at the start of the proceedings that he was patient from the start in looking for the right person, and is convinced Stearns is that guy after doing his due diligence. He made sure to note that he received both solicited and unsolicited praise for Stearns, with many he talked to outright encouraging him to hire Stearns on the spot. Among the positive traits that made Stearns the guy he ultimately ended up hiring, Cohen had been told that Stearns is smart, thoughtful, open to new ideas, and inclusive.
Stearns thanked Cohen, as well as the Brewers organization, where he spent the last eight years of his career. He specified that, when he stepped down from his role in Milwaukee, it was his intention to spend more time with his family and take a step back, but he couldn’t pass up the opportunity when it presented himself. Stearns spoke often about growing up a Mets fan, even sneaking into Shea Stadium in his youth, and joked about appreciating that they are now letting him in without a ticket. He talked about riding the roller coaster of disappointment and hope, and growing up listening to Gary Cohen and Bob Murphy. In a post-presser talk with Steve Gelbs, he spoke of the late-90s Mets and being at Shea for Mike Piazza’s first game with the club. The team can now say, if nothing else, that they are led by an owner and a President who have loved this game since childhood, which is pretty special to think about.
Operationally, Stearns gave some hints about the team’s plans, though stopped short of really outlining any major initiatives. He talked about trying to build groups of talented people across all parts of the organization, some of whom may already be here. He emphatically stated that the plans for the team are to compete in 2024, seemingly going against much of the critiques following the trade deadline. He did add that, whatever they do for 2024, they will make sure that it doesn’t detract from success in future years.
One of the most notable clips came when he was asked about Pete Alonso, whom he expects to be the club’s opening day first baseman in 2024. Stearns said that Alonso, “is a great player. He is also good in the clubhouse, and he is also homegrown. All of that matters” and said the entire package weighs into the club’s decision on him. In terms of spending more broadly, neither Cohen nor Stearns committed either way, saying they can spend at the appropriate time on the right players when the situation warrants it.
The managerial opening was also a hot topic of discussion from the start, when Cohen clarified that it was his call to handle Buck Showalter’s firing it the way it went down while sharing his appreciation for everything Showalter did for the Mets. When asked, Stearns said that club will cast a wide net for the position, including long-time managers and first-timers. Stearns views the manager as a thought partner, and someone who will work side-by-side with him and his team.
Stearns made a positive impression with his passion for the franchise, and he clearly has a lot of work ahead of him as he tries to live up to Cohen’s vision of winning a title in the first three to five years of his ownership. To that point, Stearns said, “What hasn’t changed is this organization’s quest for truly sustainable competitiveness and our first World Series championship since 1986. I’m here because I believe that is attainable, that is our goal.”