The first half of the 2023 season has been an unmitigated disaster for the New York Mets, but according to owner Steve Cohen, it won’t warrant a midseason change, management-wise.
Despite an MLB-record $350 million payroll, the Mets sit in fourth place in the National League East and 8.5 games out of the final NL playoff spot. However, Cohen guaranteed manager Buck Showalter and general manager Billy Eppler would “absolutely” remain in their posts the rest of the year during a 20-plus minute press availability Wednesday.
“It’s on the players,” Cohen said. “I can’t pitch. I can’t hit, and that’s the way it goes. We’re hoping for the best.”
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Cohen will spend more than $750 million on player salaries in his first three seasons as Mets owner, and New York appeared poised to make a big leap after winning 101 games a season ago.
But Showalter has struggled to manage the bullpen without All-Star closer Edwin Diaz, who sustained a season-ending knee injury in the World Baseball Classic.
Cohen hears the cries from desperate fans who are hoping for a spark that’ll flip this nightmare season. Still, he has a reason to remain patient.
“The worst thing you can do is be impulsive,” Cohen said. “Over time, you’re not going to attract the best talent. You’re not going to want to work for somebody who has a short fuse.
“I know fans, they want something to happen. But you can’t do it because you have long-term objectives.”
Aside from putting the onus on the players, Cohen acknowledged his own failings as well before also throwing shade at former owner Fred Wilpon. In Cohen’s mind, the club’s sagging infrastructure under Wilpon mandated free agent signings, especially for the club’s pitching staff.
“The goal here is to build up the farm system because ultimately that gives me a lot more options,” Cohen said. “When we look at our pitching today, we had to go out to free agency to get pitchers over the last couple of years. We haven’t developed that many pitchers, which is actually pretty shocking.
“We may not have had the right infrastructure in place. We just opened up our pitching lab. Other teams had pitching labs six, seven, eight years ago, so we’re behind. The goal is to provide all the resources and all the infrastructure that makes us competitive with other teams… but that takes time.
Though the Mets are guaranteed to be under .500 at the season’s halfway point — they’re 36-43 through 79 games — Cohen still believes there’s enough time for them to turn things around.
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He believes the Mets can be like the 2022 Phillies, who were eight games under .500 at the start of June before rebounding to reach the World Series, or the 2021 Braves, who won the World Series despite a sub-.500 record on July 1.
“We still have time,” Cohen said. “I read something today that said there’s one team every year that came back from eight-and-a-half [games] back in the last four years to make the wild card. Obviously, we came in with higher hopes than emerging as the last wild card, but that’s where we are, so the season’s not over.”
Cohen isn’t oblivious, though, acknowledging that it’s getting late for the Mets, and changes will happen if they don’t turn things swiftly.
“I’m preparing my management team for all possibilities,” Cohen said. “If we don’t get better, we have decisions to make at the trade deadline. That’s not my preferred end result, but I’m preparing all contingencies. We’ll see where it goes.”