How Mets, Padres went from preseason favorites to first-half failures

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There have been several surprises this season, but maybe none more shocking than the first-half performances of two preseason World Series hopefuls -- the New York Mets and San Diego Padres.

The worst loss for the Mets was a nightmare of a defeat on a Sunday afternoon in Philadelphia on June 25. Leading 6-3 in the bottom of the eighth, they gave up four runs on one measly hit, walking three, hitting two batters and making a costly error -- culminating in yet another series defeat. It was so amateurish, so straight out of something you might see in Little League rather than the majors, that the following day's New York Post back page read, "WORST HALF MONEY CAN BUY."

The Mets can't escape their record-breaking $364 million payroll, one that will approach $500 million once luxury tax penalties are imposed -- especially not since the team, which won 101 games in 2022 to match the Atlanta Braves in the National League East, sits 18 games behind its division rival, entering Thursday's contest at the Arizona Diamondbacks. A few days after the loss to the Phillies, owner Steve Cohen met with the media. "It's terrible," Cohen said. "That's not what I expected."

The Padres have also failed to meet preseason expectations. They're running an estimated $275 million payroll, including penalties, the third-highest behind the Mets and New York Yankees. It is a shocking number for a small-market team. After reaching the NLCS last year, they signed free agent Xander Bogaerts to a $280 million contract and gave Manny Machado a $350 million extension, replacing the final six seasons of his original deal to nullify a potential opt-out clause at the end of the season.

Instead of looking like a postseason favorite, the Padres are languishing under .500, well behind the Arizona Diamondbacks, San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West. Padres fans, among the loudest and most enthusiastic in the sport in recent seasons, have turned on the team, raining it with loud boos. "I know from the outside it looks like a bunch of overpaid guys not performing," Padres pitcher Joe Musgrove said after a June 29 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates. "But sometimes there's just no answer. We're going through it right now."

With the Padres hosting the Mets for a three-game series starting Friday, let's look at each team's big offseason moves -- the ones that have the teams' combined payrolls approaching $775 million with penalties -- and how those have played out this season.