Nobody but nobody, who’s from New York can imagine a New Yorker choosing Houston over New York. And in this case, where baseball folks know David Stearns, born a Mets fan to a family of Mets fans — his favorite player was Kevin Elster — who grew up on the Upper East Side and whose mother still lives in Manhattan, they won’t believe it if Stearns chooses the Astros over the Mets.
More teams could get involved for baseball’s most coveted free-agent executive in years beyond the Astros, the one known potential contender for the young baseball operations leader who’s believed to be the apple of Steve Cohen’s eye. But the Mets are a huge favorite for now.
While the Astros, first mentioned by The Athletic, provide pluses (he’s said to love Houston, his wife Whitney and her family are Houstonians, Stearns met his wife at owner Jim Crane’s party when Stearns worked there, and frankly, the Astros have had more success in recent years), Cohen and Co. appear to hold enormous edges, even beyond the obvious hometown advantage, which is believed to be the biggest factor in this case. Of course, greater team revenue enhances chances to sustain winning and one exec estimated “the [salary] would be twice, maybe three times.” (Someone else guessed Stearns could become the first nine-figure exec, but again, that’s a guess).
While the Mets were turned down two years ago by many qualified executives, from the A’s’ Billy Beane and David Forst to New Jersey product Mike Chernoff — Stearns actually had no chance to do so, as Brewers owner Mark Attanasio declined the Mets’ request back then, as he could by rule — it would be a shock if Stearns rebuffed the Mets. What’s more, there’s no known second choice. The Mets’ list appears to be as short as can be.
Stearns, 38, is seen as a near-perfect fit, an ultra-smart analytics expert with a Harvard degree, great reputation and excellent (but short) résumé. I’ve heard the snappy remark, “What’s he ever won?” But the reality is, he led baseball’s smallest-market team (tied with Cincinnati) to the playoffs four straight times (and missed last year by a game). Mets people love the promise of what he could accomplish with two (or more) times the resources.
Folks who work with Stearns say he’s “super smart” but also a good guy who treats employees well (though he keeps a small inner circle). One area where he’s somewhat unproven in baseball’s smallest market is media relations (though he wrote sports at the Harvard Crimson), but that can’t be any real consideration for Cohen, not when he checks all the biggest boxes.
The one question that would be interesting to know is why he took the year off, not that it matters much now (he declined comment) from the 24/7 job. But maybe, just maybe, he took time simply because he was denied a chance to talk to his hometown team.
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