DENVER — Remember all of that talk about the San Diego Padres and New York Mets before the season began and all of the money the teams spent to build up their star-studded rosters? As we reach the Memorial Day milestone, both teams, of which much was expected, are in a race to see who will be the biggest disappointment of the 2023 MLB season.
The New York Mets and San Diego Padres hold two of the three biggest payrolls in MLB as Memorial Day arrives, with the Mets spending just under $346 million to earn a 27-27 record and the Padres shelling out just over $246 million to sit in fourth place in the National League West with a 24-29 mark. Neither are anything close to what the teams envisioned when they stocked their lineups in the same way shrewd fantasy baseball managers might.
One thing we have learned from the Mets and Padres early in the season, however, is that money doesn’t buy chemistry or ensure victories.
Both teams have neighbors in the standings they didn’t expect to have entering this season. The Mets are looking up at the Miami Marlins, a game ahead of them in the National League East. You know, the Marlins with a payroll of $97 million? Even worse, perhaps, is that the Padres are being the breath of the Colorado Rockies in the NL West standings, with Colorado just a half-game behind them. You know, the Rockies with owner Dick Monfort who grumbled before the season began about the way the Padres were building their team for the season? While the Rockies have spent more than $180 million this season, they were expected to be near the bottom of the division. The Padres? Well, not so much.
There are plenty of reasons why both New York and San Diego have struggled this season. For the Padres, it’s easy to point to the way they have hit with runners in scoring position, heading into Memorial Day dead last in MLB in OPS with runners in scoring position at just .598. For the Mets, it’s been the pitching, a group that is 29th in baseball at minus-3.7 bWAR. Only the Oakland A’s and their payroll of just under $60 million are worse.
Those are just two of the reasons why two expected behemoths have come out of the gate more like lambs than lions. And certainly, there are still more than 100 games left to play for each of them in this MLB season, meaning there is plenty of time to turn things around. However, as Memorial Day arrives, you can no longer say “it’s still early.” Time is of the essence for these two clubs to find their strides.
“We’re just trying to piece it all together,” Mets outfielder Brandon Nimmo said on Sunday after his team lost and was packing up after dropping two of three to the Rockies here in Denver. “We’re a better team than what our record is right now, but it’s just going to take putting the pitching and the hitting together.”
On paper, it looks and sounds easy. However, both the Mets and Padres are finding that all of those plans made before the season for postseason appearances and potential returns to the Fall Classic are nothing but easy.