For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: June 24, 2024 12:57 am PDT

Mets owner Steve Cohen is the media gift that keeps on giving.

I appreciate his honesty, I really do, in a George Steinbrenner kind of way, but it is clear Cohen and his people are not good at gauging players’ personalities and this could lead to major problems down the road for the Mets.

This time it was Steven Matz.

In the future it could be much, much worse.

Perhaps the biggest nightmare scenario of them all.

Imagine what a kick in the pants that would be to Mets fans. In the past deGrom has said it would be cool to be a Met for life, but situations change. And a lot of situations have changed for the Mets recently.

DeGrom grew up in Northern Florida a Braves fan. Imagine him signing with the Braves if he opts out from the Mets. After all, from a personality and family standpoint it would make perfect sense for deGrom to want to play closer to his home, especially near the end of his career.

Also, the Braves are 2021 World Champions so they are clearly doing things right and he would not be going to a struggling team. Matz, by the way, was deGrom’s best friend on the Mets. They were always together. Interesting that at the last second Matz opted not to give the Mets a final shot at signing him and coming “home’’ to New York again and instead signed with the Cardinals after a year of success in Toronto.

It tells you something when Mets players like Michael Conforto (who appears headed elsewhere as a free agent), Noah Syndergaard, Matz and Aaron Loup, by far their best reliever last year, all reject the team. 

Matz returning to the Mets would have made baseball life a little more enjoyable for deGrom, too, but that is not going to happen now as Matz signed a four-year, $44 million deal with St. Louis.

Money and analytics are not everything in baseball, you have to understand people too. DeGrom is going to make monster money no matter what. You know he wants to be somewhere he can be his baseball best and being closer to home is never a bad thing. Yes, it sounds crazy that deGrom could leave the Mets but it’s not that crazy, especially when you look at the issues the Mets have had as a team.

Billy Eppler just got hired as GM and he is going to have to find a way to navigate the minefield that is the Mets front office with a pair of assistant GMs already in place in Ian Levin and Bryn Alderson, Sandy’s son.

Not to mention Eppler has to best figure out how to handle the owner.

Does he have the courage to stand up to @SteveACohen2 and tell him, “Hey Boss, my job is hard enough, don’t make it harder by alienating players and agents.’’

Maybe the agent was wrong, but players hate distractions, and they will almost always trust their agent over what a team says.

Will Eppler even recognize it as a problem? Eppler came up on the scouts’ side of a front office, being tutored by the Yankees Gene Michael but he did not exactly show a scout’s knowledge while running the Angels and leaned much too heavily on analytics. Along the way his pitching signings were atrocious, and now he has to rebuild the Mets rotation.

It can be done.

Listen, the Mets could turn around tomorrow and sign lefty Robbie Ray and right-hander Marcus Stroman, who showed he can pitch well with the Mets, and that would alleviate the issue, but the truth of the matter is at the moment they now have a rotation of deGrom, who did not pitch after July 7, Carlos Carrasco, who was a bust (1-5, 6.04) after coming over from Cleveland and Taijuan Walker who was a bust the second half (0-8, 7.13) of the season.

I do like the waiver pickup the Mets made on Wednesday signing right-hander Antonio Santos from the Rockies. Santos is only 25 and has a big arm. This was a low risk, high reward signing.

When it comes to the rotation the Mets will have to throw a lot of money at the pitching problem and that money has to be well spent on pitchers who then have to stay healthy.

Let’s not forget that @StevenACohen2 now has a history of Twitter hit and running.

In mid-August he posted this beauty about the Mets struggling hitters: “It’s hard to understand how professional hitters can be this unproductive. The best teams have a more disciplined approach,’’ is how Cohen put it on Twitter, adding: “The slugging and OPS numbers don’t lie.’’



I’ve always been a big believer in slugging and OPS numbers. They don’t lie. But they don’t tell the full story either. And there is Cohen, a billionaire numbers guy, throwing numbers at us again.

He conveniently left out the fact that hitting coach Chili Davis and assistant hitting coach Tom Slater were fired by the Mets on May 4 and the new hitting coach, Hugh Quattlebaum viewed “process over results,’’ something the acting GM Zack Scott, who is no longer the acting GM and is no longer with the organization, completely endorsed.

Really, process over results.

I will take results over process any day of the week.

This all came with Sandy Alderson’s blessing. Clearly the Mets hitters are more confused than before. The Mets hitters finished the season 25th in slugging percentage with a .391 mark and 24th in OPS at .705.

Cohen’s ranting on Twitter did not help him build a relationship with his hitters.

The Mets have a lot of chefs in the kitchen, getting in the players’ heads and too much information could be a bad thing. Hitting, you have to keep simple.

In the end the Mets confused their own hitters.

Being a hands-on owner is one thing, being a Twitter-talking owner is something else. No matter what he says now about his Twitter talk, players will not forget and some will begin to wonder if they can trust the owner not to unload on them for failures on the field.

All that worked for Steinbrenner through the years, but this generation of player is a little more critical of critical comments. Players want to be where they are comfortable. And there was more evidence of that this week with news of the Rays’ Wander Franco and his 11-year, $182 million extension with the club. Franco is only 20 years old and has just 281 at-bats in the majors but the Rays made the decision he is their main player for the next decade. Good for them.

