Cliff Lee: Why New York Mets Fans Can No Longer Hate the Philadelphia Phillies
Free agent pitcher Cliff Lee agreed to a five-year contract with the Philadelphia Phillies Monday night, just the most recent example of Major League Baseball being incredibly cruel to New York Mets fans in recent years.
Carlos Beltran was caught looking at strike three in Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS with the bases loaded. Then the Mets had back-to-back September collapses. The Phillies went on to win the World Series and faced the Yankees in the World Series the following season.
Mets fans have spent a lot of time hating the Phillies over the last few seasons, and with good reason. A long dynasty was supposed to start for the Mets in 2006.
That dynasty crashed before it even got off the ground.
Instead the Phillies have won the division ever since, they've won a World Series and returned to the World Series the following season. They have been in the NLCS three years in a row.
With Cliff Lee joining a Phillies rotation that already features former Cy Young award-winner Roy Halladay, former World Series MVP Cole Hamels and Roy Oswalt, the Phillies are becoming a more hated team then the Yankees and are drawing comparisons to the Miami Heat.
But while all of baseball is busy sympathizing with Mets fans, there is a reason why Mets fans can't hate the Phillies.
The Mets and Phillies do not have a storied rivalry. In fact, their rivalry has been very brief and recent. Up until 2006, one of the two teams, if not both, was always terrible. In 2006, the Mets were dominant while the Phillies were becoming good. In 2007, it picked up when the Phillies overtook the Mets for first place in September.
By 2008, every Mets fan hated the Phillies, and vice versa, and the Phillies once again overtook the Mets in September.
But by 2009, the Mets were once again awful. The only people who could believe there is still a rivalry between the two teams are people that are living in the past.
But that's not a reason why Mets fans can't hate the Phillies anymore, there is a bigger reason there.
This isn't a rivalry between two relatively evenly-matched teams with one team just constantly getting the better of the other.
For example, until 2004, whenever the Red Sox were good, they always ran into the Yankees and fell to them. Red Sox fans hated the Yankees, as the Yankees were always in their way, Yankees fans, meanwhile, just laughed at Red Sox fans.
The difference between the Mets and the Phillies is not on the field, but rather in the management of the clubs.
In the last few years, the Phillies have built an incredibly strong team. They grew homegrown talent and went out and got the right pieces to complement them. They locked down Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Ryan Howard and Cole Hamels.
They won the World Series with that team.
But after they won, they decided they needed to get better—they went out and signed Raul Ibanez. When the trade deadline came, they weren't afraid of what kind of prospects they needed to give up when they traded for Cliff Lee. The following season, they spent big on Roy Halladay.
When that didn't work, they opened the checkbook for Cliff Lee.
Meanwhile, the Mets are constantly passing on making moves at the trade deadline. The Mets are saying they don't need to bring in free agents, that they are happy with what they have. The Mets are handing massive contracts out to Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez. When the Mets needed pitching, they threw $66 million at outfielder Jason Bay.
The Mets stayed out of the free agent market after the season. It is no secret that Fred Wilpon, the team's owner, lost a lot of money in the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme, but Wilpon constantly says the Mets still have money, even though they won't spend any of it.
Wilpon is simply lying to his fan base to keep up the illusion that the Mets could make a splash every offseason, so fan interest and ticket sales will go up.
The Mets are tied down by bad contracts to old players. Players that hurt the team just by playing. The team would be much better off losing because they are rebuilding and have young prospects on the field.
Instead, the Mets opt to play these bad players because of their contracts.
Whether these players remain in the lineup or get released, the Mets would have to pay them. If the Mets were committed to winning, they would pay them to leave and give their young players a shot.
In Philadelphia, there are no doubts about how committed management is to winning. They will spend the money on players and are not afraid of shipping away prospects if it will give them that piece that will put them over the top.
The most telling tidbit is this: last season, several free agents turned down the Mets even though the Mets offered the most money. They wanted no part of this organization.
This season, Cliff Lee left $50 million on the table just to return to Philly.
There is no doubt that as a Mets fan I wouldn't want to see them pummel the Phillies every time the two teams play each other. Or even better, to see the Phillies rotation fall on their face. But there is one thing I can't do, and that is hate the Phillies for doing everything they possibly can to put a quality product on the field. Especially when the Mets aren't.
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