Steve Cohen has Mets fans buzzing since officially become the majority owner less than two months ago. He took a break from the holiday season to field some questions via email from The Post’s Steve Serby about everything Mets and his love of sports, poker and art.
Q: How do you feel about Mets fans viewing you as the Savior?
A: That’s just crazy. I don’t view myself as a savior. I’m going to give it my all to deliver the team that our fans want it to be. We are going to be fan-centric.
I want to win for them. Think about having the opportunity to make millions of people happy. That doesn’t come along very often.
Q: What is your ownership/management style?
A: I hire good people, smart people, people like (team president) Sandy Alderson and (GM) Jared Porter, and then I set our goals and hold people accountable. I don’t micromanage, and I let people have the runway to do their jobs. If there’s a problem, I get more involved, but in the meantime, I keep tabs on how things are going.
Q: What don’t you tolerate?
A: Unethical conduct. Lazy thinking. Complacency. Mediocrity.
I want people who are excited about what they are doing and who always want to do it to the best of their abilities. I like creativity. I like people to think strategically, do the work, and adhere to the highest ethical standards.
Q: Thoughts on or qualms about surpassing the luxury-tax threshold?
A: I think at some point we will, but maybe not this season. I’m not afraid to go over it, but you want to have flexibility on our payroll. Long-term contracts can limit a team’s ability going forward.
I’ve said we are a major-market team and we should spend like we are a major-market team, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to spend like drunken sailors.
Q: What are your thoughts on George Steinbrenner and his ownership style?
A: George Steinbrenner was unique. He set high standards — he set the standard for winning.
He understood that baseball is entertainment as well as a sport. He saw the opportunities in regional sports networks. The amazing thing is no one knew who he was when he bought the team and now he’s one of the owners people compare other owners to.
I don’t think I’d be as public about things as George was if I’m unhappy about something, but the point of being in sports is to win. If you’re going to be an owner and you don’t want to win, why be in sports?
Q: How do you feel about sharing the market with the Yankees?
A: The Yankees have done a great job year-in and year-out. They created something to aspire to as to the kinds of teams they field and how they run their business. We’re going to have a Mets way of doing things, but they are a well-run team and they are one of the teams we can learn things from.
Q: How challenging will it be?
A: I don’t view it as challenging. This is a big city and there’s room for both of us. We’re going to be doing things our way. I wish them well.
You know what I’d love? To play them in the Series again. The whole city would be on fire. But this time, we win.
Q: What do you think of the Subway Series? Have you been to a Subway Series game? What was it like for you if you have?
A: What is more fun than the Subway Series? I love the regular-(season) games when we play and the Series in 2000 was great. The fans were really into it. New York fans are the greatest fans in the world and nothing engages them like a Subway Series. What could be better than that?
Q: What traits are important for your executives to have?
A: You want people who are smart and then you want people who are excellent at their specialty. You want people who are relentlessly curious about learning new things.
Listening is an underrated skill, but a really important one. You want people who are committed to excellence and make the effort to carry that out. You want people who treat their colleagues with respect.
Q: What makes successful people successful?
A: Being successful breeds more success, but you don’t get that initial success without striving for excellence and having a willingness to learn from your mistakes. You have to be self-reflective. You have to set goals, particularly stretch goals, and figure out how to get there. You have to be willing to take intelligent risks and surround yourself with great talent you can learn from and draw from. Last, you need hard work.
Q: Favorite inspirational or motivational sayings.
A: I always tell people, “Don’t be afraid to go for it.” When I was starting my business, people kept telling me why I shouldn’t do it. The lesson I learned from that is to not be afraid to go for it and that’s what I tell people.
Q: What did Tom Seaver mean to you?
A: Tom Seaver represented the beginning of the Mets being taken seriously. He was the change. They went from a team that people made jokes about to a team that was starting to be good, really good.
When you watched him wind up, you said to yourself, “This is what a great pitcher looks like.” On the mound, he was excellence personified and off the field he represented the team, the city, and himself with class. I’m excited to see the statue of him unveiled with the Seaver family this coming season when it’s safe for our fans to return to the ballpark.
Q: Favorite Tom Seaver memories?
A: Best moment? Maybe winning the Series in ’69. Or maybe the next year, when he struck out 19 against San Diego, including the last 10.
Q: Your emotions when Tom Seaver was traded.
A: How could you trade him? He was The Franchise.
Q: Your emotions when Seaver passed away.
A: He was one of my heroes growing up and I was pretty sad when he died. He wasn’t that old and when he left us, we lost not only a great ballplayer, but one of the most dignified and thoughtful players in baseball. He was excellent at just about everything he did and I’m glad we can honor him and his family when we unveil his statue.
