It’s always hard to not get jealous of people that have shiny new toys. Remember as a kid, when you were just getting your NES system for the first time, finally getting your parents to cave and spring for that cool gaming set, allowing you to dominate Super Mario Brothers 3, only to see your friend get SNES? It’s deflating. You want to have to newest thing, but you’re stuck with the old model, the one that promised to be awesome but just ended up being the same dud as everyone else.
This is how Phillies fans are beginning to feel about the Mets. The sale to new owner Steve Cohen was finalized the other day, freeing them from the years of incompetence that was foisted on the fanbase by the Wilpons and their ineptitude at running an organization with the New York market at their disposal. Now, they’ll have an owner that is one of the richest men in the world and easily becomes the richest owner in all of major league baseball. They have a lot of work to do when it comes to sprucing up the roster enough to be a contender, but with Cohen’s money, that shouldn’t be much of a problem.
So how should the fanbase here in Philadelphia feel about the Mets seemingly entering a brave new world of executive competence, especially as this offseason promises to be one of teams struggling to navigate the free agent market? There are two possible avenues to take here.
Philadelphia’s offseason began with the owner, John Middleton, waffling back and forth on the decision of whether to retain general manager Matt Klentak. The season ended on September 27th; Klentak “stepped down” on October 3rd. That’s a difference of six days that it took the team to make up their mind and reassign Klentak somewhere else within the organization. We can argue about whether the team was waiting for the first round of the playoffs to conclude before making a major announcement like that, something MLB prefers teams to do, but the smoke that was coming out of the building was that there was some real agonizing about what to do.
Meanwhile, it took roughly two hours between the announcement of the team gaining official approval from the other owners for the sale to Cohen and the announcement that almost the entirety of the front office was being let go by new president Sandy Alderson. There were of course many meetings prior to this announcement and when the actual decision was made. Alderson had a head start on this as he was announced as the person running the baseball operations on September 24th, so that’s over thirty days for Alderson to make his decision, but you did not hear a peep about the possibility of Cohen and company “evaluating”, “huddling up” or any of the other clichés we often hear about when a new owner takes over a team with a previously installed front office. It was quick and decisive.
In the meantime since that move, the Mets have already had names linked to the general manager’s job. There will be more in the next few days as the Mets’ job is instantly the most desirable general manager’s job out there.
What about Philadelphia and its vacancy? Crickets.
Not so much as a name.
While this front office is well-known secrecy and its close to the vest dealings, there hasn’t been anything for someone to bite on outside of a rumored name from Kansas City. In fact, Middleton and team president Andy MacPhail continue to wonder why anyone would even want to move while the country is still in the grips of a pandemic. It eludes them why anyone would want to reach perhaps the pinnacle of baseball decision making so quickly when they can take their time and allow the candidates to come to them.
It’s amazing how one owner can be so swift in his decision making while another can move at what could generously be called a glacial pace. It’s not as though Cohen is new to owning a team. He was, after all, a minority owner of the Mets in the past. But it’s already possible to feel a twinge of jealousy that one knows what he wants and executes the plan while the other sits on his haunches and asks everyone else their opinion before issuing his judgement.
Then there is the issue of money. While Cohen hasn’t come out and declared his intentions to spend like a drunken sailor, that’s what many Mets fans are hopeful of, especially as some of the free agents available match up very well with the current needs of the team. In Philadelphia, we are stuck watching the front office re-enact the scene from The Office where bankruptcy was declared.
It’s hard not to be jealous of that difference, yet that also leads to the other school of thought when it comes to the Mets and their new ownership.
It’s still the Mets.
That argument was always good for a chuckle or two, but it’s entirely fair that until they prove it, they’re still the LOLMets.
But let’s talk about money and past ownership transfers in MLB.
Using this article from USA Today (don’t worry - it’s not Nightengale), we can see when the last MLB teams were bought and sold, and how they spent the immediate offseason.
Team sales and next year spending
|Team||Year sold||Next year FA spending|
|Team||Year sold||Next year FA spending|
Granted, a lot of these teams were sold under different circumstances, but the general theme is that when teams are sold to new owners, those new owners want to take stock of their rosters, payroll, spending, etc. before they go willy-nilly in the free agent market. The Dodgers being the lone exception because of their market and local demand to produce, these new owners have adhered to the policy of “wait first, spend later”.
Now, we can look at this in two ways: either the Mets are going to spend like the Dodgers because their market demands it, or they’re going to do some introspection first and spend when it’s appropriate. What direction they choose might largely be told by who they choose as their president of baseball operations and general manager. Seeing them choose from among some of the more analytically inclined teams like the Rays or Astros might signal that they intend to flex their financial muscle in the R&D departments first. Hiring someone along the lines of a Dave Dombrowski (for lack of a better option) would signal that they mean business in 2021 and that are going to spend.
Of course, it’s just as likely that they’ll do both simultaneously. Cohen has already decided to begin paying his employees full salaries again, so the team is experiencing some goodwill and deep pockets. Does that signal that Cohen will spend on free agents? Maybe, maybe not. But with all the owners across the sport lamenting the loss of revenue from the pandemic, it’s hard to believe that Cohen will buck the company line and go against his fellow owners that just approved his admittance into their club.
Regardless of what you believe of the Phillies, it’s hard to not take notice of what the team to the north is doing and not be a little anxious of their future. If the new owners surround themselves with smart people and use their financial wherewithal to improve the roster, the Phillies might be facing yet another rising power in the division. If the Phillies continue to bungle their way through this offseason as they have already started to, they’ll find themselves falling further and further behind, further they already have.