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For Fans Who Should Know Better

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Mudville: February 7, 2023 3:45 pm PDT
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BY KEVIN KERNAN

You can’t say we didn’t warn you.

Last week at BallNine I wrote about the $teve Cohen Factor … $CF.

Baseball will never be the same. If there is an opening, Steve Cohen is going to flash through and do what he thinks is best for the Mets. This is also good for baseball because the pretenders will be shown up in front offices and in ownership.

Welcome to the Queens Zoo.

The Mets will make all other teams look like cheapskates and the Yankees can be thankful that Cohen never set his claws into signing Aaron Judge. Cohen actually did the nearly impossible. He got Hal Steinbrenner to finally act like his dad George.

Cohen woke up Steinbrenner to the fact that Hal is lucky to own the Yankees and he better start treating the Yankees like the Yankees; and that goes for Brian Cashman too. Show your strength and right now baseball in New York City has never been stronger since the glory days of the New York Yankees, New York Giants and Brooklyn Dodgers.

The Mets are also putting themselves into position of moving ahead of the Yankees, The Great Reversal now that the Wilpons are ancient history.

Baseball, you let the billions guy, who loves to collect art, in your club. He now collects baseball players and the MLB world has been turned upside down. You either swim with the sharks or you get eaten alive.

New York, New York is the center of the baseball universe right now.

The truth of the matter is the Mets had to get better and needed Correa because the Phillies and Braves are both better teams than they were last season.

“It is what it is,’’ one talent evaluator told BallNine about the $teve Cohen Factor in the National League. “You got the Mets, San Diego, the Phillies, the Dodgers and the rest of us are just trying to do the best that we can.’’

Money teams and Other teams. That is the New Reality facing baseball.

Imagine being the Marlins in the NL East and trying to keep up with the Mets, Phillies and Braves. The haves and have nots have never been so separated but that is on ownership. Every owner could spend a lot more money on his team if he wanted do spend that money.

In many ways Cohen is MLB’s worst nightmare and the fans’ best friend. He has exposed many of the other owners for not wanting to go all out to win or even going halfway to win.

How can Pirates ownership, just to name one team, look in the mirror.

The only good news for other MLB owners is that there are only about five more positions that Cohen can hand out lifetime contracts and if he keeps Pete Alonso around there are only four. Centerfield, shortstop and third base are spoken for with the dramatic, steal the Yankees thunder of the Aaron Judge press conference Wednesday with the snatching away from the Giants and signing of Carlos Correa to a 12-year, $315 million contract.

Cohen has created his own baseball world and the others are just along for the ride.

Imagine what the fans up in Boston are thinking right now or San Francisco. Like I said last week Steve Cohen is the ballplayers’ best friend.

Steve Cohen. (Getty Images)

Leave it to Judge, the Yankees Captain, to throw praise on the Mets. After he got done with his press conference at Yankee Stadium, Judge told MLB Network this about the signing of Correa by the Mets: “It’s exciting news… New York’s the best place to play and I think he knows that and he values going out and winning and being in a winning culture… The Mets are building a winning team over there.’’

That’s high praise.

New York, New York is the center of the baseball universe right now.

The Mets haven’t won a World Series since 1986 when they won only their second title in franchise history and the Yankees haven’t won a World Series since 2009 – the last time the Yankees decided to spend big money – funny how that all is connected.

Now the Mets still have to prove they can move up the playoff ladder and that remains a big if because Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander need to be the pitchers they have been throughout their careers and cannot afford losing to Father Time. The Phillies, who made it to the World Series and the Braves, who won the NL East will be a challenge but the Mets are setting themselves up for something special and maybe there will be another true New York, NY World Series, if the Yankees can keep up.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. The bottom line is Cohen gave Mets fans the gift of hope and the gift of a regular season that will be can’t-miss baseball, summer nights of fun. Mets attendance will go through the roof and SNY viewership will be off the charts.

To make money you have to spend money, and all those terrible owners in baseball are being exposed by Cohen who is going to spend nearly $500 million on this team this season when you figure payroll and luxury tax. This is an owner pushing for a casino right there in the Citi Field future complex, so a lot is at stake here and Cohen knows it. He is a Mets fan but the man has a way of making even more money than anyone could expect to make.

Correa, a shortstop, is making this pretty much a Derek Jeter-/ A-Rod situation when Alex Rodriguez moved to third base when he came to the Yankees. If you remember, the thought was A-Rod would land with the Red Sox back then – but that blew up for Boston just like the Correa deal blew up for San Francisco.

And now a word about the Giants. If you follow me here you know I have not been a big backer of Farhan Zaidi who was designated a genius by many in the media. The Giants can’t get out of their own way and that franchise is in serious trouble.

Until they change their ways, I am going to refer to these Giants as the Swing & Miss Giants. They talk a good game, remember, talk is cheap, but don’t deliver.

