The Mets made a splash this offseason. It’s not who you think. It wasn’t a player. It certainly wasn’t the Mets hiring Carlos Beltran as their new manager. But this transaction had Mets fans talking to the point of hope.
Reportedly, hedge-fund billionaire Steve Cohen will control most of the Mets shares from the Wilpon family. That means he will be a majority owner soon enough, and the Wilpons will have the emeritus title of CEO and COO for five years once the deal is completed.
We say reportedly because things change. Ask another fellow hedge-fund guy David Einhorn. He thought he was in a position to own the Mets one day until the Wilpons reneged on giving him a minority share in 2011.
For sure, frustrated Mets fans expressed no interest in deja vu again. But with their luck, it could happen. It’s hard to trust the Wilpons in any situation.
Here’s one Mets employee that can be affected in this sale: Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen.
He could be a goner after this season if the Mets don’t make the playoffs. Someone will have to pay for another missed postseason, and it certainly will not be the new manager. Cohen yearned to make his impact right away despite not being the majority owner, and the Wilpons may not have much choice on this one. Even if the Wilpons somehow retain control of their team, the Mets general manager’s job security can not be any safer.
Not after this news Van Wagenen hired a manager in Beltran that was involved in a sign-stealing scandal. It was reported going back a few months ago, and the Mets head of baseball operations never asked his new manager about his involvement in the Houston Astros’ sign-stealing scandal. He hoped it would have gone away quickly.
The problem with that thinking is when it rains, it pours. A scandal involves so many people and more stuff comes out of it. For instance, we found out now Jose Altuve wore a buzzer inside his uniform to find out what pitch to hit.
The Astros received their punishment on Monday by losing first-and-second round picks and being fined $5 million. Disgraced Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow and Astros manager A.J. Hinch received a one-year ban, and after that, the Astros fired both of them at the urging of Major League Baseball. Then-Astros bench coach Alex Cora, who had someone install a monitor outside of the Astros dugout at Miller Maid Park, resigned as the Red Sox manager, knowing he was part of the sign-stealing tactics as Red Sox manager. Beltran was implicit in sign-stealing since he was part of the report, and his job as Mets manager was in peril.
When a video came out about Cora mentioning then-Yankees adviser Beltran finding devices to know the Red Sox signs after the Yankees dominate their archrivals in the London Series this past season, Beltran might as well send in his resignation papers.
He did that on Thursday to the surprise of no one. The Mets hoped this would go away, but Major League Baseball made sure that Beltran would not manage a game.
Fair or not, this is a strike on Van Wagenen. This could cost his job. He should have done his due diligence. He probably knew, but he didn’t care one way or another. He hoped no one would get caught and this would go away. He knows full well cheating has been rampant in the industry for a long time. He understood the Astros done shady things under Luhnow.
He should have hired a veteran manager like Joe Girardi or Buck Showalter that knows how to play by the rules. Instead, he wanted to go to his manager’s office to exhale after the outcome of the game. That’s a euphemism for wanting to control his manager, and he figured he got that with Beltran.
How can the Mets trust Van Wagenen to get it right with the next manager after that? How can Cohen let him make this hire to begin with? Why should Mets fans feel confident that he will get it right?
Only way that can save Van Wagenen is to hire Showalter or Dusty Baker. Even then, that may not be enough. A veteran manager can go over the general manager’s head since he is vulnerable in his role with a new owner ready to run the Mets.
Van Wagenen should have never been a general manager in the first place. He had no qualifications to begin with. He took the job knowing it advanced his career. He was willing to do what the Wilpons tell him to do. In a way, the Wilpons get what they deserved, too, knowing full well he was not fit for this role.
Now, he could pay the price altogether. It wasn’t like he was in good shape to begin with. With a new owner waiting in the wings, he needed a good season out of his team to stay on.
Even if the Wilpons somehow stay on with the Mets, Van Wagenen would pay just because he would play the role of a scapegoat.
The Astros’ sign-stealing scandal represents poor reflection on Luhnow, Hinch, Cora and Beltran. They dealt with the consequences by losing their jobs and likely being blackballed from baseball for life.
Beltran’s involvement could and should make Van Wagenen the next domino to fall.