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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Honeymoon in Flushing

Welcome to A Met for All Seasons, a series in which we consider a given Met who played in a given season and…well, we’ll see.

I can’t keep looking back at the past, and I have nothing inside of here that is the future.
—Aidy Bryant on her childhood journal, Saturday Night Live at Home, April 24, 2020

The calendar was nine weeks shy of 2021, yet it was clear by October 30, 2020, that Steve Cohen was the Met for next season. True, Cohen, in his capacity as the newly announced owner of the New York Mets — approved by a requisite three-quarters vote of other Major League Baseball owners and blessed as apparently if vaguely necessary by municipal authority — would not actually play in the season ahead. Yet Steve had to neither pitch, hit nor run to emerge as the following season’s defining figure. He and $2.475 billion of his incomparable personal financial worth could catch control of the team its acolytes loved after decades of that same team too often lacking the heart to love them back. That was enough where 2021, in its otherwise to-be-determined state, was concerned. That was enough for Mets fans to accept and embrace Steve Cohen, one of their own, as, shall we say, A Player.

A Player for this moment. (Image courtesy of @roselleavenue.)

Opening Day of 2021 was slated for April 1, Closing Day for October 3. Assuming those games and all the games in between were to be contested as scheduled (after 2020, nothing simple would ever seem certain again), there was no doubt from the perspective of the day Steve Cohen bought the Mets that some Met pitcher, Met catcher, Met infielder or Met outfielder would put an indelible stamp on those 162 games or however many wound up getting played. By then, we’d know who the Met for that season was. It might be a Met we knew in 2020. It might be a Met who became a Met because Steve Cohen said, “sure, let’s sign him.”

Until any of that was known, though, Steve Cohen was the symbol of the 2021 Mets. A symbol of hope. A symbol of faith. In lieu of statistics and video highlights, a symbol can be a powerful thing.

The news that Cohen was now the head shotcaller and checkwriter at 41 Seaver Way came down three days after another World Series the Mets didn’t remotely approach and a day before Halloween. There wasn’t a sentient Mets fan around who, amid generally dour times, wasn’t willing to instantly don a costume of cockeyed optimism. We now had Steve Cohen, suddenly the richest owner in all of baseball, and he was working for the cause of our happiness. No trick. Real treat, especially as illustrated in the opening statement he relayed to his fellow Mets fans:

I am humbled that MLB’s owners have approved me to be the next owner of the New York Mets. Owning a team is a great privilege and an awesome responsibility.


Most of all, I’d like to thank Mets fans for their unwavering support throughout this process.

My family and I are lifelong Mets fans, so we’re really excited about this. With free agency starting Sunday night we will be working towards a quick close.

Let’s go Mets!

The 2020 season, the last one for which Steve Cohen was not majority owner of the New York Mets, had been short and unsatisfying by every measure, save for it having yielded sixty games to watch from afar after four months when a global pandemic had shut down baseball (along with most everything else) altogether. But the Mets’ record of 26-34 and failure to slither inside a bloated playoff tournament seemed almost beside the point. What Mets fans sought in 2020 was not so much a postseason berth but a life after the Wilpons.

The Wilpons were Fred and Jeff. More chairman and CEO Fred than COO and son Jeff, per tenure and the organizational chart; more Jeff than Fred, per the unsympathetic public face of recent years. No matter which Wilpon a Mets fan chose to focus ire upon, neither was what a Mets fan was dying to see. Dying without seeing another Mets world championship — something the Mets hadn’t attained in the nineteen autumns the Wilpon family held full control of the franchise — was an implicit concern for any Mets fan who had come to realize, particularly amid the rampage of COVID-19, that life was precious, finite and too short to sit around and wait for lightning to strike. The Wilpons had neither the resources nor wherewithal to make the Mets a steady contender. They never left the impression that nothing mattered more to them than the Mets winning. Cohen, through a little backstory and a couple of tweets, had already demonstrated more passion for the team than the people who ran it. Plus he had billions and billions of dollars to commit to his passion. Hard not to root for that guy to take over.

Or, after living in the shadow of the Wilpons for so long, anybody, really.

The end of the Wilpon era began to loom almost a year earlier, in December of 2019, when the word “coronavirus” would have drawn stares as blank as the Citi Field scoreboard most late Octobers. A sale to Cohen, who already owned a small Met stake, was officially in the works. But negotiations grew messy, with the Wilpons trying to continue in an approximation of their role as owners without actually owning the ballclub, and eventually it dissolved into a deal undone.

By Halloween 2020, we knew the 2021 Mets wouldn’t be spooked by the same old ownership.

