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Steve Cohen's Mets Spending Spree and Its Impact on the Rest of the League

Most major league owners treat their teams like businesses. One of his former employees, Steve Cohen, said he treated the Mets exactly like everyone else.

“The way he sees this business is very different from his hedge fund,” the employee said Wednesday. “It’s more like the way he buys art. He’s just artistically Do whatever it takes. This guy has a billion dollar piece of art in his house. He gets it because he can.”

As baseball’s richest owner, Cohen is more than anyone else More capable of building a superteam. But fraternities of owners often don’t take kindly to those who stray from the norm, especially when it adds to their costs.

“I think it’s going to affect him,” said another major league team official, who was not authorized to speak publicly. “There was no collusion. But … there’s a reason no one has made more than $300 million over the years. You still have partners, and there’s a system.”

Cohen opts ahead of luxury tax fine Boosting his payroll to more than $380 million — Correa’s latest award in a 12-year, $315 million deal with Carlos — has polarized the industry. Not only has he made more than $293 million, this is the fourth and highest tier of the Competitive Balance Tax — the penalty level introduced to the sport in March and immediately dubbed the “Steve Cohen Tax.” His wages are at aggregate levels never before seen in the sport. Relative to his peers’ payouts, Cohen is an outlier the game hasn’t seen since George Steinbrenner.

For at least two other groups, Cohen was a blessing: Mets fans, for one. And the players. Cohen wants to win, which is what the players like. But his spending also increases their overall market and traffic.

Carlos Correa (Jeffrey Becker/TODAY United States)

Why have baseball players and their unions been against the salary cap for so long? The news you woke up to on Wednesday morning is one of many reasons. The Mets will almost certainly not be able to sign Correa on a salary basis this winter. Another Steinbrenner never spends money again, period.

Steinbrenner’s son Hal, the Yankees president, is more conservative about spending money than his father or Cohen. After Aaron Judge’s news conference on Wednesday, he said he had no regrets voting for Cohen as boss.

“I don’t think I’ve ever regretted voting for anyone owner,” Steinbrenner said.

Steinbrenner seemed amused when reporters told him that Cohen’s overnight deal with Correa “overstated” the judge’s announcement.

“That sounds ugly: Bigfoot, what the hell does that mean?” he said. “It doesn’t bother me. Look, Steve put together a great team. We’ve got a great team. So I don’t mind. The timing is what it is. I’m focused on today.”

Steinbrenner generally praised the Mets, saying having two great baseball teams is “remarkable” for the city and for the rivalry.

Of course, there’s no guarantee the Mets will win. As Justin Verlander, another expensive Cohen successor, pointed out Tuesday, “the playoffs are a risk.” But the Mets’ winter has been arguably a boon for the sport. They made a lot of news, and perhaps more importantly for the entertainment industry, they made a storyline: Empire of Evil reimagined. Baseball thrives when there is drama, and teams trying to compete against each other create drama.

“David and Goliath,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said Wednesday. “I think it’s all good for the narrative. They’re trying to put together a team that can’t be beaten, and their competitors will be looking to beat them.

” There are a lot of owners out there Spend a lot of money making their franchise better than just Steve Cohen and the New York Mets. He’s not that independent. We’ve spent a lot of money ourselves this winter. But there are a lot of teams moving and shaking, and in most cases, it costs money. “

Team fans in smaller markets may disagree.

) “Our sport feels bad right now,” another competitor Gao “We have a guy who makes three times the median salary and doesn’t care at all about the long-term nature of any of these contracts in terms of the risks associated with any of them,” Guan said Wednesday. How exactly does this work? I’m having a hard time understanding it. “

It comes back to the old question: Are other owners unable to spend or unwilling to spend? Many in the league and some clubs would say the former, depending on the team , while many on the player’s side would suggest the latter. What teams think they can afford is subjective, depending on what individual owners think is right for them, and most clubs’ financial records are not made public. But different Clubs definitely have different incomes and Cohen is definitely the deepest based on reported net worth.

“I think everyone in this room understands that we have a certain level of income that this The differences in the sport make it impossible for some of our markets to compete on some of the numbers that we’re seeing,” commissioner Rob Manfred said in general at the winter meeting earlier this month. “And, you know, It’s not positive. Like everything else in life, there are good and bad. “

Whether Cohen ultimately cared about the feelings of the other owners, or whether he would actually be meaningfully harmed if he ignored those feelings, is a different question.

“This game is based on partnerships and relationships and these small markets are going to be very angry with him,” the club official said. ) f – angry with him. Not that they can do anything about him, but everyone needs help in this game. I don’t think he will get any help. “

George Steinbrenner has long been the target of other owners. For example, in 2002, when Cleveland owner Larry Dolan said, “George is our problem a big part.

How much did those attitudes ultimately affect Steinbrenner? At the very least, other owners did move to change the system. Cashman noted last year that the recent CBA was designed to “prevent the Yankees from becoming Yankees”.

Which brings us to the most recent CBA. One of the trade-offs owners get for raising the CBT bar is the creation of a new penalty level, which many in the industry believe only big No Mets or Dodgers are likely to come close. Any spending over $290M will be taxed starting at 80% through 2022. Mets over $10M.

The upper tier will start at $293 million through 2023, and the Mets will collect a 90% tax on every dollar beyond that. (Their percentage is higher this year because they are second-degree offenders.)

“If he would have accepted the Cohen tax, I think he’d be fine after a little bit,” the club official said of Cohen. Awkward. He went too far, and it colored the entire CBA — making them look stupid in the CBA negotiations. He showed it off to their faces.

Hal Steinbrenner is a member of Manfred’s Labor Council, which is working closely with the new CBA. Isn’t the fourth tier exactly to dissuade what Cohen is doing?

“Well, or anyone,” Steinbrenner said Wednesday. “Obviously, obviously, competitive balance is important to the game, and I remember meeting you guys in March and saying, ‘Any team’s None of the fans should think they have no chance of making the playoffs for spring training. ‘ That’s not good for baseball. So, yes, it definitely serves a purpose. “

But it seems reasonable to doubt whether players or owners think the Cohn tax will have a powerful impact. In the case of the 2023 Mets, in the old CBA, more than $293 million Every dollar would be taxed at 75% vs. 90% now. A difference of 15%, especially for homeowners already inclined to spend so much money, obviously doesn’t mean much.

In March, owners would of course like something stricter – higher tax rates, eg, never mind caps. But players would fight that too. At the end of the day, baseball’s economic system gives owners freedom to spend, but There are some restrictions. Players have long wanted to retain that freedom.

“If owners are willing to pay 90% tax on $300m+, no practical cap, no CBA can fix it The problem,” the league side said Wednesday.

However, as the players’ side contemplates in the final five years after the 2016 CBA, results are results, regardless of intentions. “Cohen Tax” didn’t do anything to stop its namesake, and Manfred may have calmed down some increasingly unhappy owners by doing so.

Here’s how Cohen’s spending can go Where it’s played has deeper implications. If you’re already asking: Where are you when Steve Cohen starts the 2026 lockout, that’s a bit hyperbolic and a little cheeky? But Cohen may have lit the fuse for one of baseball’s most quintessential behind-the-scenes struggles So: Big Market vs. Small Market.

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal contributed to this report.

(Steve Cohen Photo: Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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