The Mets bet Max (the Knife)

Max Scherzer

Shown pitching against the Mets in New York in late August, Max the Knife is a Met now . . . and lucratively.

Lose a shot at bringing a solid pitcher back to the Mets? Lose a followup shot at luring a pitcher who resurrected himself in San Francisco? Go forth and sign a three-time Cy Young Award winner to what might well be his final major league deal—at a record average annual value for pitchers, future Hall of Famers or otherwise.

When you say it that way, it sounds so simple that a refugee from the Delta Quadrant could have done it, despite knowing about as much about baseball as a veterinarian knows about astrophysics. But this is baseball, these are the Mets, that’s Mets owner Steve Cohen, and this is Max Scherzer.

Never mind that Cohen first found an immediate way to atone for squandered time after his particular (and not yet detailed at this writing) rift with former Met Steven Matz’s agent dovetailed with Matz signing a nice four-year deal with the Cardinals.

Signing Starling Marte (center field with a big bat), Mark Canha (just about any outfield spot and an on-base machine), and Eduardo Escobar (solid third baseman who can play second, solid batter) turned Cohen almost overnight from a sad gag to a definite big-market player. Even if it means moving Brandon Nimmo to a corner outfield slot and saying goodbye to a Michael Conforto whose walk-year collapse didn’t look great for himself or the Mets.

Never mind, too, that Cohen and/or his designated hitter couldn’t quite close the deal with righthanded pitcher Kevin Gausman, who turned a career year with the Giants into a nice five-year deal with the Blue Jays—who lost Matz to free agency—that’s the second most lucrative in their franchise history. (George Springer’s five/$125 million beats Gausman’s five/$105 million.)

Signing Scherzer qualifies thus far as the largest, loudest splash on this off-season’s open market to date. Maybe even louder than the ten-year/$325 million the Rangers handed now-erstwhile Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager the day before. In two swell foops (as the lady once said on the radio) the Mets swept up both the single best center fielder available and the pitcher whose 5.9 wins above replacement-level player in 2021 led all free-agent pitchers this time around.

It may also be the least expected. Remember: Scherzer’s conditions for being traded from the Nationals to the Dodgers last July included that he go to either a west coast contender or those guys in his native St. Louis who just bagged Matz. New York was thought to be near the bottom of his baseball bucket list. The Yankees weren’t even a topic, really.

Remember when Hall of Famer Reggie Jackson said he signed his first free agency deal with the Yankees because George Steinbrenner “hustled me like a broad?” Cohen and his minions must have hustled Scherzer like ten ladies and their ladies-in-waiting.

Landing Scherzer means the Mets bring aboard as respected a clubhouse figure as exists in today’s game, a guy who does his best to keep the dysfunction away and also serves as a kind-of de facto second pitching coach, sitting with younger arms while they review video of their past performances and helping them analyse and prepare.

It also means the Mets just landed the guy who led the entire 2021 Show with the lowest walks-per-nine innings rate (1.8), the lowest walks-and-hits-per-inning pitched (WHIP) rate (0.86), posted a better than splendid 2.97 fielding-independent pitching rate, and mostly looked better than his usual self after becoming a Dodger at the 2021 trade deadline.

Mostly.

Max the Knife isn’t quite a kid anymore. At 37, it’s very possible that he’s just signed the final big contract of his major league career; it could even be his final major league deal, period. He pitched mostly like his classic self until his final two starts of the regular season, when he got pried for five runs by the Rockies in Coors Field (23 September) and then for six runs (five earned) by the Padres at home (29 September).

Scherzer recovered from those to pitch well enough in the postseason until former Dodger Joc Pederson yanked a two-run homer off him in the fourth in Game Two of the National League Championship Series. With his shoulder and arm feeling exhausted, Scherzer would have been that set’s Game Seven starter—if the Braves hadn’t yanked four runs out of Game Six starter Walker Buehler while the Dodgers had no answer past two runs off Braves starter Ian Anderson and reliever Luke Jackson.

Nobody would have counted Scherzer out for the seventh game that never came. Just two years earlier, he shook away a terrible neck issue to start Game Seven of the World Series, keep the Astros in check enough despite having nothing left in the tank otherwise, and leave the Nationals room to win the Series with a record fourth road win in the set. He really has been one of those pitchers who can survive on will when the stuff deserts him.

The Mets must be hoping that Scherzer has enough left in the tank to help yank them back into the races to stay. Either that or that he still has that iron will to survive on the mound when the repertoire goes from Kind of Blue to Milli Vanilli.

