Here are some things you can buy with $380 million.
Your own Hawaiian island.
A custom-built, luxury Airbus A350.
Or one of the most disappointing teams in Major League Baseball history.
Guess which one Mets owner Steve Cohen got.
The Dodgers might be having an imperfect season, one beset by key injuries and uncharacteristic pitching, leaving them with a multitude of needs approaching next month’s trade deadline.
But they’re in a whole lot better state than the Mets, whose MLB-record payroll self-destructed down the stretch Saturday in a 5-1 defeat to the Dodgers.
Entering the season, the Mets’ high-priced roster — which will clock in at above $380 million after luxury tax penalties, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts — was supposed to challenge clubs like the Dodgers for National League supremacy.
Instead, they find themselves eight games under .500 (42-50) and nine back in the playoff race; a stark reminder that, for all the hurdles the Dodgers have faced, they’re still vastly superior to the horror show taking place in Queens.
On Saturday, the Mets chased Dodgers starter Tony Gonsolin from the game after just five innings and 54 pitches but managed only one run against him, watching a barrage of hard contact find infielders or die at the warning track.
With the score tied 1-1 in the eighth, the Mets let the Dodgers take the lead on a botched double-play that could have ended the inning, Pete Alonso’s high throw to second base giving David Peralta just enough time to reach first safely.
Then in the ninth, the Mets committed a cacophony of mistakes in a three-run inning that put the game away — a rally fueled by third baseman Brett Baty losing track of an infield pop-up that not only eluded his last-second dive, but then ricocheted of his face.
“They’re going through it, clearly,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of the Mets’ struggles, contrasting it to his own team’s ability to remain in first place despite some first-half adversity.
“Just because we wear this uniform, the Dodger uniform, doesn’t mean that it’s an automatic win,” Roberts said. “There’s a lot that goes into winning ball games. From the hitting, the at-bat quality, the defense, guys buying in, we have that. I knew it was gonna come at some point where we were gonna get some traction and fortunately we’re playing good baseball.”
That, the Dodgers are indeed.
Saturday was their sixth-straight win and 14th in their last 19 games. They now hold a two-game lead over the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League West, only the second time they’ve held a multi-game division lead since May 20.
Most of all, they are in a comfortable position for an 11th-straight postseason appearance, avoiding the kind of disastrous campaign the Mets have subjected their frustrated fan base — which booed on several occasions Saturday — to this season.
“It’s hard to win in general,” said Mookie Betts, who led the way offensively Saturday, going four for four with his 27th home run of the season. “I think the front office has done an amazing job putting a really good product on the field. I would give a lot of the credit to our coaches and analytics department, they do an amazing job at preparing us. But a lot of credit to the guys. We’re playing for each other, we take the info and we have a really good camaraderie.”
The Dodgers (53-38) have myriad questions, nonetheless, most of which revolve around their pitching.
Their banged-up rotation that got a solid but unconvincing start from Gonsolin, when the right-hander gave up just one run and two hits in five innings but was pulled early after the Mets hit 10 of their 12 balls in play against him at 94 mph or higher — including a solo home run from Brandon Nimmo in the fourth.
“I just felt, for me, you could see Tony kind of battling with the humidity, the feel of the baseball,” Roberts said, calling his decision a “no-brainer” despite Gonsolin’s low pitch count and pleads to return for the sixth inning.
“I can see where he’s coming from, for sure, but I wanted to stay out there,” Gonsolin said. “I felt like I had one, two more innings at least. It was pretty efficient.”
An inconsistent Dodgers bullpen almost yielded a 2-1 lead in the eighth, as well. After issuing a lead-off walk, reliever Caleb Ferguson gave up a single to Francisco Alvarez that might have tied the game if not for a strong effort by Chris Taylor — who was playing his first game since returning from a knee injury — to cut the ball off in the gap.
“Huge save for him to get to that ball, save a run right there and give me another chance,” Ferguson said.
The left-hander didn’t waste it, either, retiring the next three hitters on a pop-out and two strikeouts to strand runners on the corners.
Then, after Baty’s error in the ninth plated one run, J.D. Martinez and David Peralta added RBI singles, padding the Dodgers’ lead while adding to the misery of the Mets’ all-time disappointing season.
“Sometimes you start getting breaks when good things happen,” Roberts said. “You saw that Muncy pop-up, but it was good to see David [and J.D.] take advantage and have a good at-bat and drive in that insurance run. Things like that, we’re creating our own breaks, too.”