The most recent scandal engulfing Major League Baseball (MLB) is the Justin Turner controversy. He tested positive during game 6 of the World Series and proceeded to party with his teammates on the field after being pulled from the game. In a year with bad ratings and many teams being sent to quarantine because of positive tests, this was a fitting end to the season. For baseball fans, as the season ends, we look to 2021 to be more “normal”. However, there is a new controversy brewing over the ownership of the New York Mets
Longsuffering Mets fans might be in for a rollercoaster! News reports indicate that billionaire hedge fund (SAC Capital) manager Steven Cohen is a leading candidate to own the Mets. He has been no stranger to controversy and is clearly not a safe choice for MLB to help the Metropolitans. Bloomberg News reported on November 4, 2013, “according to the terms of a settlement agreement announced today, SAC Capital will pay $1.8 billion to resolve the criminal indictment brought against the firm for insider trading—the largest fine for insider trading in U.S. history.” There is no doubt that the Mets will have boatloads of cash to spend on free agents and to improve the team, yet the cost may be too high. Putting a person in charge of an MLB team who ran a firm that was hit with a massive insider trading fine might not be the best idea when MLB is still struggling to overcome the scandal that has tainted the reputation of the Houston Astros. Cohen’s SAC Capital is no longer in business and he founded another hedge fund.
The Astros were given a harsh punishment for cheating over a period of three years that included a World Series championship in 2017. Many fans still don’t think the punishment was harsh enough for putting a black spot on “America’s Passtime”. Sporting News reported earlier this year, “an MLB investigation revealed that Houston engaged in systematic electronic sign-stealing through trash can banging communication and other means in 2017 and 2018, and reporting suggested that methods were first plotted in 2016.” The punishment was that Astros Manager AJ Hinch and General Manager Jeff Luhnow were fired. Furthermore, the reputation of the team and league were tarnished because of cheating allegations as it should be. Might not be a great idea to tempt fate with Cohen as a new owner.
Another aspect of this controversy is a “Me Too” angle. According to the New York Times, “several discrimination claims filed by women who have worked for Mr. Cohen’s largely male-dominated firm in an industry known for its rough-and-tumble cowboy culture.” The Times reported on September 18, 2020, “it is not known what specific claims were raised in the two complaints filed this year, which came from Shannon Gitlin, who works in the investor relations department for Point72, and Sara Vavra, a former portfolio manager.” An earlier complaint did not paint a great picture of this newer Cohen firm that was created after SAC Capital shut down.
This problem comes into focus because of a harassment controversy that hit the Washington Football Team (better known as the Washington Redskins) dealt with earlier this year. The Daily Mail reported on August 26, 2020, that “following previous hostile workplace claims, 25 women are now claiming they were sexually harassed while working for the Washington Football Team.” This story will hurt the reputation of the Washington team for years and it would be wise for MLB to avoid even the appearance of a problem with this type of an issue.
Even though Congress has better things to do than to meddle in MLB, don’t think they will not do so anyways. Over one hundred Republican and Democratic Representatives wrote a letter to MLB to complain about the elimination of about 42 minor league franchises. It is likely that some progressive Member of Congress will complain about a billionaire whose former firm was hit with an insider trading scandal being put in charge of an MLB team. Also, expect a prominent female member of Congress, perhaps one of the dozens that co-sponsored legislation to outlaw forced arbitration and non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases, to lead the charge if this new Mets owner is approved.
It is likely that Steven Cohen’s prospective ownership of the Mets will not be free from controversy if history is any indication. Mets fans have suffered enough. It might be time for MLB to look at somebody else to lead the New York Mets.