Assuming both a healthy Scherzer and a healthy returning Jacob deGrom, the Mets in theory would have a 1-2 punch at the top of their starting rotation equal to none today but comparable to several of the past. Sandy Koufax/Don Drysdale. Randy Johnson/Curt Schilling. Heady and three-out-of-four Hall of Famer company to keep.

In theory, too, it could be enough to cause division-rival Nats general manager Mike Rizzo, now navigating a rebuild on the fly without even thinking about tanking, to rub his head with sandpaper (since he has no hair to tear out) and mutter loudly, “If I’d known he’d end up a Met, maybe I wouldn’t have traded Scherzer at all.”

But . . .

“Scherzer could outperform 95 percent of pitchers his age through MLB history and still underperform relative to the contract,” writes Smart Baseball author Keith Law at his usual stand for The Athletic.

Good for him for getting paid, but the idea in free agency is to pay for expected future production, not past production, and the base rate for pitchers his age is not promising. They either lose effectiveness, or they get hurt. Maybe Scherzer is an outlier, just like the race isn’t always to the swift or the battle to the strong. That’s just the way to bet.

The Mets are laying a $43.3 million a year average annual value bet. As Law points out, no pitcher 37 or older has had a 5-WAR season since Bartolo Colon at 39 for the 2013 Athletics; only three since World War II (Hall of Famers Johnson and Phil Niekro, plus Roger Clemens) have delivered 7-WAR seasons at 38+; and, only twelve times have 38-year-old-plus pitchers posted 5+ WAR seasons since the turn of the century.

They’re banking on Jenny Diver, Suki Tawdry, Miss Lotte Lenya, old Lucy Brown, and company forming that big line on the right now that Maxie’s coming to town. For every Met fan and observer wondering if their boy Cohen’s done something else rash, there may be ten counting on Scherzer to become the kind of outlier the Johnsons and Niekros were at his age.

They might even be banking on Scherzer spinning a third no-hitter, this time for them. He has two already, both in 2015, the second of the two against the Mets. When he nailed his 3,000th lifetime major league strikeout last August, bagging San Diego’s Eric Hosmer in the second, Scherzer also took a perfect game into the eighth—when Hosmer exacted revenge by breaking it up with a double to deep right.

Assuming next season won’t be compromised or delayed by any coming lockout, (and it sure feels as though enough of the owners are landing their free-agent signings in a big hurry and rash to secure themselves further before any lockout—a rash which also puts the big lie to any claims of financial ill health), there’s something else to consider.

The Mets are scheduled to open against the Nats. How delicious would it be to see their next manager have to decide whether to open with deGrominator or Max the Knife? Already the National League East would look many things with boring not even close to being one of them.

Great Scott! You thought it couldn’t get worse?

Zack Scott

Zack Scott speaking to reporters earlier this year. Waking up stewed in White Plains isn’t the best look for an acting GM already in a seat hot enough to pass for the electric chair.

Did you think the boo birds and the boneheads fuming over the Baez-Lindor-Pillar thumbs-down to fans would suddenly look upon that nostalgically? Wasn’t it a kick when Lindor and Jeff McNeil had a presidential-level debate over . . . whether that was a rat or a raccoon on the Citi Fields grounds?

Don’t be shocked if that’s exactly what they’re feeling, after the Mets’ acting general manager Zack Scott drove and then parked himself right into a drunk driving charge early Tuesday morning.

This is what we know: White Plains (New York) police found Scott asleep in his car near a federal court house. Scott spurned a breathalyzer but flunked a field sobriety test. Apparently, he got tanked up in the first place while attending a charity fundraiser at Mets owner Steve Cohen’s Connecticut spread not far from there.

Already I’ve seen social media slugs demanding Cohen’s head on a plate over Scott’s inebriation. Guess what. If I’m at a party at your place, the booze is flowing freely enough, and I get that bombed out of my trees, that’s on me for not knowing my limits. You didn’t hold me hostage refusing to release me until I made Jim Morrison resemble a Prohibitionist.

Scott was already on a hot seat close enough to the electric chair, when the only thing he did to fortify the injury-addled Mets at the trade deadline was to bring aboard all-but-washed-up veteran pitcher Rich Hill and the slick-fielding but too-free-swinging Baez. (Where was Cohen—who called out the Mets’ undisciplined hitting, albeit kindly and gently—when Scott made the Baez deal?)

“But the Braves quietly got much better at the deadline,” writes Mike Vaccaro of the New York Post. The Phillies upgraded. So, of course, did the Giants and Dodgers and, let us not forget, the Yankees. Maybe [Mets [resident] Sandy Alderson can shoulder some of the blame; Alderson, an old target of Met-fan angst, probably deserves as much.”

