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Mets owner Cohen says he'll be disappointed if team misses playoffs

New York Mets Steve Cohen - The Canadian Press

NEW YORK (AP) — Expectations are lower for the New York Mets entering this season. But owner Steve Cohen still has a specific achievement in mind.

“I think the goal is to make the playoffs. Pretty simple. Let’s not overthink this,” Cohen said Friday. “If we don’t make the playoffs, obviously I’d be disappointed.”

Wearing a Mets cap and jacket, Cohen held a news conference at Citi Field a couple of hours before the Mets lost 3-1 to the Milwaukee Brewers in an opener pushed back a day because of rain.

New York is coming off an expensive flop in 2023, when the team began the year with World Series aspirations following a 101-win season and a playoff appearance the year before.

Despite the highest payroll in baseball history (about $355 million on opening day), the Mets finished fourth in the NL East at 75-87. After the season, they paid a record luxury tax of nearly $101 million.

The team traded star pitchers Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander and several other veterans for minor league prospects ahead of the deadline in early August, with the Mets saying they were pointing toward 2025 while still looking to compete in 2024.

“I don’t view it as a reset," Cohen said Friday. "I would call it we’re transitioning and yet still being highly competitive. And I think that’s a hard thing to do. You know, based on what I see on the roster, I think we’ve accomplished that.”

Under new president of baseball operations David Stearns, the Mets bulked up their bullpen this offseason and improved the defense with lower-profile moves. Then they made a splash late in spring training, signing veteran slugger J.D. Martinez to a $12 million, one-year contract.

Cohen acknowledged first baseman Pete Alonso was eager for more protection in the lineup heading into his final season before free agency.

“There were some money constraints, right? I mean, at some point everyone’s got a budget. But generally I’m really pleased at what we’ve created,” Cohen said. “I think we’ve built a club that’s going to be there in September.”

“Spending $375 million (in luxury tax payroll) like we did last year seemed a little bit over the top," he added. "I’m not afraid to spend money, but I just don’t want to be just spending money for the sake of — I want this organization to be run efficiently. I want it to be run professionally.”

Cohen also was asked about Major League Baseball's investigation of the club. Last month, former Mets general manager Billy Eppler was suspended through the 2024 World Series by Commissioner Rob Manfred, who concluded Eppler directed team staff to fabricate injuries to create open roster spots.

Eppler resigned from the Mets last October amid the probe.

“Obviously, it was unfortunate, and they made that conclusion. Listen, I’m glad that we caught it in time," Cohen said. "Obviously, we want to do things in the right way here, we want to carry ourselves with integrity. And frankly, I don’t think it was — I think the competitive juices come out in baseball, and sometimes maybe in that case, in my view, it was over the line. And certainly not the way we want to operate.”

Now, with Stearns and rookie manager Carlos Mendoza on board, Cohen said he anticipates “a lot less turnover” in decision-making positions.

“In any business, you don’t want a lot of change. It’s just disruptive to the organization," Cohen said. “So, I think we’ve got the right people in place.”

On his fourth opening day as Mets owner, Cohen said he remains pretty popular with fans when he sees them around the ballpark.

“They’re still pretty supportive. I’m waiting for that to run out. We’ve got to win at some point," he said. "Listen, I think the goal is to make the playoffs and be there year in and year out, and I think we’re going to over time accomplish that. I think what we’re building here is something that’s sustainable.”