Q: Where were you when the ’69 Mets won the World Series and what do you remember about that moment?
A: I watched it on TV with my Dad or my friends, depending on the game. I was 13 and just blown away. The Orioles were really good. No one gave the Mets a chance, but then (Tommie) Agee had his great game, Al Weis had a big home run and a great Series, and Ron Swoboda made great catches.
(Jerry) Koosman and Seaver pitched well, and I can still see Cleon (Jones) squeezing the ball in his mitt for the last out of the Series.
They called that team the “Miracle Mets” for a reason.
Q: Where were you when Mookie’s grounder went through Buckner’s legs and what were your emotions?
A: I don’t remember where I watched it — but I was not at the game. You could see the fans erupting on TV, people going crazy. I was pretty excited, myself. It’s one of the most exciting comebacks in World Series history.
Q: Favorite Dwight Gooden memories?
A: He was electric. He was a strikeout machine. He got two strikes on a batter and you were ready to hang another K in the K Korner. You were surprised when he didn’t strike someone out.
Q: Favorite Darryl Strawberry memories?
A: He had that long, smooth lefty swing. You knew that every time he came up he could hit a home run.
Q: What are the qualities that attracted you to Sandy Alderson?
A: He is a real professional, a well-rounded executive. He’s easy to talk with and always thoughtful in his answers. I couldn’t think of a better person to learn from.
He’s one of the most respected people in our sport. The career success he’s had speaks for itself. He leads with intelligence, reason, and decency.
We share the same philosophy about building a team for long-term success, so that is a pretty good place to start from.
Q: What impresses you about Jared Porter?
A: His knowledge, his enthusiasm about players — he’s like a walking encyclopedia about players. I love his energy. Jared is someone who’s capable of taking intelligent risks. He comes with a great baseball pedigree and he has four rings. I’m hoping he gets at least a fifth one while he’s here.
Q: What excites you about your new catcher (James McCann)?
A: He’s a high-quality catcher. There aren’t that many really good catchers in the majors and we got one of them. He’ll add a lot to our pitching; I’m sure our pitchers are going to be happy about pitching to him. He’ll be helpful in multiple ways.
Q: Your thoughts on Luis Rojas?
A: I’m impressed by him. He’s a thoughtful guy, a bright guy with a great demeanor and very calm. I understand why the players want to play for him. He was a solid choice for us because Luis has been with the organization for a long time and got to know a lot of the players on the team while they were all in the minors together.
I think he’s going to use the lessons he learned last year, apply them, and be a better manager this year.
Q: What impresses you most about Jacob deGrom?
A: He consistently performs at this incredibly high level. He’s still throwing at 99 miles per hour. How amazing is that?
You know that when you give him the ball you are in very good hands. I’d like to see the Mets hit more for him when he pitches so he’d get more wins.
Q: What excites you about Pete Alonso?
A: He has unbelievable potential. He hit 53 home runs as a rookie. That kind of player doesn’t grow on trees.
I’ve gotten to know him a little bit and he’s incredibly motivated and he has incredible energy. The potential for what he can do in his career is really exciting. I’m really happy he’s a Met.
Q: Your thoughts on the Gary Cohen-Keith Hernandez-Ron Darling SNY team?
A: They do a great job. They’re a great listen. I love their candor. They’re smart, engaging, and play off each other really well. They give it to you straight and that’s what sophisticated fans like.
Q: Your thoughts on Howie Rose?
I didn’t really know Howie coming into this, but I’ve been enjoying getting to know him better the past few weeks — he is very engaging, passionate about the team and easy to talk to.
Q: What’s happening with the SNY talks?
A: Nothing. We’re not in talks with SNY.
Q: How did you become friends with Bobby Valentine and what did you think when he wore a fake mustache in the dugout?
A: Bobby is a local guy, from Stamford, and I got to know him through local charities. He’s a friend of the family.
Q: How did you become friends with Reggie Jackson?
A: Reggie is a great guy, a really charismatic guy. I took Reggie to a Robin Hood Foundation fundraising dinner about 15 years ago and we were at our table and the next thing I knew, Reggie was walking on stage to talk. He wasn’t scheduled to talk, but there he was on stage.
Q: Where were you on 9/11? Did you lose people you knew?
A: 9/11 was so terrible for so many people across the region. It was bigger than anyone could imagine. I was fortunate in that I didn’t lose anyone I knew; I was one step removed. Like everyone else, I wanted to be home with my family so I left the office early that day and went home to be with them.
Q: How disappointed were you in not landing the Dodgers in 2011?
A: Disappointed. We put a lot of work into it. But if you believe that things happen for a reason in life, I ended up with the Mets and that’s a much better outcome.