Thus, 2020 became one more year with the Wilpons. Fred had been on the scene since 1980, a minority partner with a major say when Doubleday & Co. bought the club from Lorinda de Roulet. In those days, the hook in the media was that the club would be operated under the auspices of a descendant of the mythological inventor of baseball, Abner Doubleday, specifically his great-great-grand-nephew Nelson. Abner never invented a damn thing, but it made for a good story. And the alliance forged between Nelson the chairman and Fred the president presented itself as a harbinger of good things to come for a franchise that had sunk to rockbottom following the death of original Mets owner Joan Payson in 1975.

Doubleday-Wilpon ’80 was the ticket the Mets rode to a renaissance, culminating in the 1986 world championship. The Mets, as built by the general manager the partners brought in, old Oriole hand Frank Cashen, constructed a monster of a roster, and the guys who bought the right to handle the Commissioner’s Trophy came off as sportsmen of the old school. When Jesse Orosco struck out Marty Barrett, flung his glove skyward and embraced Gary Carter, the influence of the owners in reaching the mountaintop may have been profound, but it was also played as subtle. These fellows weren’t interested in a high profile or a screaming headline. Doubleday and Wilpon weren’t George Steinbrenner, which was half the battle of getting good press in that era. Winning the World Series took care of the rest.

Had you told a Mets fan in the giddy aftermath of October 27, 1986, that subduing the Red Sox in seven games would be it in terms of earning ultimate prizes for Doubleday, Wilpon or both, it would have seemed laughable. They were the shepherds of not just the best baseball team in the land, but a smoothly functioning franchise designed to churn out more champs. Cashen had traded for great players, cultivated a farm system that produced even more of them. Why would it stop?

Whyever it would, it did. And though it wouldn’t be fully accurate to date the turning point in Met fortunes to November 14, 1986, it’s hard to swear it’s a coincidence that once Fred Wilpon upped his stake in the Mets from 5 to 50%, as Doubleday & Co. sold its stake to the two individuals who already helmed the franchise, the Mets’ streak of not winning more World Series began.

The Mets remained strong on the field for a few years after the formation of the new partnership. Then, in the early ’90s, the club collapsed, first competitively, then aesthetically. The Mets were populated by underachieving players who projected overbearing personalities. Fred Wilpon stepped up to take responsibility for the Bonillas, Saberhagens and Colemans who made the operation look bad. Doubleday picked his spots to make stands, most notably as the co-owner more obviously insistent on acquiring Mike Piazza.

Wilpon’s and Doubleday’s mutual relationship was brittle by 2000, when the Mets made their first World Series since 1986. Two years later, Nelson sold his half of the club to Fred, which in turn expanded Jeff’s portfolio. Prior to the sale, Jeff was running Sterling Equities, the Wilpon family’s real estate business. When the Wilpons and Fred’s brother-in-law Saul Katz bought out Doubleday, Jeff was elevated to COO of the Mets. Not long after he was out of the picture, Nelson offered one of the most quoted lines of the 21st century regarding the Wilpon scion:

“Mr. Jeff Wilpon has decided he’s going to learn how to run a baseball team and take over at the end of the year. Run for the hills, boys.”

The quote being cited repeatedly for seventeen years reflected a regime that wasn’t exactly basking in success. After the Mets became a purely Wilponian production in 2002, the Mets finished in last place. During their first full post-Doubleday season, the Mets finished in last place again. A year later, the Mets finished in next-to-last place, though not before deciding to fire the first manager Fred Wilpon hired of solely his own volition — charisma-challenged Art Howe, who Fred swore “lit up” the room during the interview process — or declaring that the Mets, en route to a 71-win campaign, aspired to play “meaningful games in September”. If nothing else, the Wilpons left a trail of memorable phrases in their wake.

For a spell in the mid-2000s, it appeared their legacy might be something more. They engineered the founding of a mostly Met-themed regional sports network. They broke ground on a retro-style ballpark to replace creaky Shea Stadium. And they empowered locally sourced general manager Omar Minaya to improve the product on the field at whatever cost necessary. With Pedro Martinez, Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado, Billy Wagner and Paul Lo Duca imported to join budding homegrown stars Jose Reyes and David Wright, the dream of the Mets reigning as the large-market force they should have been all along seemed to be coming true. In 2006, the Mets romped to a division title and came within one game of the World Series.

But in 2007 and 2008, the team fell short of the playoffs in ghastly fashion, and when the new ballpark opened in 2009, the club deteriorated as if its brief rise to prominence never occurred. Citi Field, meanwhile, wasn’t welcomed with universal acclaim, with the Ebbets Field motif favored by old Brooklyn Dodger fan Fred landing as tone-deaf to nearly a half-century of Mets history, and the emphasis on amenities lost on the masses who missed Shea’s relative affordability and psychic accessibility.

