Mets finish in NL East basement with Wilpon era likely over

WASHINGTON — Out with the old, in with the Cohen.

Subtly, an era of Mets history likely ended Sunday with the team’s 2020 season finale. In a probable last hurrah for the Fred Wilpon-Saul Katz ownership, the Mets finished the 60-game sprint with a 15-5 loss to the Nationals, ending up tied for last in the NL East and absent from the postseason for a fourth straight year.

Changes are coming with the expected approval by MLB owners, as early as October, of Steve Cohen’s $2.4 billion purchase of the team. Already, Cohen last week announced his plan, should he receive the required 23 votes to complete the transaction, to install Sandy Alderson as team president. Alderson has spent the past two seasons as an adviser with the Athletics after previously serving as Mets general manager.

Cohen, a hedge fund billionaire worth an estimated $14 billion who grew up on Long Island rooting for the Mets, is expected to bring an aggressive approach to free agency and rebuilding the organization’s infrastructure.

“I’m glad that somebody who is a lifelong Mets fan is going to end up owning the team,” Brandon Nimmo said. “We’ve all heard the Sandy Alderson thing, and that’s a familiar face, so I know he knows how to do the job and do it well. I think there’s a lot of positives to build on with the news that we’ve heard, but I never like to count my chickens before they hatch.

Fred Wilpon, Seth LugoAnthony J. Causi, Getty Image

“It still has to be approved, but when we come to that time, I will do what they ask of me. But I think it’s good to have somebody, a lifelong Mets fan who wants to own the team, and be a part of this and bring us all to the World Series. That’s where we all want to be. It’s a lot of positives.”

In the 18 full seasons of Wilpon-Katz control, following their buyout of co-owner Nelson Doubleday in 2002, the Mets missed the postseason 15 times. And they finished with a losing record in nine of the last 12 seasons.

If Cohen is approved, Alderson’s first significant decision will be whether to retain general manager Brodie Van Wagenen. By extension, manager Luis Rojas’ job status would come into question.

“We are all aware that we are in a transition right now,” Rojas said. “I had a great relationship with our ownership, being in this organization for 15 years. And now as the manager this year and knowing that we’re in a transition, I can’t wait for the process to unfold and just to engage the relationship with whatever happens.

“My mindset right now is that I’m the manager and I’m thinking of the team for 2021. I am thinking of the things we can be better at just looking at this season, looking at the guys, just looking at some of the areas they can still get better at. I think we learned a lot this year, including myself I learned a lot this year.”

Rojas, who was hired as manager in January after Carlos Beltran stepped aside following the revelations of his involvement in the Astros’ illegal sign-stealing scheme, brought a steady voice to the clubhouse. In the end, he was undermined by a thin starting rotation and a lineup that struggled with runners on base, particularly early in the season.

He was asked if there is anything he wishes he would have done differently in this rookie season.

“We got challenged in some areas and especially with our starting rotation and then we had to stretch out some guys and I wish we had known that,” Rojas said. “That we would have probably stretched out [Seth] Lugo before everything, but that is something that happened along the way. I stand behind all the decisions we made as a coaching staff and we made as a team and it didn’t go our way.”

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