Scott also threw his wounded under the proverbial bus, saying it was pretty much their fault for getting hurt and not getting with whatever the Mets’ health program is. He was blissfully unaware that such a call-out meant his own administration looks like a group of nincompoops playing Operation and pronouncing themselves credentialed medical experts.

Which one of them kept getting buzzed removing the funny bone?

Most likely, Scott would have been gone after the season ends. He might have been moved into a benign advisory role before his rude awakening in White Plains. Now the Mets can’t afford even to put him in charge of a Citi Field cleaning crew.

Alderson still has some splainin’ to do, though, about why he was so hot to pursue the known misogynist Trevor Bauer so hard last winter. The most narrow escape of Alderson’s career was losing out to the Dodgers on Bauer—who turned out to be too much more than a mere misogynist, as he now awaits whether a district attorney will file sexual assault charges against him and he won’t likely pitch again in 2021 . . . or beyond.

The Mets under .500 and five and a half games back in both the National League East and the National League wild card chase—that’s what a 9-19 August did to them in an eleven-game free-fall out of the NL East leadership—may actually be their smallest problem. The toxicity in the organisation needs to be cleaned out.

Waking up stewed in front of the federal court in White Plains is entirely on Scott. But so are a few other things that indicate it’s time for Cohen—who’s had, mostly, the patience of Job in his first year owning the Mets—to flip the switch on the Hoover and clean the Mets’ house. Beat, sweep, and clean it out.

It begins with Alderson, alas. For all his distinguished baseball service past, including a term in the commissioner’s office, the Mets’ president has earned impeachment and removal. The articles against him only begin with that fan-their-behinds statement about the thumbs-downers that he probably carried in his pocket for a couple of weeks before the idiot brigades going cray-cray last Sunday gave him his excuse.

They continue with having hired and elevated Scott in the first place—after former Mets GM Jared Porter had to be purged over his hot-pursuit unwanted sexting aimed at a Cubs employee when Porter ran that team’s scouting apparatus. At that time, it looked as though the Mets were caught with their proverbial pants down, but now it looks as though Alderson’s facility for due diligence abandoned him long enough ago.

Because Alderson is also the Mets’ chieftain who hired Mickey Callaway to manage them, then endured two seasons in which Callaway was in deeper over his own head than a submarine beneath the ocean surface. And that proved the least of Callaway’s issues.

Alderson learned the hard way—when the Angels first suspended, then fired him as their subsequent pitching coach, and baseball government banned him through the end of 2022—that Callaway had a too-pronounced penchant for texting, sexting, sharing shirtless images, and pushing for hot dates with unwilling media women, one of whom called his predatory style baseball’s worst-kept secret.

“What exactly is the Mets’ definition of due diligence when pursuing players and executives?” asks The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal with appropriate snark. “Seeing whether they can spell their names correctly?”

How the hell did Alderson—who built three straight pennant winners and one world champion in Oakland, then called the old umpires union’s chief Richie Phillips’s bluff and accepted mass umpire resignations after the umps balked over one MLB attempt to mandate umpire accountability—devolve to this?

And what the hell was Scott not thinking, considering, as Rosenthal writes, that after “the Callaway and Porter fiascos, he needed to conduct himself impeccably.”

For this toxic cleanup, Cohen’s going to need the Hoover, the Roto-Rooter, truckloads of Raid, and a hazmat team.

Lindor gets his lucre

341 million more seasons to smile than Lindor already had making himself a Met.

The night before Opening Day, Francisco Lindor went from prospective off-season free agent to a Met for life. The morning after Lindor became a $341 million Met, the anticipated enough Opening Day duel between Jacob deGrom and the Nationals’ Max Scherzer got postponed thanks to five Nats players and one team staffer testing positive for COVID-19.

Lindor was already the catch of the offseason when the Mets reeled him in from the Indians with pitcher Carlos Carrasco in exchange for Amed Rosario, Andres Gimenez, and two prospects. That one showed things stood a fine chance of being far different under the Steve Cohen regime than they were under the former Wilpon government.

But would the gigarich Cohen be willing to open the vaults deep to keep Lindor beyond his walk season? Turns out that he would, after a little tussling and a few hiccups. Especially after Lindor turned spring training into his personal coming-out party as a Met.

All Lindor wanted, it turns out, was for someone—preferably his new bosses—to acknowledge that, sure, Fernando Tatis, Jr.’s hot stuff and liable to stay that way, and sure, the Padres weren’t stupid to lock him down and make him a Padre for life, but there was someone else playing shortstop on the baseball street who’d shown and proven a little bit more (well, a lot more) than Tatis had just yet.