Some may question that Franco, in the long run, will leave millions on the table but having $182 million in the bank makes a lot of sense. Franco can just go out and play baseball. He is happy, he is where he wants to be and he believes in the Rays system. Good for him.

Consider that Cohen is paying Lindor $341 million, this is a nice signing by the Rays.

Steve Cohen.

The really smart teams think way ahead and the Rays, who are a scouting and development team at heart, are a really smart team. Franco will be a thorn in the Yankees side for a decade to come now as they try to buy their own shortstop after failing miserably on reading Gleyber Torres’ baseball personality.

I said from the first day Torres is not a shortstop but the Yankees based their contention on numbers and their own devaluation of the shortstop position. These are the kind of decisions you get when everything is based on numbers and not understanding the personality of your players. Torres is so much happier playing second base than being forced as a square peg into the round hole at shortstop.

Teams like the Mets and Yankees need to get back to relying on scouts to project a player’s future and not just analytics.

No sub-.500 team views itself as a contender as much as the Mets do and no such team is as muddled in the rotation as the Mets are right this moment. And if 2022 is suddenly Jacob deGrom’s final season as a Met … Yikes.

The Nerds do not want to spend any time looking at the makeup of a player, it is all numbers and certainly it seems Cohen is falling into that category as an owner. That’s why it is imperative for him to have people around him who understand … people.

The Mets lead the league year in and year out in personality swings and misses. That goes for the clowns they hired as GM and GM Replacement last year.  But it also goes for some of the players they let get away and brought into the the Mets family.

Francisco Lindor went from running the show in small market Cleveland to thinking he could castigate fans, media and teammates like Jeff McNeil in New York. Time for Round 2.

Will he change for the better? We’ll see but Cohen handed Lindor the keys to the kingdom with that $341 million contract.

It tells you something when Mets players like Michael Conforto (who appears headed elsewhere as a free agent), Noah Syndergaard, Matz and Aaron Loup, by far their best reliever last year, all reject the team. Those are four widely different personalities but they all came to the same conclusion:

Steve Cohen keep your millions, I’m going somewhere else.

Conforto is a free agent. Syndergaard is an Angel, just like the lefty Loup who not only was a steadying influence in the Mets bullpen last season, but also was a clubhouse leader.=

Spend five minutes around Noah and you can tell he is a player who needs the personal touch. That’s not a bad thing, that is just who he is and for the Mets simply to make it about the qualifying offer was a mistake. You still have to wine and dine Syndergaard and let him know how important he is to the franchise.

Noah loves the SoCal lifestyle (I see action movies in Thor’s future) and he also loves to be appreciated on a personal level, not just dollar signs.

With Matz, you shine a different spotlight on him. He has the perfect makeup for pitching in St. Louis, the fan friendliest atmosphere in all of baseball. Matz and his wife live in Nashville as well so $44 million over four years to play in St. Louis should not have come a shock to Steve Cohen if he did his homework or if the people who work for him did their homework. The agent doesn’t win any awards here either but the bottom line is that the agent got a big contract and the perfect place for Matz to pitch. The Cardinals fit his personality and that’s a good thing.

Cohen said on Twitter on Tuesday morning about Matz’ agent: “I’m not happy this morning. I’ve never seen such unprofessional behavior exhibited by a player’s agent. I guess words and promises don’t matter.’’



Not a good look, Steve.

Baseball or Bust loves to study the ramifications of teams’ moves from a human standpoint, not the WAR standpoint. In fact, I believe understanding players is the next great frontier in baseball because of the way front offices are now run with analytics first, human interaction second, and not understanding how those players mesh as a team. The Braves figured it out on the run in 2021 but that is only because of Freddie Freeman being the glue that held that team together.

Do not underestimate the power of Freeman there to hold that team together and the fact he posted every day shows the way for the other players.

That’s why the Braves are playing with fire not having Freeman locked up for the rest of his career. That should be fixed soon. The Braves can’t possibly be that dumb. With all the talent they have, and then imagine adding a healthy Jacob deGrom in 2023. That would be a nice pickup.

DeGrom did not pitch after July 7 this past season, but you have to figure he will overcome his arm woes. You don’t want to bet against Jacob deGrom. He is about being the best pitcher he can be and he always bears down in the toughest of situations.

I once asked him where does that inner toughness come from and he said it comes from his parents and his father always had a saying when Jacob took the field: “Leave no doubt.’’

Leave no doubt who the best player is on the field.

Leave no doubt you will not give in, no matter what is happening on the field behind you.

Right now, there is a lot of doubt in Mets World and that leaves a future without Jacob deGrom in the Mets rotation a possibility.

45+ years, columnist at NY Post for the last 23 years prior to joining BallNine. Elected to the NY Baseball Hall of Fame. Former SportsTalk Host (KFMB), ESPN’s First Take and Cold Pizza contributor. Frequent guest on radio shows and podcasts nationwide. Author of seven books. Seen in episode 10 of ESPN’s “The Last Dance” (the one with Dennis Rodman). First baseball interview he conducted was with Thurman Munson. Now you know why he is America’s Most Beloved Sportswriter.

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