The biggest blow to the Wilpons’ ownership started coming into view in late 2008 when, just as the Great Recession was hitting, their connection to disreputable pyramid-scheming Bernie Madoff left them unable to operate New York’s National League franchise in a manner suitable to ensuring earnest competition. Cries for the Wilpons to sell the team resounded. The Wilpons, with support from Commissioner Bud Selig, hung on. Minority stakes were sold, though, and, in 2011, an announcement was made that hedge fund manager David Einhorn was on the verge of buying a controlling interest. But that fell apart in a matter of months, and the Wilpons remained attached to the franchise that gave them their primary professional identity and most of their social status.

It also foist upon them a degree of infamy they were unlikely to absorb had they just stuck to real estate. Generally speaking, Mets fans were mad the Wilpons couldn’t or wouldn’t invest enough to create a consistent winner. They groaned every time a story appeared that their front office was behind the times in implementing analytics or was getting in the way of employees (some of them players) just trying to get their jobs done. The grudging nods toward the Mets’ better traditions — a team museum that didn’t open until the Jackie Robinson Rotunda had a year in the sun; team Hall of Fame ceremonies that disappeared for years at a clip, a long-discussed Tom Seaver statue that never got installed during the icon’s lifetime — didn’t help the owners’ image. Nor did news like Jeff Wilpon being credibly accused of discrimination by a former executive who said Jeff harassed her for being pregnant while unmarried.

There was little sense of urgency nor evidence of fervor on the Wilpons’ part when it came to getting the Mets on a permanently positive footing. There was no warmth projected by the owners. When things did work out — such as when the club streaked to a division title and pennant in 2015 under GM Sandy Alderson and manager Terry Collins — the good vibes wore off quickly and the team’s record reverted to substandard.

This is the legacy Steve Cohen would have to exceed once the transfer of power from the Wilpons to himself was to become effective in the days after October 30, 2020. This is why Cohen, another hedge fund type (not without his own issues in the securities trading realm), was greeted as a liberator the moment his pending ownership was no longer a matter of speculation. Though Anybody But the Wilpons would have garnered some degree of applause, it was Cohen who stood as the people’s choice as reporting mounted through 2020 that the Wilpons were still trying to sell the franchise (word was the next generation of Katzes wasn’t keen on hitching its wagon indefinitely to Jeff). Other groups bid or tried to bid. Cohen, though, despite having his first attempt dashed in winter, never let go of his desire to own the Mets and never hesitated to dip into his pockets to make it happen when the opportunity arose anew in summer.

And it happened. The Wilpons and Katz sold him the Mets. That’s all that had to happen for Steve Cohen to be the best thing that ever happened to the Mets on the cusp of 2021. Whether that description would hold once 2021 unfolded in real time…

“Well,” Mets fans could tell one another, “we’ll see.”

If you like the Steve Cohen baseball card displayed above, we suggest you follow @roselleavenue on Twitter to explore the Roselle Avenue Alternate Card Universe, a place like no other on Earth.

1962: Richie Ashburn
1963: Ron Hunt
1964: Rod Kanehl
1965: Ron Swoboda
1966: Shaun Fitzmaurice
1967: Al Schmelz
1968: Cleon Jones
1969: Donn Clendenon
1970: Tommie Agee
1971: Tom Seaver
1972: Gary Gentry
1973: Willie Mays
1974: Tug McGraw
1975: Mike Vail
1976: Mike Phillips
1977: Lenny Randle
1978: Craig Swan
1980: Lee Mazzilli
1981: Mookie Wilson
1982: Rusty Staub
1983: Darryl Strawberry
1985: Dwight Gooden
1986: Keith Hernandez
1987: Lenny Dykstra
1988: Gary Carter
1989: Ron Darling
1990: Gregg Jefferies
1991: Rich Sauveur
1992: Todd Hundley
1993: Joe Orsulak
1994: Rico Brogna
1995: Jason Isringhausen
1996: Rey Ordoñez
1997: Edgardo Alfonzo
1998: Todd Pratt
2000: Melvin Mora
2001: Mike Piazza
2002: Al Leiter
2003: David Cone
2004: Joe Hietpas
2005: Pedro Martinez
2007: Jose Reyes
2008: Johan Santana
2009: Angel Pagan
2010: Ike Davis
2011: David Wright
2012: R.A. Dickey
2013: Wilmer Flores
2014: Jacob deGrom
2015: Michael Conforto
2016: Matt Harvey
2017: Paul Sewald
2018: Noah Syndergaard
2019: Dom Smith
2020: Pete Alonso

11 comments to Honeymoon in Flushing

  • eric1973

    He may be a crook, but he’s OUR crook. Let’s hope he’s better than the crooks who sold him the team.