When the Mets first offered Lindor $325 million, Lindor—whose smiling style can provide alternative power in the event of a major blackout—said nice, but not so fast. He’d have had to be willfully blind not to notice the Padres invested $340 million in a shortstop who’s played just shy of a full season’s worth of games in two years. He wanted just a little bit more—$1 million more as things turned out.

A little nudge here, a little tug there, a little bump yonder, and Lindor got what he wanted. Just $1 million more worth of evidence that he’d done already what the Padres hope Tatis continues doing. Even if the tradeoff for getting just that much more acknowledgement meant Lindor also looks at $50 million deferred money.

“When it came to negotiating his contract, Lindor was comparable to Tatis only in the sense they play the same position,” writes Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. “Lindor, 27, was one year away from free agency. Tatis, 22, was four years away. And in terms of career accomplishment, Lindor had produced five seasons of at least 4.0 Wins Above Replacement, according to FanGraphs, and Tatis had yet to produce one.”

The thing they have in common otherwise is how much plain fun both Lindor and Tatis are to watch. They’re studies in controlled incendiaries at the plate; they’re studies in acrobatics at shortstop. So far. Barring catastrophic injury or other unforeseen unforced troubles, they’re likely to be that for a long enough time to come.

Lindor’s played six Show seasons; Tatis has played 143 Show games so far. This is how they compare in terms of my Real Batting Average metric: total bases (TB) x walks (BB) x intentional walks (IBB) x sacrifice flies (SF) x hit by pitches (HBP), divided by total plate appearances (PA):

Player PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Francisco Lindor (6 yrs, per 162) 732 319 59 27 8 5 .571
Fernando Tatis, Jr. (143 games) 629 325 57 2 4 10 .633

Tatis is equivalent to the hot first-season wonder. Lindor’s a six-year veteran. If Tatis after six years shows an RBA of .571 or better, he belongs at Lindor’s level. But Tatis isn’t just going to have to keep it up at the plate. He’s going to have to step it up major bigtime in the field. For that equivalence of one season, Tatis has saved 18 runs below his league average. For six seasons, Lindor has saved 56 runs above his league average.

Tatis is the prodigy, the work in progress. Lindor’s the established positional model. If he’s aware that he’s proven himself a top-of-the-line all-around shortstop, you can’t blame him for believing the Mets—or his next employer, should he have chosen to play 2021 out and hit what might be a crowded offseason market throttled by dependence on the next CBA negotiations and outcome—should pay him just so.

Without Lindor’s presence the coming shortstop division of the next free agent class is going to be formidable enough. Unless one of these players lands himself an extension to his liking before the 2021 season finishes playing out, here they are, according to RBA so far:

Player PA TB BB IBB SF HBP RBA
Javier Baez 2708 1201 128 30 12 22 .504
Carlos Correa 2583 1089 272 17 27 15 .550
Corey Seager 2301 1034 207 15 12 16 .558
Trevor Story 2541 1228 213 10 9 21 .583
Francisco Lindor 3510 1531 284 27 36 25 .542

Story, of course, benefits from the Coors factor; neutralised and his RBA might be somewhere more between Lindor and Correa. Now, put them all in the field, see who’s saving runs how far above his league average, and it’s no contest:

Player TZR
Javier Baez +11
Carlos Correa +30
Corey Seager +23
Trevor Story +41
Francisco Lindor +56

With Lindor off the market, Story is the best all-around shortstop in the coming free agents’ class by the raw numbers, but that Coors factor may or may not factor likewise into whether his payday might come that close to Lindor and Tatis.

Tatis landing his Padres lifetime meant that Lindor’s market would take a big leap flying high. Now Lindor’s jumped the coming shortstop market up, of course. But—assuming the CBA negotiations don’t put any kind of crimps into the real market values of players—Baez, Correa, Seager, and Story may see better dollars than they thought they’d see without getting close to Lindor’s bank account to come.

Assume a fair market and intelligence to match coming for argument’s sake. Story and Correa should see larger lucre than Seager and Baez. But that’s only on assumption. We don’t know yet what the coming CBA will deliver.

The bad news is that I’m pretty sure of one thing the coming CBA won’t deliver. The Major League Baseball Players Association isn’t likely to even think about revisiting the player pension plan and giving a reasonable shake to the class that was frozen out of the plan’s 1980 re-alignment capriciously and unfairly: short-career major league players from 1949-80.

