You’ll have to excuse Mets fans today — and maybe for the next few years… or decades.
Okay, that might be going a little too far, but what isn’t hyperbole is that an idle weekday morning in September felt like Christmas morning.
The New York Mets announced that they have reached — and signed — an agreement that will transfer majority ownership to hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen. He can take immediate control of the franchise once he gets 23 approving votes from the 29 remaining MLB club owners in November.
And just like that — once again trying to avoid hyperbole — a nearly-two-decade nightmare is on the cusp of ending. Because that’s exactly what it was, a nightmare.
The Wilpon family ran one of Major League Baseball’s highest-valued franchises playing in North America’s largest sporting market like a team that plays in a 6,000-seat stadium in the middle of Soda Springs, Idaho.
It’s like possessing the physique and athleticism of LeBron James but not knowing how to dribble a basketball or dunk.
For Mets fans, it was maddening.
After being ransacked by the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the Wilpons’ wallets were all but sealed shut. Promising rosters that were a few pieces away from serious contention were filled with stopgaps, neglecting the promise of a championship chase for the illusion of being in the thick of things.
It was a ploy to get butts in the seats at Shea Stadium and later, Citi Field, but Mets fans are smarter than that. They finally got to the point where they said “show me a winner” rather than just talking about one. The Mets haven’t been in MLB’s top-10 in annual attendance since 2009, which was Cit Field’s inaugural season.
The only thing that will draw fans and make money at the gates (when all this pandemic stuff is over) is a strong team on paper with competent leadership that delivers on paper.
That means going out and spending like the big-market club that they truly are. That means bringing on experienced general managers and managers rather than former agents and bargain hires.
Cohen not only brings that promise, but he’s already revitalized a fan base that has been running on empty for years.
And it’s all because of the Benjamins.
The 64-year-old Long Island native is worth $14.6 billion, according to Forbes. That’s more than MLB’s three richest owners — the Nationals’ Mark Lerner ($4.8 billion), the Giants’ Greg Johnson ($4.5 billion), the Tigers’ Mike Ilitch ($3.8 billion) — combined.
Finally, real money is going to be pumped into the Mets.
Finally, there is a chance that this is run like a true professional ballclub.
Finally, they could be the big fish in the free-agent market.
Finally, Mets fans have reasons for legitimate hope rather than hypothetical ambitions.