NL East: Phillies, Mets Down To The Wire Once Again

William DonnellyContributor ISeptember 22, 2008

It all started out so differently.

Almost halfway through the summer of 2008, the Philadelphia Phillies had an iron grip on first place, and the New York Mets were mired in fourth.  From my side of the television screen, everything appeared to be in place for a runaway season for my beloved Phightin' Phils.

Two things happened which changed the season.  First, the Mets front office unceremoniously dumped manager Willie Randolph (thus freeing him to attend closing ceremonies at Yankee Stadium), and the Phillies fell into a team-wide two-month hitting slump.

With half the lineup swatting gnats instead of homers, the Phils struggled to hold on to first place, and even lost it for a few days at the end of August.  The Mets, re-energized, scrambled over the floundering Florida Marlins and the awful Atlanta Braves, even briefly taking that first place slot from the Phillies.

It would have been easier on my ulcers if things had stayed the way they were, but I must admit, this is much more exciting.

When the Mets collapsed last September, I laughed.  I cried with joy.  But this year, if they happen to pull ahead and take the division, I will throw only kudos their way, because they have really busted their butts to come back in this division (and without a closer, I might add).  Of course the fact that the Phils are likely to make the playoffs either way is plenty consolation - the Milwaukee Brewers seem to believe C.C. Sabathia can save their season all by himself - and we finally found out (twice, recently) that even the big man is fallible.

For the second season in a row, I have tickets to a Phillies game in the final series of the season, when every inning, every at-bat, every pitch affects the season.  Phillies fans can only hope that our team does not run into a buzz saw like the Colorado Rockies were last year.

With the pitching the Phillies have, and the lack of consistency in the Mets bullpen, it seems likely that the Phils will take the division.  Arizona has a long way to go to catch the Los Angeles Dodgers, especially since the Diamondbacks still have a series against the St. Louis Cardinals, who are hanging onto faint Wild Card hopes.  I predict Philly over L.A. and Chicago over New York in the NLDS, and although the Phils bested the Cubs 4-3 in the season series, I think destiny may be on the Cubbies' side this year.  A Cubs World Series win would give us three curses cleansed this decade (Red Sox, White Sox), and since my dollar is worth about what it was in 1908, it just seems appropriate that the Cubs should go all the way.