Those players include a small handful of one-time Mets. Players such as Bill Denehy, the pitcher traded to the Washington Senators after a single injury-disrupted season as a Met, so the Mets could bring Gil Hodges from Washington to manage them.

Players such as Bill Wakefield, whose lone major league season was as a Met reliever in 1964 when he set a team record for appearances. Players such as outfielder Rod Gaspar and infielder Bobby Pfeil of the 1969 Miracle Mets. Players such as 1970s outfielders George (The Stork) Theodore and Leon Brown. And more.

The 1980 re-alignment changed pension vesting to 43 days major league service and health care vesting to a single day’s major league time. But it excluded players with short careers who played between 1949 and 1980. Some who follow the issue believe one reason was that they were seen as little more than September call-ups, though most of the players frozen out made teams right out of spring training.

The sole redress those players have received since comes from a 2011 deal between then-commissioner Bud Selig and then-players union director Michael Weiner: they have the pre-1980 short-career players $625 per quarter for every 43 days major league service, up to four years worth. The bad news: it doesn’t allow the players to pass those dollars to their families upon their deaths. The worse news: Weiner’s own death, taking further chances for better redress off the table so far.

Cohen has shown he wasn’t kidding when he said he was willing to spend and invest reasonably in reviving the Mets and securing them as a competitive Show team. Perhaps if the players union continues refusing to do better by the short-career players frozen out of the full pension realignment, Cohen—like me, a Met fan since the day they were born—might think about doing something better just for his own former Mets.

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: It’s worth considering, and doing. Think about the props Cohen would earn if he, an owner, starts with his own team what the union still won’t think about with all 614 remaining un-pensioned short-career major leaguers. Maybe he’d inspire other owners with comparable dollars and love of the game to do likewise for theirs.

Denehy, Wakefield, Gaspar, Pfeil, Theodore, Brown, and other such short-term former Mets were among the players who supported the union during their major league lives, walking pickets, surrendering small incomes otherwise, the better to see the days when a Francisco Lindor could count before taxes on $341 million going into the bank thanks to a far more fair and open market than that in which they played.

Someone needs to make a serious move. If the union can’t or won’t, why not an owner? Especially one who’s been as unapologetic in his love for his team and the game as Cohen has been?

Old sexts mean new unemployment

Imagine for one moment an otherwise bright child who’s made mistakes as most children make, bright or otherwise. He comes home from whatever he was doing with his friends, but he discovers an old incident he thought passed without notice or consequence was now unearthed, and his father demands accountability.

Let’s say it was something like giving a push back to that cute but obnoxious little girl who decided the way to make friends and attract the opposite sex was to push, shove, or even punch. He took it long enough because he was taught young gentlemen do not push, shove, or punch young ladies, but he finally got fed up with this particular chick who didn’t know the meaning of the words “knock it off.”

Nobody was truly harmed. It’s not as though she’d shoved him out of third-story windows, it’s not as though he finally dragged her to the nearest open window on the sixth floor. But somebody, who knows whom, let the ancient push back slip within his father’s earshot, and Dad confronts him subsequently giving him minus two seconds to explain himself.

Aware that the conversation is about a comparatively ancient error, he gives the deets straight, no chaser, certain that no father in his right mind would even think about punitive action regarding such a cobwebbed misstep. But he discovers the hard way how wrong he is when Dad pounces, pronounces him grounded for the rest of the forthcoming month, and fans his behind rather mercilessly for an exclamation point.

The boy repairs to his room with more than just a chastened ego and a very sore bottom. He’s between rage and sorrow because it was only a foolish mistake, not exactly the crime of the season. He pushed back after taking it long enough, but it didn’t make him any less a young gentleman or prove he had murder in his heart.

You might want to contemplate that when you wonder whether the Mets went a few bridges too far firing general manager Jared Porter Tuesday morning—almost a fortnight after he and the Mets delivered the trade of the winter bringing Francisco Lindor and Carlos Carrasco aboard—over infractions he committed while he was the Cubs’ director of professional scouting four years ago.

Our hypothetical push-back kid merely responded in kind at long enough last. Porter wasn’t pushed. He sent, shall we say, naughty/nasty sexual images among 62 text  messages to a young woman working as a reporter whose only provocation, if we can call it that, was exchanging business cards on the pretext of coming discussion about international baseball scouting.

The lady discovered the hard way that Porter had amorous designs upon her and didn’t readily take “no” for an answer or ignorance as a subtle hint.She was a foreign correspondent come to the United States for the first time, assigned specifically to cover the Show. She had no idea going in that she’d run into more than a few Porter screwballs on the low inside corner.