Francisco Lindor #12 and Carlos Correa #1 of Team Puerto Rico celebrate after the final out of Game 4 of Pool F of the 2017 World Baseball Classic against Team USA on Friday, March 17, 2017 at Petco Park in San Diego, California. Team Puerto Rico defeated Team USA 6-5 to advance to the final rounds of the Classic. (Photo by Alex Trautwig/WBCI/MLB via Getty Images)

They have swung and missed mightily with the likes of Bryce Harper, Aaron Judge and now Carlos Correa with Correa failing the Giants physical after the press conference was already set up by the Giants. It’s beyond me how a franchise could mess this up so badly, but then again the Giants are Nerd-centric and they have shown us anything is possible when it comes to making mistakes. The Giants were going to pay Correa $350 million for 13 years.

Scott Boras has a new best pal owner in King Kong Cohen so this will be a regular thing. I’ve known Boras since he got into the agent business, and he is at his best working directly with ownership. Cohen will be his go-to guy and just the mention of the Mets will drive up the price for free agents in the future.

Perhaps the Giants will make the big play for Shohei Ohtani after the 2023 season when he becomes a free agent but the question is why would Ohtani want to go to the Giants, a team in a gigantic hole?

It seems inevitable that Cohen will just continue to collect his baseball works of art and land Ohtani as well. It’s only money and no one in baseball has more money than $teve Cohen.

And let me throw this at you. I know people are saying Correa is perfect for third base, but I am thinking with the new rules, where you actually need a real shortstop and a real second baseman, infielders who will have to move, so the Mets might want to consider moving Correa to second base and being strong up the middle defensively with Lindor at short, Correa at second base and the recently signed Brandon Nimmo in centerfield.

If Correa did move to second that would give the Mets an up the middle that cost $162 million for Nimmo, $315 million for Correa and $341 million for Lindor and also another $15 million for catcher Omar Narvaez. That’s $833 million for those four positions, that’s strength up the middle.

Aaron Judge #99 of the New York Yankees poses for a portrait after a press conference at Yankee Stadium on December 21, 2022 in Bronx, New York. (Photo by New York Yankees/Getty Images)

Just something for Buck Showalter to think about because this gives you flexibility to play Jeff McNeil all over the diamond and maybe McNeil settles in as the leftfielder or third baseman. Seeing Lindor and Correa working their up the middle defensive magic would be fascinating and something special to watch, but I also have no problem with Correa just moving over to third, a la A-Rod.

Still, consider, most importantly, with the new shift rules, you need a real second baseman and a real shortstop, not just bodies you can plop anywhere you want in the shift. Movement is again key up the middle, anticipation, making the play and having a strong arm are all part of that ballet package.

This offseason, Cohen has spent $315 million on Correa, $162 million on Nimmo, $102 million on Edwin Diaz, $86.6 million on Justin Verlander, $75 million on Kodai Senga, $26 million on Jose Quintana, $15 million on Omar Narvaez, $14.5 million on Adam Ottavino and $10 million on David Robertson.

Money doesn’t buy you a championship but it sure helps.

The Astros allowed Correa to walk away to the Twins, he was out of their price range and maybe there were some physical issues like perhaps a shoulder they were concerned about and they had young Jeremy Pena ready to take his place, a much cheaper alternative.

The Queens Zoo now comes into play.

The Mets will have more pressure on them than any other team in baseball. Can they handle all that pressure? Correa has played in Houston and Minnesota, it’s a different ballgame in New York. He was also part of the 2017 cheating Astros that earned so much scorn from Yankee fans, so having Correa playing for the Mets now will add fuel to that fire and make the Mets-Yankees rivalry that much bigger.

Justin Verlander spent three years as a teammate with Correa in Houston so that inside intel helped the Mets make their decision plus the fact that Lindor and Correa are such close friends. Correa was the first pick of the 2012 draft with the Astros, Lindor was the eighth pick of the 2011 draft with the Indians. Getting that top level talent in their prime now is worth their weight in gold for Cohen.

The most perplexing thing about baseball right now is the Nerds are still trying to do Nerd things when the game is about talent, acquiring it and developing it, and so many teams continue to miss that boat.

“There are those of us who know how the game is supposed to be done and then there are those that have changed the game and are changing it for the worse each and every day,’’ the talent evaluator told me.

Then you get an owner with Cohen’s money and it becomes even more of a challenge.

The other owners let Steve Cohen into the club and now the club is different. He is showing them all up, not just the Wilpons. They will have to learn to live with it. There are the haves and the have-nots. The Mets have not won a World Series since that 1986 season when they were the toast of the town and had most of the stars in New York. The Mets let the Yankees take over.

Now it’s the Mets world. All the attention is on them. Cohen wanted that when he purchased the Mets and now he has won that battle. All he has to do now is win a World Series in 2023 to be a success. He’s won the off-season. That’s a start.

The Queens Zoo is officially open for business.

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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