Rosenthal: Complaint about owners like Steve Cohen of the Mets? MLB needs more

Rosenthal: Complaint about owners like Steve Cohen of the Mets? MLB needs more

All those complaining about baseball’s latest rash of salaries are just wishing Foods Steve Cohen owned his team. And if not Cohen, the Phillies John Middleton or parents’ Peter Seidler.

Yankees fans complain about Hal Steinbrenner, but he too has been through a lot this offseason, albeit mostly with one player, Aaron Judge. Combined, the Yankees, Phillies, Mets and Padres have spent $1.5 billion on free agents, more than 60 percent of total industry spending.

Bad for sport? It depends on who you root for. Some executives and owners privately grumble about the sport’s latest financial rash. Some fans of small-market teams are even more exasperated than before. Yet even the disenchanted can take solace in one of sports’ enduring realities: Big-money pushups generate a buzz of surprise and surprise, but guarantee nothing.

Seriously, would anyone be surprised, given their respective ages and injury histories, yes Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer i Brandon Nimmo all fell into various states of disrepair the next season, and the Mets sputtered around them?

Don’t get me wrong: I wish there were 30 Cohens, one for each franchise. Not likely, obviously Cohen is unique, the 38th richest man in America according to Forbeswith a real-time net worth of 17.5 billion dollars. But in an industry mostly content with profit, Cohen is obsessed with winning. Middleton and Seidler share their obsession, which is exactly what fans should want.

It is a new type of owner, operating under a new collective agreement that reflects the union’s success in raising luxury tax thresholds and avoiding tougher penalties. Cohen took over the Mets in late 2020. Seidler became the Padres’ control person soon after. Middleton became a 48 percent shareholder of the Phillies in 2014 and its controlling person in 2016. Hopefully, the Nationals and angelsboth currently for sale, will be purchased by related individuals or groups, and billing will continue with the reds, A and piratesto name three clubs that need a change.

In fact, I could list a bunch more. The game needs not only more motivated owners, but also more thinkers. Now that the industry has recovered from two COVID-damaged seasons faster than Trea Turner score from second on a single, what exactly was the point of blocking the owners?

Of course, new owners who don’t have the personal wealth of Cohen or even Seidler can only do so much in a sport that faces a systemic divide between big and small markets. New Royals owner John Sherman operates out of Kansas City, not New York. David Blitzer, who recently won a 25 percent stake in The Guardians with an option to become majority owner in six years, can’t just snap his fingers and turn around. Cleveland in Chicago.

The big-market-small-market conundrum will be part of baseball as long as teams generate the majority of their revenue locally rather than nationally, as opposed to NFL. But spare me the sky-falling narrative about the financial downsides of gambling, which we’ve heard for practically the last century.

Padres owner Peter Seidler, left, looks on as Xander Bogaerts puts on his Padres jersey, along with GM AJ Preller, right. (AP Photo/Denis Poroy)

Without a doubt, in a sport without a salary cap, low-income teams operate at a disadvantage. It is extremely difficult for these clubs to win a World Series, let alone sustain success over the long term. But Seidler, whose parents play for the nation eighth largest city by population but only the 27th largest media marketit represents the opposite of the poor-poor-miserable-me argument.

Seidler’s apparent desperation to bring San Diego its first series title is perhaps informed by his own two bouts of non-Hodgkin’s lymphomanot forgetting his desire to beat the Dodgers, the team owned by his late grandfather, Walter O’Malley. Do we know where their money comes from? Not exactly. Are you deficit spending? Almost certainly. But Seidler values ‚Äč‚Äčentertainment over efficiency, spending money to make money.

Maybe his plan will go awry and the Padres will stage another one of their dreaded sales. But Seidler’s team drew 2.99 million last season, the second-highest total since 2004, the club’s first year at Petco Park. Attendance at home of the Padres in 2023, with the arrival of Xander Bogaertsreturn of Fernando Tatis Jr., Juan Soto i Josh Hader playing their first full seasons in San Diego, and the team appearing in the National League Championship Series, should climb even higher.

Not all small and mid-market properties can work this way. Few if any share Seidler’s financial exuberance. When the royal they won the 2015 World Series, finished with the 13th-highest 40-man payroll. Somehow, they still haven’t recovered from their relative splurge while trying to keep this competitive window open. Rays and Guardians will scratch and tear, often showing more imagination than their high-earning brethren. However, these clubs only become more discouraged as the financial gap widens.

Cohen, of course, is widening that gap to new levels, but the other owners knew what they were getting when they approved him: a very rich, very smart fanboy. The Mets’ first big warning shot under Cohen came in the offseason, when they signed Scherzer, then 37, to a three-year contract with an average annual value of $43.33 million, breaking the previous AAV record by over $7 million.

The signature evoked a scene from John Helyar’s classic 1994 book on baseball ownership, “Lords of the Realm.” Helyar, writing as the puppies in 1992 he signed Ryne Sandberg for a record $7.1 million AAV, breaking Bobby Bonilla’s mark of $5.8 million, reports that Astros Owner John McMullen yelled at Cubs President Stanton Cook, “Don’t you know there’s a number between five and seven? It’s six o’clock!”

Cohen obviously didn’t see numbers between 36 and 43.33, and for good measure he signed Verlander, an even bigger starting pitcher, for the exact same AAV last week. The Mets’ eight-year, $162 million deal with Nimmo could be a bigger reach, considering the center fielder has played more than 92 games in a full season only twice. You can almost hear other owners laughing at Cohen condescendingly, hissing, “He’ll learn.”

Maybe he will. Maybe he won’t. Maybe he just doesn’t care. Meanwhile, he embarrasses some of his fellow gentlemen. Owners of the Nationals, Dodgers, Giants, Red Sox, Cubs and Phillies are also among Forbes’ 400 richest Americans. Cohen isn’t the only wealthy owner, just the richest.

The Nats are for sale; they get a pass. So do the Dodgers, who have led to the highest payroll every year since 2013 and now they seem determined to mix in their next wave of young players. But the Red Sox, Cubs and Giants rank 12th, 15th and 16th, respectively, in the current payroll rankings, as compiled by Fangraphs. I 18 by Jim Bowden 25 best free agents they are off the board.

Complain all you want about Cohen, Seidler and Middleton. The game needs more like them.

Estimated 2023 payrolls, per Fangraphs



335 million dollars

270 million dollars

235 million dollars

230 million dollars

198 million dollars

197 million dollars

183 million dollars

181 million dollars

180 million dollars

170 million dollars

173 million dollars

172 million dollars

164 million dollars

158 million dollars

155 million dollars

151 million dollars

135 million dollars

116 million dollars

116 million dollars

102 million dollars

101 million dollars

98 million dollars

95 million dollars

87 million dollars

76 million dollars

74 million dollars

73 million dollars

58 million dollars

52 million dollars

45 million dollars

(Top photo by Steve Cohen: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

#Rosenthal #Complaint #owners #Steve #Cohen #Mets #MLB

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