“The text relationship started casually before Porter, then the Chicago Cubs director of professional scouting, began complimenting her appearance, inviting her to meet him in various cities and asking why she was ignoring him,” say ESPN writers Mina Kimes and Jeff Passan. “And the texts show she had stopped responding to Porter after he sent a photo of pants featuring a bulge in the groin area.”

Kimes and Passan say ESPN knew of the Porter texts to her in December 2017 and thought about reporting them until she told the network she feared her career would be harmed. She has since left journalism, though Kimes and Passan say she’s kept in touch with ESPN concurrently and went public only under anonymous cover, fearing backlash in her home country.

“My number one motivation is I want to prevent this from happening to someone else,” she’s quoted as saying. “Obviously, [Porter]’s in a much greater position of power. I want to prevent that from happening again. The other thing is, I never really got the notion that he was truly sorry.

“I know in the U.S., there is a women’s empowerment movement. But in [my home country], it’s still far behind,” she continued. “Women get dragged through the mud [in my country] if your name is associated with any type of sexual scandal. Women are the ones who get fingers pointed at them. I don’t want to go through the victimization process again. I don’t want other people to blame me.”

The Mets hired Porter in December, from the Diamondbacks, for whom he worked as an assistant GM since 2017. On Monday night, Porter told ESPN that yes, he’d texted with her, but no, he hadn’t sent any pictures, until he was told their exchanges included selfies and other images, at which point he said, “the more explicit ones are not of me. Those are like, kinda like joke-stock images.”

Mets owner Steve Cohen isn’t exactly laughing, tweeting Tuesday morning, “We have terminated Jared Porter this morning. In my initial press conference I spoke about the importance of integrity and I meant it. There should be zero tolerance for this type of behavior.” Especially since, speaking metaphorically, the lady didn’t exactly push, shove, or punch Porter first all those years ago.

The Athletic‘s Ken Rosenthal says the lady had an ally in a baseball player from her home country, who helped her create a rather forceful message to Porter back when that Porter didn’t exactly heed at first: “This is extremely inappropriate, very offensive, and getting out of line. Could you please stop sending offensive photos or msg.” He’s said to have apologised to her much later.

“Colleagues of mine who are women use words such as ‘tired’ and ‘exhausted’ to describe their daily struggle to be treated the same as men, to command the same respect when they walk into a clubhouse, to do their jobs without facing sexual provocation,” Rosenthal adds. “They are professionals, not playthings.”

It’s one thing to ask a lady for a date. It’s another thing to try your best to change her mind if she says “no.” But turning from there to hot pursuit sexting is something entirely different and disturbing.

The Mets were unaware of Porter’s sexually explicit hot pursuit until Monday. They cut Porter loose early enough the morning after. A 7:30 a.m. Eastern time firing happens when enough New Yorkers have barely finished coffee at the breakfast table before rumbling out  hoping for just a little more snooze on the subway before work.

Some think the Mets could have been aware of Porter’s old lewd hot pursuit sooner. Some think Cohen and company have surrendered to cancel culture, to which Cohen had a reply when one indignant tweeter demanded to know Porter’s path to redemption “now that his life has been ruined.”

“I have no idea,” Cohen replied, though surely he knows Porter’s redemption is likelier to come away from baseball than within it, as second chances so often do. “I have an organization of 400 employees that matter more than any one individual. No action [taken] would set a poor example to the culture I’m trying to build.”

A subsequent tweeter isolated a parallel point addressed directly to the demand for a path to redemption: “As someone who is 100% opposed to cancel culture, this is a ridiculous thing to say. Jared brought this on himself. His path to redemption is on him. This has nothing to do with cancel culture.”

Others think the Mets in the Cohen era have now become the essence of decisive action when made aware of such wrongdoing. The joke is kinda like on Porter now. But nobody’s laughing.

Met fan Cohen, athwart Met fans’ impatience

Steve Cohen, an owner who believes a jump into the pool requires water in it first.

“I don’t need to be popular,” tweeted Steve Cohen, the so-far very popular new owner of the Mets, on Monday. “I just need to make good decisions.” Apparently, there were enough Met fans thinking Cohen needed to make decisions, period, in the wake of the Padres’ wheeling and dealing and the Mets deciding not to join the hunt for Japanese pitcher Tomoyuki Sugano.

Cohen’s apparent watchword is, “If Rome wasn’t built in a day, the Mets won’t be reinforced in a week.” Met fans drained from years of Wilpon family follies say the American prayer: “Lord, grant me patience—and I want it yesterday.” For Cohen, that’s about as funny as passengers booked for seafaring passage aboard torpedoes.

