Here come the Mets.
Or should that be, HERE COME THE METS!
Certainly the last one seems to be the sentiment of folks from New York City. In fact, it’s trickled down this way that the Mets’ fans are so fired up that the TV station carrying the game took out special ads featuring Cole Hamels calling the New York team, “choke artists.”
Apparently the truth doesn’t always set some folks free.
Though the Mets’ players have been quite chatty lately in regards to the Phillies, the Phillies didn’t seem so geeked up about playing the Mets. Of course the clubhouse was virtually bare of ballplayers after the loss to the Nationals last night, but the guys who were around just kind of shrugged off the prospect of the bug weekend series against their arch-nemesis.
“I think you guys have more fun with it than we do,” Canadian Matt Stairs said.
Stairs, of course, is a reasonable man. He rarely flies off the handle unless he’s talking about post-homer celebrations in the NLCS or hockey. Otherwise, Stairs is as cool as can be.
But on the other hand, Stairs has only faced the Mets once as a member of the Phillies going 1-for-2 with an RBI (no, it wasn’t a homer) in a doubleheader last Sept. 7. So maybe he’s not the best guy to weigh in on the topic.
“I’m not going to approach the Mets any different than Washington or San Diego or whoever it is,” he said. “The crowd is going to be into it and have fun with it.”
But guess what? Stairs’ sentiment is pretty much the norm in the Phillies’ clubhouse. Mets? Yeah, big deal.
So since there wasn’t much interest in the Mets’ arrival at the Bank this weekend – or the Phillies’ first trip to Bailout Ballpark next week, I thought I’d just trot out something I wrote last January.
Call it a virtual rain delay.
Here it is:
A friend from New York City called the other day with an intriguing question. Now before I get into the actual question, it’s worth mentioning that the friend has spent the past two decades working in the sports media, including the past three covering the New York Mets.
Yes, those New York Mets.
So for the past three years this friend of mine watched from the inside as the Mets choked in a seven-game series to the Cardinals in the NLCS in 2006, choked during September with a 6½ game lead and less than three weeks to go in ’07, before pulling the trifecta in ’08 by choking a 3½ game lead during late September.
Needless to say, my friend has seen that the Heimlich doesn’t always work on a baseball team. No, these have not been happy times for the Mets, especially considering which team went on to win the World Series last October.
Those elements make the question so much more interesting.
“Tell me,” he said. “Are Phillies’ fans as obsessed with the Mets as the Mets’ fans are with the Phillies?”
See, it was a really good question. It was such a great question that there really wasn’t any way to answer it. After all, does gloating count as interest? Does finally feeling like the vindicated underdog constitute as interest?
Is it fair to answer a question with another question or is that just some sort of a trick?
C’mon, man… what’s with all the questions?
But for lack of anything better to say, I answered, “Yes.” Albeit hesitantly. A very unsure yes like I was trying to convince myself of my answer as I was giving it. Kind of like when you visit someone’s house for dinner and they say, “Hey, would you like a second helping of Brussels sprouts?”
Uh, yes? Please…
Anyway, I couldn’t convince myself if Phillies’ fans are obsessed with the Mets. Oh sure, fans of the local nine really, really despise the Mets. Probably in much the same matter as they dislike the Dallas Cowboys. But, more importantly, unlike those Dallas Cowboys fans, the New Yorkers are thinking about the Phillies. They’re losing sleep, tossing and turning with angst over Cole Hamels’ nasty changeup, Brad Lidge closing out the ninth and a batting order with Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley and Ryan Howard.
Yes, how’s that for changing times… New York is worried about Philadelphia.
For so long it was always the other way around. Whenever the Mets turned up to wreak havoc on our friendly little hamlet, they always brought a cavalcade of weirdos. Yes, there was Darryl Strawberry and Dwight Gooden in the 1980s, and then Mike Piazza during the last decade. There was even a few that traded places like Lenny Dykstra and Roger McDowell joining up with the Phillies while Billy Wagner took the long money for three years of falling short.
They had Tug McGraw, but we kept him. He’s ours.
Do the Phillies get to the playoffs in ’07 and then win the World Series in ’08 with Wagner instead of Lidge? Let’s just say the Phillies got the better deal with Wagner going to the Mets.
Still, when the Mets came to visit, they emptied out the outer boroughs and caravanned down the Turnpike. In most years, the New York faithful outnumbered the Phillies’ fans, which was really, really annoying. No, it wasn’t annoying because Mets’ fans out-numbered the hometowners. That’s fine. After all, the locals knew that Matt Beech and Gregg Jefferies weren’t getting it done. Actually it was annoying because the New Yorkers were hardly good guests. They came early, stayed late, made themselves a little too comfortable and generated way too much noise.
They acted like they owned the place, but in some sense they did.
So the very idea that a New York dude who has an affiliation with Mets asks if the Phillies are as “obsessed” with their team as the New Yorkers are over the Champs, well, that can only make a Philadelphian smile a little bit. Yep, for a change they’re thinking about us…
How sweet is that?
Just think how good it is to be a fan of the Phillies these days… go ahead think about it. First, the most bitterest rival is actually jealous of a Philadelphia team. When does that ever happen? Secondly, the Phillies built their new stadium and funded it properly at just the right time. Look at the Mets – they’re going into their new park named for a bank that pulled a choke job worse than anything their owners pulled in any September.
Shoot, the new CitiField ought to be called Taxpayer Ballpark. Better yet, it ought to be repossessed and given back to the hard-working folks in Flushing, Queens.
But to paraphrase W.C. Fields’ epitaph: “Here lies the New York Mets. Wouldn’t they rather be living in Philadelphia…”