Q: Who first called you Uncle Steve and do you like it?
A: I don’t know who started it, but it’s endearing. As long as I’m not the crazy uncle, I like it.
Q: Boyhood idols?
A: My Dad was one of them. They used to call him “the sheriff” on the golf course. He insisted that everyone play by the rules. If he saw you were cheating, he’d walk off the course.
In baseball, two guys: Mickey Mantle and Tom Seaver. There aren’t very many guys my age that grew up around New York who weren’t taken with Mantle. He could run, hit, do it all. He was a star.
Seaver had the same aura about him. He was not only one of the greatest pitchers of his generation, but he carried himself with dignity and class. He was a guy you wanted to be like and a guy you wanted to know.
And, in golf, Arnold Palmer. He had that swagger and he was so good. He was one of the reasons I started golfing.
Q: Favorite Long Island places and memories?
A: Going to Shea Stadium and riding in on the LIRR with friends, sitting in the upper deck, wishing we had better seats.
Q: What drove you as a boy?
A: I was pretty competitive. Sports were a big deal for me — we played all year long: basketball, soccer, stickball, baseball. We played every day. I tried out as a pitcher in high school, but I threw out my arm. I played soccer and basketball at Great Neck North. I scored 10 goals my senior year, something I still remember.
Q: Working at Bohack’s — what did you do there and how much did it pay?
A: I worked in the Produce Department and made $1.85 an hour and all the fruit I could eat. I learned I could make more money playing poker, so I quit.
Q: What was it about poker that you liked so much and when did you start playing?
A: I started playing when I was 13 or 14. It turns out I was good at it and I was making money at it. It taught me how to take intelligent risk and about analyzing probabilities.
Q: How and why did your love of art begin?
A: Some friends of mine were collectors and they took me with them to visit galleries and I caught the bug. I bought a couple of pieces and I was hooked.
Q: Favorite piece of art?
A: That’s a hard one, but probably, Seurat’s “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.” It’s an amazing painting. It’s in the Art Institute of Chicago.
Q: Four dinner guests, any point in history?
A: JFK; Arnold Palmer; Lennon and McCartney
Q: Favorite movie?
A: “The Godfather.”
Q: Favorite singer?
A: I’ll give you a group, not a singer: The Beatles.
Q: Favorite meal?
A: Really good eggplant parmigiana.
Q: Favorite TV show?
A: I’m not much of a TV show watcher. I watch more news and sports. I love watching PGA golf on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon.
Q: Favorite books?
A: Two recent ones I’ve enjoyed were “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown and “de Kooning: An American Master” by Mark Stevens.
Q: Your timetable for delivering a World Series championship to New York and Mets fans?
A: I said at the opening press conference that I thought we could do it in three to five years and I haven’t seen or heard anything that makes me think differently.
Q: Your message to Mets fans?
A: Our ultimate goal is to win the World Series and to consistently be one of the better organizations in baseball. I want to change the narrative about the Mets so our fans can be optimistic about where the team is headed.
But I want them to be patient. We have holes to fill on the team and with the organization.
We want our fans to stay engaged with us, so they can tell us how we’re improving over years, not days and weeks.
I love our fans and appreciate their knowledge of the game and their passion for the team. They are the greatest fans in baseball, in sports, in New York, and beyond.
I’ve had a great time talking with them on Twitter and I thank them for the enthusiastic welcome they’ve given my wife, Alex, and me.
Q: What were some of the fun things you heard from Mets season-ticket holders the day you were at Citi Field?
A: They were surprised that I was there. It took them a little bit to realize it was me because I was wearing a mask. Once they did, they were very excited to see Alex and me. It was fun interacting with them. Seeing their excitement was very motivating for me. I love our fans.
Q: When do you expect fans back at Citi Field?
A: That depends on what the government says; we don’t control that. We’ll follow MLB’s lead. The health of our fans, players, and staff is the most important thing to me.
Q: Did you go to Knicks, Rangers, Islanders or Yankees games as a kid?
A: I’m a big New York sports fan, so I watched the Knicks and Nets, Giants and Jets, Mets and Yankees. I’m not much of a hockey fan. I’m fortunate when I was growing up to have seen some of the greatest players in the city’s sports history. Namath throwing in the Shea winds, Gifford, Mantle, Maris, Seaver, Koosman, Reed, Frazier, DeBusschere, Monroe — I got to see Dr. J at the Coliseum.
Q: What are your New Year’s resolutions?
A: I’d like to lose more weight. I’m on the right track.
After 2020, I’d like 2021 to be a year in which we can get our freedoms back to be out and about so we can all enjoy our lives again.
And I’d like 2021 to be a year in which the Mets make significant progress toward our goal of winning the World Series.
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