When the Padres blew up the hot stove with deals making Padres of Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, Met fans felt the old familiar itch to do. something. anything. like yesterday. They forgot for the moment that, before the Padres wheeled and dealt, the Mets were the most active on this winter’s odd market.

I guess on to another pitcher. @StevenACohen2 well I guess McCann and May is it for us. Time to hibernate until Spring Training,” tweeted one such fan. To which Cohen had a polite but snappy retort at once: “That’s the spirit, just give up and go to sleep.”

From the moment his purchase of the Mets was affirmed, Cohen has been singular among baseball owners for putting himself out to engage his team’s fans. He has solicited their input and suggestions. It doesn’t mean he’s inclined to suffer fools, gladly or otherwise, even if they forget that he has been a Met fan himself—like me, since they day they were born.

He knows he has a team to reinforce. He knows his amiability has made him something customarily alien to baseball owners: beloved, so far. He doesn’t want to go from there to public enemy number one, but neither does he want to step imprudently into any one of several abysses.

The New York Post‘s Joel Sherman has also caught onto Met fans’ indignation: he’s been receiving no few tweets and e-mails “wondering whether Steve Cohen is the Wilpons, just hoarding a larger stash of money.

“After all,” he continues, “why was George Springer not under the Christmas tree? Why wasn’t Trevor Bauer provided to joyously greet 2021? Why James McCann and not J.T. Realmuto [behind the plate]?”

Sherman notes what such fans forget. This winter’s free agency market, for various reasons, has been about as swift as a number 7 train with a wheel chip on each car. The Mets handing James McCann $40 million for four years is both the most free agency money invested this winter and the longest contract done yet for non-foreign free agents, Sherman reminds you.

“Cohen’s promise was that the Mets would spend like a big-market team, and he should be held to that promise,” Sherman writes. “But that promise has not been broken this offseason. At least not yet.” And Cohen did not become wealthy because he reads markets the way old television jokes read Romeo and Juliet: “Two crazy kids ran off together and died.”

He’s willing to spend but not like the proverbial drunken sailor. For one thing, Cohen knows the Mets’ farm system, what will remain of it after the Show finishes its more than slightly mad stripping of the minor leagues, needs replenishment if not a mild overhaul. For another, he knows a healthy farm often leads to healthy reinforcements either by promotion to the Mets or in deals that bring healthy reinforcements if not fresh prime.

“Hey, Give the Padres credit,” Cohen tweeted after one of the Friars’ two splashy trades. “They had a top 5 farm system that gave them flexibility to trade for Snell. Newsflash, the Mets farm system needs to be replenished.”

News flash, further: Met fans may have the patience of piranha at meal time, but Cohen has no patience for falling into the position of bidding against himself. “The Blue Jays are the only other club known to want to spend lavishly in free agency,” Sherman observes, “but historically it has been difficult to lure top free agents to Canada. Cohen will have to believe that a Springer or a DJ LeMahieu is really going before he considers that game of chicken. There certainly are quieter suitors. But, again, none of the remaining big free agents will be signing without hearing Cohen’s last and best. He will not do a deal he calculates as bad just to stop the noise of even impatient Mets fans.”

Cohen’s memory, like mine, surely harks back to the 1980s when another New York team, owned by a man to whom patience was a vice, jumped into the market pools as often as not before checking to see the water level. For every Catfish Hunter, Rickey Henderson, and Dave Winfield, there were a few too many Dave Collinses, Joe Cowleys, Don Gulletts, Steve Kemps, Dave LaPoints, Bob Shirleys, and Ed Whitsons.

Cohen also knows that, with one or two outlying exceptions, the Yankees’ greatest successes in the free agency era have come by way of a homegrown core blended with a little smart horse trading. Yap all you want about them trying to buy pennants, but when the Yankees spent the biggest in the open market they didn’t reach the Promised Land to which Yankee fans believe they’re entitled every year.

When another fan tweeted to Cohen, “What exactly are we doing? Is James McCann really going to be our biggest pickup this offseason? Please say no,” Cohen replied, “Let me put it differently. Don’t you think someone will take our money? It just has to make sense.”

The last time any Met administrator spoke about “making sense” was when?

The Mets know their starting pitching can’t stop at Jacob deGrom, re-signed Marcus Stroman, David Peterson, due-to-return Noah Syndergaard, and just another body. Seth Lugo is far better suited at the rear end of the bullpen, which also needs all the reinforcement/replenishment it can get.

