Friday, September 4, 2020
A-Rod Blows a Shot at Owning the Mets
When hedge fund titan Steve Cohen first emerged as a potential buyer of the New York Mets, I had a little mad fun with that news because we have a couple of things in common. Not financially, of course; Cohen can hand out in tips about a million times what I'll ever be required to pay in taxes. But we have our mutual grounds regardless.
We're both Long Island boys who've been Met fans since the day they were born. We both made our baseball bones on the original troupe about which it's fair to say they were baseball's anticipation of Monty Python's Flying Circus. We both grew up or (in my case) finished growing up (har har) in Long Island towns with pronounced Mob connections.
Cohen grew up in Great Neck, where there lives the opulent wedding/bar-mitzvah factory emporium (Leonard's) at which Johnny Sack asked Tony Soprano to perform a hit, a request made just before Sack was carted back to prison from his daughter's wedding. Bronx native though I am, I finished growing up (snort) in Long Beach, also the home of Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather.
Sorry, Mr. Cohen. My mob family's Oscars can blow up your mob family's Emmys.
But it looks at last as though Cohen will graduate from an eight percent stake to controlling ownership of the Mets, more or less as the last man standing. So that gives him more than one up, since the only piece of the Mets I own and can afford is a game hat.
Celebrity would-be buyers Alex Rodriguez, a former Yankee who actually grew up loving and hoping to play for the Mets one day (he actually had his chance, which either he or his then-agent blew like a ninth-inning Met lead), and his paramour Jennifer Lopez, pulled out of the bidding this past Friday. That may have been the first heavy sigh of relief from Met fans on the day.
Not even J-Rod could come up with quite the money needed to buy the Mets, whose incumbent Wilpon ownership has long enough been a two-man implosion machine. The J-Rod group would also have included one NFL owner (the Florida Panthers' Vincent Viola), a BodyArmour founder (Michael Repole), and a WalMart e-Commerce U.S. wheel. (Chief executive officer Marc Lore.) Leaving Cohen as the last man standing to buy the Mets, with the bidding deadline having been long set for August 31.
Even if they could have come up with the dough-re-mi, their presence rubbed commissioner Rob Manfred and other owners the wrong way because of something else: reports that Rodriguez was talking to fallen former Houston Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow as he prepared for the deadline to bid on the Mets. I smelled a rat right there and it wasn't just my nose telling me liver and onions were chateaubriand. Taking baseball administration counsel from Luhnow is like seeking family counseling from Ma Barker.
A-Rod couldn't have been more foolish if he'd tried to steal home with the bases loaded, two out, and Babe Ruth himself at the plate in the bottom of the ninth.
We take you back to before the coronavirus world tour compelled baseball's spring shutdown and delayed, truncated regular season. To Rodriguez in the ESPN booth broadcasting an exhibition game between the New York Yankees and the Boston Red Sox. To A-Rod ripping the Astros the proverbial new one over Astrogate:
"I think the one thing that has really upset the fans is you cheat, you win a championship, there is no suspension, and then there's no remorse. The last one I think is probably the worst one because people want to see remorse. They want a real, authentic apology. And they have not received that thus far."
Remember, too, that Rodriguez was compelled to humble himself powerfully enough after his exile over the Biogenesis scandal and the revelations of his own relationships with actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances. We thought in March that he spoke from self-inflicted but no less bitter experience when he lectured the unapologetic Astros for their illegal 2017-18 electronically-based sign-stealing operation.
Whatever else Manfred did in handling or mishandling Astrogate, the commissioner at least suspended Luhnow for all 2020 while delivering a report charging powerfully enough that Luhnow's results uber alles administrative culture, long on technology and stillborn on human relations, did more than a modicum of making Astrogate possible in the first place.
While you're at it, remember that the Mets themselves got nipped by an Astrogate hound — they'd hired 2017 Astros designated hitter Carlos Beltran to be their next manager, only to have to let him go over his own Astrogate culpability before he'd had the chance to manage even one spring exhibition for the Mets.
Luhnow's suspension enjoins him from doing any official business in any way, shape, or form with any major league franchise all year long. Neither Luhnow nor Rodriguez violated those terms merely by talking, since Rodriguez isn't tied formally to the Mets or any other team. But let's not get technical.
Why on earth would A-Rod seek even Luhnow's informal and unofficial counsel in light of his own on-the-air rip of Astrogate and what he and the entire un-sleeping world knows about Luhnow's helping to foster the climate that enabled an Astrogate-type cheating scheme in the first place?
To discover sneakier ways to develop sign-stealing algorithms and jam acquisitions down the throats of staffers who find them suspect? To hire assistant GMs who might be smarter about taunting female reporters in the clubhouse that they were so [fornicating] glad they dealt for a pitcher still under the weight of domestic violence charges at the time of the deal?
(Don't even think about it. Rodriguez trucking in actual or alleged performance-enhancing substances isn't quite of a piece with the Astro Intelligence Agency. As pitcher Alex Wood said when the Astrogate report came down, "I would rather face a player that was taking steroids than face a player that knew every pitch that was coming.")
"Alex and I are so disappointed," Lopez tweeted when announcing Friday that J-Rod dropped out of the Mets running. "We worked so hard the past six months with the dream of becoming the first minority couple and the first woman owner to buy her father's favorite Major League Baseball team with her own hard earned money. We still haven't given up!! #NYForever"
She might have wanted to include in that night's pillow talk that it's not exactly a brilliant idea to seek out the counsel of a man who had fingers fat enough in baseball's arguable worst cheating scandal since the final, affirmed exposure of the 1951 Giants. Just remind him that seeking a cheater's advice on running a baseball team is like hiring John Dillinger for bank security.