New York Mets team owner Steve Cohen has one goal: to win a World Series. This is, somehow, a controversial stance in baseball.
Cohen, who has spent millions upon millions to make sure the Mets contend, has become a sort-of pariah among other MLB franchise owners, who think his excessive spending is making them look bad.
Cohen delivered a response to those club owners Monday, telling them that's their problem, per ESPN's Jeff Passan.
"I've heard what everyone else has heard: That they're not happy with me," Cohen said. "I hear things from people who are maybe more neutral — that they're taking a lot of heat from their fans. I kind of look at that like, you're looking at the wrong person. They're putting it on me. Maybe they need to look more at themselves."
Cohen, who spent nearly $500 million in free agency, stressed that he isn't breaking any rules by signing elite talent.
"I'm not responsible for how other teams run their clubs," he added. "I'm really not. That's not my job. And there are disparities in baseball. We know that to be true. I'm following the rules. They set the rules down, I'm following them."
He's right. There is no salary cap in baseball, though there is a competitive balance tax. Teams that exceed the CBT threshold — also known as the luxury tax — are fined additional money at the end of the season based on how much they go over the limit. The 2023 competitive balance threshold is roughly $233 million. The Mets' 2023 payroll is expected to be about $335 million.
Back when it looked like the Mets were going to sign Carlos Correa, the team was projected to pay $111 million in competitive balance tax fines. That figure would've been more than what 10 MLB teams are spending on their entire rosters in 2023. But the Correa deal fell through, so the Mets will wind up paying less than $111 million in tax penalties ... unless, of course, Cohen finds more ways to add.
Athletics, Orioles, Pirates and Reds among lowest spenders in MLB
Cohen didn't call out any teams or franchise owners, but it's not difficult to look up a list of MLB payrolls. The Oakland Athletics are set to have the lowest payroll in baseball in 2023, at a projected $40.9 million. The team is actively trying to leave Oakland, which might have influenced team owner John Fisher — who is worth roughly $2.5 billion — to not invest in the club.
The Baltimore Orioles are projected for the second-lowest payroll in 2023, coming in at $45 million. Team owner Peter Angelos — worth roughly $2 billion — recently called out Cohen and the Mets when asked about the Orioles' low payroll. Angelos said he hoped to increase team payroll soon and that he would "love to be sitting in New York with $300 million payrolls." The Orioles were in the wild-card hunt last season but decided to sell off pieces at the trade deadline.
Last season, Cincinnati Reds president Phil Castellini, son of team owner Bob Castellini, drew criticism for telling fans, "Where are you going to go?" when asked about selling the team. The Reds are projected to carry a payroll of $48.6 million in 2023, which ranks 26th in MLB.
The Athletics, Orioles and Reds all ranked in the bottom 10 in attendance in 2022, per ESPN. The Mets, who won 101 games, finished sixth in attendance last season.