They also have a very solid core around the field and at the plate, and McCann is a big upgrade behind it. But if they really want to go in for George Springer, they need to decide who’s the expendable one to slot Springer into their outfield. They need to decide how to make things work otherwise so Jeff McNeil can be restored to his natural infield habitat.

They need to decide whether Cohen’s determination to replenish the farm is worth casting eyes upon Springer, Trevor Bauer (pitcher), and D.J. LeMahieu (middle infielder). That trio, Sherman reminds us, got qualifying offers from their 2020 teams, meaning the Mets lose draft picks if they sign any or all of them. For farm replenishment, that’s not an option. If they can only afford one big ticket, Springer may yet be their prime target. May.

Cohen and the Mets also need to find a way to help commissioner Rob Manfred off the proverbial schneid and into the right decision about last year’s experimental rules. So does, well, every other Show team. You’d like to think that even ownerships as determined to tank as Cohen isn’t don’t want to embarrass themselves entirely.

In with the universal designated hitter, once and for bloody all, and out with the other nonsense. Among other salutary things—such as an end to the lineup slot wasted by spaghetti-bat pitchers, and rallies murdered when enemy pitchers work around that potent number eight bat to strike out their counterparts—it’ll keep Dominic Smith’s bat in the lineup without having to sacrifice Pete Alonso’s bat (yes, children, Alonso’s 2020 was an aberration of a down irregular season) at first base.

Cohen seems determined to avoid the comedies of errors committed by prior team ownerships and administrations. He resists the temptations to which too many Met fans would be prone if placed into his position for even one week. A man who speaks about making sense is a man who earns a very wide benefit of the doubt.

Speaking for myself alone, now, I have a wish of my own for Cohen. It has nothing to do with wanting him to slip into a sailor’s uniform, get himself bombed out of his trees, and throw dollars around the free agency market like they were just blasted out of a pinata.

My wish is that Cohen might consider a gesture on behalf of more than a few of the Met players he, like me, grew up watching and rooting for in the 1960s and 1970s. Players whose major league careers were kept too short for assorted reasons. Players who were frozen out unconscionably when, in 1980, owners and the Major League Baseball Players Association re-aligned baseball’s pension plan.

The re-alignment awarded pensions to players after 43 days’ major league service (previously, a player needed four years) and health benefits after a single day’s major league service. But it didn’t apply to short-career major leaguers who played between 1949 and 1980.

For those short-career players, their sole redress was a 2011 deal between then-commissioner Bud Selig and then-players union director Michael Weiner, a deal giving them $625 per quarter for every 43 days’ major league time they had, up to four years’ worth. The kicker, right in the pants, is that they can’t pass that money to their loved ones if they pass before they stop collecting the money.

Several former Mets are among what are now 618 such short-career players without full pensions other than what they receive under the Selig-Weiner deal. They include pitchers Bill Wakefield, Bill Denehy (traded to Washington in exchange for manager Gil Hodges) and Jack DiLauro (a 1969 Met, though not in the postseason), infielder Bobby Pfeil (another Miracle Met), outfielders Rod Gaspar (still another Miracle Met) and George (The Stork) Theodore, and others.

Denehy, Pfiel, and Gaspar have each told me in interviews they believe that, if Weiner had lived (he died of brain cancer in 2013), he would have worked to go further with such pension redress. The players union since has taken little to no interest in such redress; neither, apparently, does the Major League Baseball Players Alumni Association.

But Marvin Miller, the late pioneer of the players union, is known to have said that not re-visiting the 1980 pension changes on behalf of the short-termers was his biggest regret. And if the Show has now conferred proper formal, official major league status on the seven known Negro Leagues we believed to our souls contained major leaguers all along, it should be known that there are African-American and other minority players among the frozen-out 618.

I’m not a man who believes I have the right to tell anyone else how to spend his or her money or where to channel their resources. Nor do I believe I have the right to choose another person or group’s obligations, moral or otherwise. But Gaspar had a point when he told me, last month, “They have so much money, the owners, the players’ union, they have so much money, how much money would it cost them to give the [pre-1980 short-career] guys who are still alive the pension?”

It would be a phenomenal gesture on Steve Cohen’s part if he should think well, by himself, of doing something solely for the short-career, pre-1980, former Mets affected negatively by that pension change. If nothing else, the image augmentation would be invaluable—an owner doing what the players union and alumni association either can’t or won’t.

Should Cohen consider it, however he might choose to do it, it might even kick off a wave among his fellow owners to do likewise for their teams’ frozen-out, pre-1980 short-career former players. Might. Quick: Name one owner who wouldn’t mind making the players’ union look a little foolish.