For as crappy a year as 2022 has been for me on many levels, 2021 was a year of awakening and firsts. One of the most enjoyable firsts I was able to experience was being in and “producing” my first Tik Tok video, with the required and expert assistance of my longtime friend’s teenage daughter, whose generation is more likely to qualify it as appointment “television” than anything to be found in the traditional sense of the word.
As I learned well after Generation Z and millennials had, Tik Tok allows you to overdub yourself with soundtracks so that the world doesn’t know how badly you may sing while you attempt to lip-sync, look like you’re competent and hopefully get a few likes. I loved doing it, and whenever I’m down (which, lately, is often) I’ll return to it and laugh.
One of the flavors of the moment at the time we did it was “When Veruca Says”, the hilariously cadenced duet featuring the spoiled brat character (and her desperate-to-please reaaaaaally rich father) who wins one of Willy Wonka’s golden tickets in the children’s classic “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory”. Veruca is insatiable, demanding and ultimately pleads in one of the song’s funnier moments to “buy me North Korea”. (Remember, this was a musical originally produced in 1971, so the political ramifications of that request weren’t quite as awful as it may now seem).
I have a hunch many non-Mets fans see us as very much Veruca-like these days, especially since billionaire owner Steve Cohen has taken over the team. Cohen is determined to break the team’s drought of World Series championships, now 36 seasons and counting. Like myself and many others, he grew up a diehard fan who reveled in the brashness and take-no-prisoners of the 1986 team that last won it all for Flushing, the same team that trashed a plane after coming from behind down 3-0 with three outs to go to win a 16-inning thriller in Houston and their first league title in 17 years. Last year, he went out and got Max Scherzer to team with Jacob deGrom to anchoe a rotation that was poised to be dominant. deGrom’s fragile arm didn’t live up to rehab expectations, he ultimately won only five games and pitched less than 100 innings for the third consecutive year. While the Mets did win 101 games in the regular season, the duet ran out of steam in the last week of the regular season, losing three straight to eventual champion Atlanta, and then couldn’t win two of three at home against San Diego.
So we Mets fans have become a lot more like sweet Veruca of late, and daddy Steve has been only too willing to accommodate our wishes. This off-season has already yielded a Cy Young Award winner (Justin Verlander) to replace the departing deGrom, a “ghost forkball” specialist from Japan, Kodai Senga, to replace my personal favorite Chris Bassitt, and brought back (at inflated prices) fan favorites Edwin Diaz, Brandon Nimmo and Adam Ottavino.
So imagine our shocked surprise when we woke up to this nugget from ESPN’s Jeff Passan:
The 28-year-old shortstop agreed to terms on a 12-year, $315 million deal with New York — a week after coming to terms with the Giants on a historic 13-year, $350 million contract.
The Giants’ contract with the star shortstop fell apart after the team expressed concerns during the physical examination, prompting Correa to reopen his free agency and sign in the middle of the night with the Mets.
Before Correa agreed to terms with the Giants, the Mets had made an 11th-hour run at signing him. The deal did not come to fruition then. A week later, the most astonishing move of the offseason is one passed physical from becoming a reality (a caveat with particular import to this contract).
So, apparently, the Mets’ risk aversion is not quite as great as San Francisco’s. And certainly, they’ve been burned by the disappointing lack of health that deGrom and Nimmo both showed in recent years. But for Cohen, it’s just another roadblock he is determined to smash through. As Passan continued:
When Cohen bought the Mets in November 2020, there was a belief around baseball that he could upend the system with his wealth. But this exceeds the expectations of even the most hopeful Mets fan. If Correa’s deal is completed, the team’s estimated payroll will be around $384 million. Based on that number, the Mets would owe an additional $111 million in luxury-tax payments. Their total payroll, as of now, is expected to be just shy of $500 million. In baseball history, no team has come within $150 million of that number.
But, hey, if it results in another ticker tape parade down the Canyon of Heroes come next November, for Cohen and the Mets, it would be money well spent. The value of the franchise will only increase dramatically if they can add a title to their coiffeurs, and you can bet an awful lot of Correa jerseys will be sold in the cold winter months ahead, where the anticipation of true greatness in 2023 (forgive me, ye who about to experience a really brutal stormy Yule), snowballs.
And if Correa somehow proves to be brittle, the fact that the likes of Eduardo Escobar, a versatile, well-liked veteran capable of flashes of brilliance, may still be around is quite comforting.
All in all, it feels pretty good to be a Mets fan, even if fans of other teams may be really frustrated. But consider this before you bitch: Getting Tik Tok fans to care about baseball at all these days is especially difficult. Recent studies suggest more than a third of under-25s have no interest in any sports at all, and that they are far less likely to consume media via traditional linear providers. A greater percentage of them don’t even care about baseball.
My Tik Tok educator got to see her first Mets game in person this fall (one of the ones they lost as they gave the Braves the division title), and she’s probably gonna go back again with this rivalry now reignited to even greater levels than it was back when they squared off at the end of the last century–ones the Braves won far more often than not. Don’t think for a second Cohen doesn’t forget that.
With this lineup, the chance of her going back has improved. Or at least pay attention when alerts hit her device.
And if even a sliver of 15-29 year olds become Mets fans, as Cohen and I were in ’86, just think of the windfall in merch, tickets and subscriptions ahead should it indeed turn into a title.
At this rate, Cohen may indeed to be able to buy South Korea.
Thanks, Daddy. Happy Chanukah.