“It’s like deja vu all over again.”
That famously redundant quote is attributed to the late baseball legend Yogi Berra, who won 13 World Series championships, 11 as a player and two as a coach, with the New York Yankees. Berra also managed the Mets for a total of 588 games from 1972 to 1975, finishing first in the National League East division in 1975. The Mets can only dream about capturing the division this season. They last won it in 2015 and haven’t made the playoffs since 2016, struggling through recurring seasons of collapses and disappointments.
There was palpable optimism among their fan base last November when Steve Cohen officially became the franchise’s majority owner, taking over the stewardship from Sterling Equities, the previous primary owner led by Fred Wilpon, his son Jeff Wilpon and Saul Katz.
Cohen, a native of Great Neck, Long Island, who grew up a diehard supporter of the team, attending his first Mets game at the Polo Grounds with his father in 1963, rose to become a wealthy hedge fund manager, and after the purchase of the Mets for a reported $2.4 billion, the richest owner in Major League Baseball with an estimated net worth of $15 billion.
Days after the acquisition was announced, Cohen, 65, who prior to the November sale already had a minority stake in the Mets, vowed to build his boyhood ball club into a sustained winner. “You want us to win the World Series, and so do I,” said Cohen. “New York fans have high expectations, and I want to exceed them. I want them to be great every year. I don’t just want to get into the playoffs. I want to win a championship.”
His time frame was realistic and achievable, noting it would be “slightly disappointing” if the Mets failed to win a World Series “within the next three to five years.” That schedule is now down to two to four, because they are not a contender statistically or by the eye-test moving toward the final month of this season.
They were 61-64, third in the NL East, 6.5 games behind the first place Atlanta Braves, after getting pounded 8-0 by the San Francisco Giants at Citi Field on Tuesday night. Conversely, at 81-44, the Giants, who use to call the Polo Grounds in Harlem their home before relocating to California following the 1957 season, had the best record in the MLB and stood atop the NL West.
Thus far, Cohen has kept his promise to lay out large sums for player contracts when it is prudent to do and run the franchise like a “major market team” in the country’s preeminent metropolitan area as he said in November. The Mets traded for All-Star shortstop Francisco Lindor in January in a deal with the Cleveland Indians and then signed him to a 10-year, $341 million extension on March 31.
The 27-year-old Lindor may ultimately provide Cohen huge returns on his investment, but he has had an injury-plagued inaugural season in New York. Playing for the first time in five weeks on Tuesday due to an oblique strain, Lindor went 0-4 and was batting just .225. Collectively, the Mets were hitting just .234, 25th out of all 30 teams.
Berra also gave the sports world this mangled but indisputable fact: “It ain’t over, till it’s over.” But with 36 games remaining, including tonight’s series finale against the Giants, it would take a remarkable comeback for the Mets to get to the postseason.