Steve Cohen’s Mets Dream Keeps Unraveling With DUI Bust for Acting GM
(Bloomberg) -- Everything seemed to be going right for Steve Cohen and the New York Mets.
The billionaire bought the Major League Baseball franchise in December for about $2.5 billion, beating out Alex Rodriguez and Jennifer Lopez for the right to own the team he has supported since childhood. His backing gave Mets fans visions of World Series titles -- especially after the team moved into first place in its division in April and stayed there through July.
Cohen’s first year of owning the Mets looks a lot different heading into the season’s final stretch. The team lost 19 of its 28 games in August. The fans booed, and players retaliated with thumbs-down gestures that captivated the New York media. On Tuesday, just as the calendar was about to turn from that month-to-forget, another stain on the debut season: Acting general manager Zack Scott was arrested on a drunken driving charge while heading home from a charity fundraiser -- at Cohen’s house.
Scott pleaded not guilty on Thursday morning. Hours later, the Mets placed him on administrative leave until further notice and said President Sandy Alderson will assume Scott’s responsibilities.
There were hints of trouble before this recent skid. The franchise fired general manager Jared Porter over allegations of sexual harassment before the season even started. “There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior,” Cohen tweeted.
But that early setback aside, Cohen’s Mets purchase seemed to pay immediate dividends. Bolstered by off-season acquisitions including four-time All-Star Francisco Lindor, the team raced to an early lead in the National League East.
Cohen became an avuncular presence on Twitter. On July 9, when the Mets were blowing out the Pittsburgh Pirates in an eventual 13-4 victory, Cohen ventured a mild gloat. “Are you supposed to keep watching or turn it off?” when your team builds such a commanding lead, he asked. The win put the Mets nine games above .500.
Things quickly began to unravel from there.
In mid-July, ace pitcher Jacob DeGrom went on the injured list. A 1-7 stretch in early August dropped the team into third place. After a sweep of the rival Washington Nationals, the Mets went into freefall, losing 12 of their next 14 contests and dipping below .500 for the first time since early May.
At that point, the romance between Cohen and his team turned a little chilly. On Aug. 18, following five straight losses, Cohen tweeted that it was “hard to understand how professional hitters can be this unproductive.”
Just a few weeks after Cohen’s tweet, Lindor and fellow infielder Javier Baez were forced to apologize after they began celebrating successful plays with a thumbs-down gesture that Baez said was in response to booing from the fans. The gesture brought scorn from team management and Cohen, who said the players “hit the third rail” by “messing with fans.”
Allison McCague, a blogger and podcaster who follows the team for the Amazin’ Avenue news site, said the players are lightning rods, unfairly maligned for years of misery.
“Fans have taken all the frustration of bad baseball for decades and put it on this group,” she said. “They want to win so badly. They’ve been a joke for so long.”
Now the Mets will be without Scott, the acting general manager, who was accused of driving while drunk. Police said they caught him sleeping in his car in White Plains, a suburb north of the city.
“The hiring of his first general manager was a debacle,” McCague said. “So he had to get another, who also was a debacle.”
The Mets have a home game against the Miami Marlins scheduled for Thursday at 7:10 p.m. New York time. Wednesday’s contest between the two was postponed as the remnants of Hurricane Ida ripped through the city with torrential rain that inundated streets, paralyzed transport services and killed at least nine people.
Meanwhile, Cohen’s $22 billion Point72 Asset Management is having a mixed year as well. The multistrategy hedge fund returned just 1.2% in the first half of 2021, weighed down in part by a wager on Gabe Plotkin, one of his former star traders. Plotkin’s Melvin Capital was attacked by retail investors on Reddit earlier this year.
On the bright side for Cohen, Melvin’s performance improved in July just as the Mets’ fortunes began to turn. The hedge fund gained 5.4% for the month, capping an advance that has turned a January infusion from Point72 and Citadel profitable.
And the Mets are riding a win streak and are 5 1/2 games behind the division-leading Atlanta Braves going into the season’s final few weeks.
“The fan base is disappointed and I think they’re on edge,” McCague said. But she said a house-cleaning in the front office and better use of analytics would mean wins, joy in Queens and a reprieve for Cohen. “I’m not going to be out on him after one year,” she said.
Cohen, meanwhile, appears to be as focused as ever on the team and hoping for better days ahead. “Sometimes, baseball can be pure joy,” he tweeted on Tuesday.
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