Rockies journal: Was Dick Monfort right about the big-spending Padres?

Can money buy happiness in Major League Baseball? It sure doesn’t look like it in 2023.

Memorial Day, the first major milepost of the season, is fast approaching and the big spenders are treading water, or, in the case of the Padres, drowning in a sea of mega-salaries and disappointment.

That leads to the question: Was Rockies owner Dick Monfort right? More on that in a moment.

According to Spotrac, the Mets have the largest payroll in the majors at $346.9 million. They entered Saturday with a 23-23 record and in third place behind the Braves (28-16) and the Marlins (23-22) in the National League East. It took a recent hot streak to get the Mets back to .500.

The floundering Phillies (20-24) are fourth in the NL East despite a $243.6 million payroll that is the fourth-highest in baseball.

The Yankees have won nine of their past 12 games to improve to 27-20, but they’re still in third place in the tenacious AL East. The Yankees’ payroll is $280.2 million, second only to the Mets.

The AL East leaders, and the team with the best record in the majors? That would be the Rays (33-13) with a $58.1 million payroll that ranks 28th in the majors.

Second in the AL East? The Orioles (29-16) with a payroll of $51.2 million, which ranks ahead of only the future Las Vegas A’s, who are 10-36 with $40.1 million on the books.

That brings us to the Padres and Monfort.

You might recall that in late January, during the annual Northern Colorado Friends of Baseball Breakfast in Greeley, Monfort created a tidal wave of negative response when he questioned the Padres’ business model.

The Rockies owner was asked if he felt pressure to spend more money to compete in the NL West against the free-spending Padres and the powerhouse Dodgers.

“That puts a lot of pressure (on us),” Monfort said. “But it’s not just the Padres, it’s the Mets, it’s the Phillies. This has been an interesting year.

“What the Padres are doing, I don’t 100% agree with, though I know that our fans probably agree with it. We’ll see how it works out.”

So far, it’s not working out for either the Rockies or the Padres. The Rockies have a $180.5 million payroll that ranks 14th. That payroll, by the way, includes the $16 million they are paying the Cardinals to play Nolan Arenado. Colorado entered Saturday’s play with a 19-26 record, last in the NL West.

The Padres? At 20-25, they were just one game ahead of the Rockies. The Padres lost 6-1 to the Red Sox Friday night at Petco Park, falling to 2-10 in their last 12 games. They already trail the Dodgers by  8 1/2 games. San Diego fans booed the hometown team as it left the field.

You can’t blame the fans. San Diego is hitting .194 with runners in scoring position. No major league team has ever finished a season hitting below .200 with RISP. The Padres are hitting .225 as a team. As The Athletic pointed out, no team has finished a non-pandemic-shortened season hitting that poorly since the 1972 Mets, coming off a player strike, hit .225 across 156 games.

“We haven’t swung the bat well, there’s no other way to say it,” Padres general manager A.J. Preller told The Athletic. “But when you have good people that know what they’re doing, that care about the players and have good relationships with the players, I think over the course of 160-plus, I think that’s going to come through.”

Time will tell. But more than a quarter of the way through the season, the Padres are the most disappointing team in baseball, and that’s saying something.

As for Monfort’s comments, I believe he made them strictly from the standpoint of a businessman. What rankled lots of Rockies and Padres fans was that Monfort seemed to be questioning the Padres’ plan to put all of their chips on the table in a quest to win a championship.

But right now, all that money that owner Peter Seidler poured into the Padres was not money well spent.

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