  • Nick

    We can but hope.

    Of course, the Met fan in me is worried – ‘be careful what you wish for’ and all that – but my goodness, it does feel a lot like Oz after that house landed on the sister. Yes, there was a lot to work out, but those munchkins would take it in a heartbeat. As will we.

    and thank you for this:

    “Had you told a Mets fan in the giddy aftermath of October 27, 1986, that subduing the Red Sox in seven games would be it in terms of earning ultimate prizes for Doubleday, Wilpon or both, it would have seemed laughable. They were the shepherds of not just the best baseball team in the land, but a smoothly functioning franchise designed to churn out more champs. Cashen had traded for great players, cultivated a farm system that produced even more of them. Why would it stop?

    “Whyever it would, it did. And though it wouldn’t be fully accurate to date the turning point in Met fortunes to November 14, 1986, it’s hard to swear it’s a coincidence that once Fred Wilpon upped his stake in the Mets from 5 to 50%, as Doubleday & Co. sold its stake to the two individuals who already helmed the franchise, the Mets’ streak of not winning more World Series began.”

    Now, let us pray. Perhaps 35 will be enough.

  • Dave

    While I’ve spent what’s seemed like a disproportionate amount of time lately reminding Mets Twitter friends that no correlation between an owner’s wealth and the W column, let alone trophies and rings, has ever been established, it’s hard not to be hopeful. Surely Cohen is going to want to make a splash, which is likely to at least be more entertaining than “well, let’s take a chance on Michael Wacha, see if he can surprise people.”

    Now if you excuse me, I have to return to “why the hell haven’t they fired Van Wagenen yet?” #LFGM

  • Lou

    Great teams prepare for a season by expecting the worst. That’s why the Dodgers and Yankees went out and got Mookie Betts and Garrett Cole respectively after both clubs won over 100 games in 2019. The Wilpons’ flawed strategy has always been to get a player or two on the cheap who had previous success and hope for the best. Seldom did that work out. Yesterday was a great day for Mets fans, especially this one that has been waiting for a Mets team to win consistently for over 55 years. We don’t know what will happen under Cohen but his passion and bank account will speak volumes in the coming months and years. An excellent piece as always Greg.

  • Steve D

    This is a classic addition by subtraction. I had never heard the line from Doubleday about Jeff, but it sure was spot on. That guy should never have been allowed to make any meaningful decision for the Mets above what to serve in the concession stands. I am quite hopeful the New York Freaking Mets will be at least on par with the other NY team within a few years. They have taken precedence over us for nearly 30 years and that will be hard to counteract, but as long as we have a respectable franchise that competes most years, we can achieve parity.

  • Joeybaguhdonuts

    Good riddance to the worst owners in baseball. They would have been wealthier had they sold less of the team for the same price, right before the pandemic hit, except for their hubris. Of course they chose to sell it to someone who swirled enough moral turpitude that NYC got to wave a contract and wet its beak, too, in a final moment of drama. However, this guy is an actual Met fan, too young to pine for dem bums. Cohen should get a chance. Not the benefit of doubt, but a chance, as I subconsciously quote Dave Chappelle.

  • open the gates

    There is joy in Metville.

  • eric1973

    The Mighty Wilpons Have Sold Out!

  • Daniel Hall

    Herewith I pledge unconditional allegiance to Steve Cohen, unless his actions or inactions make me change my mind.

    Perhaps the worthiest selection of all for a Met for A Met For All Seasons seasons! Okay, tight race with Rich Sauveur there.

    Now, Uncle Steve, can you get us that George Springer waiting at the bus stop outside? Compared to what the team cost, he’ll cost mere peanuts.

    Oh yeah, and an almost completely new pitching staff.

    • Steve D

      He’s been on Twitter, promising Old Timer’s Day, restoring a guy who was banned from Shea for Tweeting about Jeff and …oh a bunch of people are asking for the return of black uniforms. Please let him be a traditionalist. I called WFAN yesterday around 11:15 to help with the resistance. Moose agreed with me…Maggie though the black “was cool.”

  • Seth

    No black please, I didn’t see Casey Stengel wearing any dumb black Mets uniforms…

    This year is so weird — because the season was so short it almost feels like it never happened. Feels like it’s just been one year-long off season.