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How Close Are The Mets To Being More Like The Dodgers?

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Mets owner Steve Cohen was the runner-up to buy the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2012 when they were sold to Guggenheim Baseball Management for $2 billion. Cohen bought the Mets late in 2020 from the Wilpons for a record $2.4 billion. At the time he said the organization whom he would most like to emulate was the Dodgers.

Cohen stated he’d like to win a World Series within five years of buying the team before the 2021 season, so the Mets are in their 4th season under his ownership. Immediately upon buying the team Cohen displayed that he was a far cry from the penurious Wilpons, investing $124.5 million in guarantees for Mark Canha, Eduardo Escobar, and Starling Marte. He followed that up in 2022 bringing in future HOFer Max Scherzer for $43M, and in 2023 added future HOFer Justin Verlander. The Mets fell short in 2022, and the best that can be said about the 2023 season is that it didn’t work out the way the organization hoped or expected.

New President of Baseball Operations David Stearns in a recent interview in The Athletic, said that he himself admired what the Dodgers had accomplished and found it impressive. The cynical Met fan will be ready to retort that one Dodger WS championship, (that one after the pandemic 2020 season) in the 11 seasons of Guggenheim ownership, is not all that much to crow about.

But look a little bit deeper and you should be impressed that the Dodgers have had the best overall record in MLB and have won the NL West in all but one of the seasons that Guggenheim has owned the team. They also reached (but lost) the 2017 World Series to the trash-can banging Astros. The Dodgers contend each, and every year. That is something Mets fans have only been able to dream about.

With the Guggenheim money behind them, the Dodgers revamped their entire minor-league development system under GM Andrew Friedman with a particular focus on analytics. Today the Dodger ‘system’ from minors to majors is viewed as the gold standard. David Stearns is fully on board with this approach and building the Mets system from the bottom up is what he and ownership feel is required to have the Mets be a consistent contender. 

How close are the Mets to being Dodgers-like?

Even after the 2022 season, when Buck Showalter was seen as the right manager AND then GM Billy Eppler was thought to possibly have an inside track on soon-to-be free agent Shohei Ohtani, it didn’t feel like the Mets were poised to have a run of successful seasons. Bringing in Scherzer, letting Jacob DeGrom go, and bringing in Justin Verlander appeared to be an effort to capitalize on what was going well in 2022, and to take one more, but what ended up being a failed ‘big shot’ in 2023. Not much Dodger-like at all.

What the Mets did after midseason in 2023 was different from what Mets ownership had ever done in the past. They sold out veteran players with big contracts, ate some present and future big contract dollars (Scherzer and Verlander) and in the process completely revitalized their minor league system. While it still was not fun watching the team crash and burn in 2023 winning only 75 games (26 fewer than the prior year), ownership realized the team was not good enough and wasted no time in changing course. Cohen got his man in David Stearns who he’d been pursuing for several years. That is more Dodger-like.

At the MLB level the Mets are still far from being the Dodgers, who are returning from Korea 1-1 after Yoshinobu Yamamoto’s disastrous first start in which he only made it out of the first inning. It’s only one start, but you can almost hear the Dodger fans groaning, ‘$320 million for that?!’  It’s what would have been heard from Mets fans had Yamamoto chosen the Mets and bombed out in his first start.

The Mets have termed the 2024 season as a ‘transition’ year, and there’s a high likelihood that the Mets and Cohen will be spending again on free agents before the 2025 season. What’s different this time is that there are a host of young players in the organization who are highly regarded and more importantly desired by not only the Mets themselves but many in and around MLB. This serves the dual purpose of having talented and capable players who can step in and help the team immediately, as well as be used as potential assets to be traded when the right opportunity presents itself. That is truly Dodger-like.

Cohen and Stearns have made it clear building a consistent winner is of paramount importance. That’s music to fan’s ears but the proof will be in the team’s performance from now on, INCLUDING this season. The Mets are closer to the Dodgers than they were in June of 2023 but still have a long way to go to be thought of as being similar.

Finally, there’s good financial sense to approach running an MLB team the ‘Dodger Way’, as the Dodgers were valued at $4.8 billion in 2023 which is almost 2 ½ times what Guggenheim paid in 2012. Steve Cohen didn’t become a billionaire by missing out on good business opportunities and by not making smart moves. Met fans are hungry for a World Series championship. Being in the race every year is the smartest way to maximize that chance.

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