The Mets and Phillies: Embrace the Hatred

Hot Stove New YorkSenior Writer IMarch 19, 2009

The Mets and Phillies hate each other. Finally. It's about time; it took about 45 years for these division rivals to work up a good antipathy.

For years, Philadelphians hated the Phillies more than New Yorkers.

Players of today are way too friendly with each other, with their loyalty to the player’s union seeming to come before all others.

Ty Cobb would be rolling over in his grave if he saw the breezy way the players act toward each other. Frank Robinson’s rolling over in his recliner as we speak. But at long last, we’ve got some good, old-fashioned bad blood between the two clubs.

The Mets steamrolled the Phillies in 2006, but in the following spring training, Jimmy Rollins coined the “We’re the Team to Beat” slogan heard 'round the world.

He proved to be right, as the Phils won the division due to the Mets’ tremendous collapse.

Last spring training, Carlos Beltran said, “Tell Jimmy Rollins we’re the team to beat this year.”

But he was wrong. Oh, so wrong.

This year, Davey Johnson has jumped into the fray, claiming Team USA is the team to beat. And now Justin Tuck insists the New York Giants are the team to beat.

Since Rollins’ remark, the Phillies just can’t stop talking about the Mets. They won their second World Series in franchise history, but the talk of their rivals didn’t stop.

They talked about them during the Playoffs. They talked about them during the World Series. They talked about them during the World Series parade. They talked about them during the offseason. And they keep talking in this year's spring training. They’re strangely obsessed with N.Y.

Has there ever been a championship team with an inferiority complex to the second-place team? There is now.

The Phillies should be in the Mets’ heads, but it’s oddly reversed. Since the Mets handed the division to them on a silver platter the last two seasons, you’d think they’d just quietly thank them. But they’re the champs, so they have every right to act like classless winners if that’s what they choose.

Maybe they feel they’re not getting the proper respect for winning the World Series. Nobody watched it, so many fans probably remember it as the year Tampa Bay finally won or the year the Series was rained out altogether and had no winner. If the Phils need to remind everyone that they won, more power to them.

New York’s celebratory antics and Jose Reyes‘ handshakes just plain piss the Phils off. But when Ryan Howard stands at home plate so long after a home run that you have time to watch every episode of the TBS Family Guy marathon before he even starts strolling to first base, and Shane Victorino throws himself a parade every time he gets on base, their criticism rings a little hollow.

But if all their showboating makes them feel better about themselves, so be it. If I were a Philadelphian, I would love this team.

Every team in the division seems to hate the Mets. Good. Why would you want other teams to like you? They certainly don’t like the Phillies, and Cole Hamels‘ comments have turned the hatred up a notch. They beat the Phils in the season-series last year and were their own worst enemy, so which team should scare them the most? The Mets, of course.

They certainly shouldn’t be shooting their mouths off, though; Beltran just made a fool of himself with his comments last year. So far in 2009, the Mets have been pretty quiet (maybe because they’re all out playing in the World Baseball Classic), but there’s still time to say something stupid.

Only Francisco Rodriguez has said anything, but I doubt he had any clue about all the “team to beat” stuff. Every team should feel they’re the team to beat, but when you finish in second place (and in the fashion the Mets did), you should pipe down and play.

Before they can say anything about anything, the Mets need to make it through a September without embarrassing themselves.

Who wants to listen to teams praise each other with words of respect? What fun is a lovefest between combatants? They’re fighting for the same prize; they’re supposed to despise each other.

In the good old days, teams and players truly couldn’t stand each other. They even hated the other league, which made the All-Star games more competitive.

So while Chase Utley finishes filming season three of VH1’s Celebrity Rehab to conquer his addiction to swearing in public and Jerry Manuel cackles and asks for the Phillies to keep on talking to remind the Mets what happened to them the last few years, we should all sit back and enjoy the war. It’s more fun that way.


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