How the San Francisco Giants and Philadelphia Phillies Came to Hate Each Other
Phillies fans, you probably shouldn’t read any further without first being aware that you will not like what is written. You will disagree, and will no doubt let me know what an idiot I am for writing this.
Which is fine.
I just want you to know what you’re getting yourselves into before you start.
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Is this really what it's come to, Giants and Phillies?
Ramon Ramirez plunking Shane Victorino, Victorino doing the whole “hold me back, hold me back!” thing (while no one holds him back) and both benches clearing for yet another East Coast/West Coast pseudo-brawl?
I thought these were two of the best teams in the National League. I thought the Phillies had been one of the game’s best for five-plus years now, and the Giants were the defending champions.
How about acting like you’ve been there before, guys?
But besides the bush-league-ishness of the whole plunking scenario, the bigger question that has risen out of the most recent Giants-Phillies series is simple:
How did these teams come to hate each other so much?
It’s not like Philadelphia and San Francisco have any sort of natural rivalry. Geographically, they are about as far away from one another as rivals can get. They don’t share a division, a history of common players or even a coast of the United States.
Yet they hate each other.
The fans, the teams, even the managers on both sides seem to despise the others with a fervor that is usually reserved for the Dodgers and the Mets, and the mutual distaste seems to be growing with every passing game.
What follows are some (admittedly biased) reasons why the Giants/Phillies rivalry has escalated to such heights in such a short period of time.
2. Drastically Different Fan Bases
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You couldn’t have two more divergent groups of people than Phillies fans and Giants fans.
Phillies fans are loud and over-the-top, known for their willingness to hurl invective (and other, more tangible objects) at opposing players and fans with little regard for tact or basic human decency.
Giants fans are generally more subdued. They are excited by the action of the game, but don’t live and die by it in the way that East Coast fans do. Opposing players might catch some heckling from Giants fans, but those visiting AT&T Park will never have to worry about ducking batteries or dodging flung beers.
The fans of both teams represent their states and their coasts in their own way, and the two couldn't be more different. In a way, it is natural for a good East Coast team to develop a rivalry with a good West Coast team. But it rarely happens.
However, in the case of Phillies/Giants, provincial differences have manifested themselves fully on a national stage. The result has been a surprisingly bitter rivalry that has developed more rapidly than most rivalries.
The differences between the fans has highlighted the differences between the teams, which has in turn highlighted the differences between the cities. It has spread like wildfire.
3. Drastically Different Teams
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The rosters of both the Phillies and Giants are made up of players who represent their cities perfectly.
The Giants are…colorful. They are unique individuals who grow ridiculous facial hair, display their thongs in public, get the most out of whatever talent they have and even like to indulge (allegedly) in the occasional bong hit or two.
The Phillies are deadly serious.
They are a group who visibly believe that they are better than you and cannot wait to choke the (figurative) life out of you at the first sign of weakness. They reflect the seriousness and passion of their fans and carry themselves at all times like they are the champions…even if they aren’t.
The face of the Giants, the starting pitchers, are mostly homegrown. Their Philadelphia counterparts are largely store-bought.
The Giants benefit from low expectations. At times, the Phillies seem to struggle with expectations that are too high.
In this light, it is natural that these two teams would hate each other. It’s a classic clash of hippies versus the establishment. The young up-and-comers versus the entrenched national power.
The rivalry of these two teams is an extension of the many, many cultural differences between the two coasts of the United States. And the teams are as different as the 3,000 miles that separate them would suggest.
4. Shane Victorino
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I try to give the Phillies their due. I mean, it’s hard to argue with the track records of Ryan Howard, Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay, Roy Oswalt and Chase Utley. Even if you may not care for them on a personal level, they have sustained their success at such a high level that it is hard not to respect them on some level.
But Shane Victorino…man, that guy gets under my skin.
Giants’ fans hatred for Victorino started somewhat innocuously when he stole Pablo Sandoval’s spot on the 2009 N.L. All-Star team. Let’s be honest—Sandoval was having a better year and deserved to be rewarded as such.
But Victorino was chosen for the team. A gnat blocking the path of a Panda. However, Sandoval would surely get other cracks at all-star glory, so although it was annoying, Giants fans didn’t worry about it.
“Annoying” is the operative word with Victorino. He’s in the middle of everything. Clutch defensive plays. Annoying slap singles in key situations. Bench-clearing pseudo-brawls. It’s what he does. He gets under your skin and kills you, one beaten-out infield grounder at a time.
Victorino makes it easy for Giants fans to hate the Phillies. He gets respect even though he arguably wouldn’t deserve it were he not surrounded by future hall of famers. He rides the coattails of an immaculately constructed roster and reaps the benefits equally.
I may have to respect Halladay and Lee, but Victorino gets no such respect. This really goes hand-in-hand with the next slide…
5. The Phillies Carry Themselves Like Defending Champions
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…But they aren’t defending champions.
It’s weird. Looking across Internet message boards and fan sites reveals that Phillies fans may not be aware that, in reality, they didn’t win the World Series last year.
They are dismissive of the Giants, the very team that ended their championship hopes in 2010. They are disrespectful of San Francisco’s pitching staff, the very group that bested theirs almost a year ago.
With a group as talented as the Phillies, it is easy for fans to prematurely anoint them champions of the world. And many have done just that. And honestly, it wouldn’t be a problem if they would simply give credit where credit is due.
The Giants beat the Phillies in the playoffs last year because, at the time they met, the Giants were the better team. Period. There is nothing else to it. They didn’t get lucky, and they didn’t back their way into a World Series appearance. They were just better. They might not be better this year, but they were last year.
So give the Giants some credit, Phillies fans. Giants fans recognize that Philly’s roster is stacked with undeniable talent. Yet the Phillies don’t seem to give San Francisco the same level of respect, even though they got beaten when it mattered last year.
The fact that Phillies are so focused on the future titles they are certain they will win means that they are ignoring the very recent past. Which makes it easy for Giants fans to build animosity towards their new rivals.
6. The Two Best Pitching Staffs in Baseball
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The Phillies have gone to the end of the earth to acquire the best pitching staff they possibly can. They knew that they wouldn’t achieve the dynasty they sought with Cole Hamels as their No. 1 starter, so they went out and got the best pitcher in the game to support him.
Then they added Roy Oswalt and took things to the next level.
And then Cliff Lee, at which point things started getting ridiculous. The Phillies had arguably acquired two of the five best pitchers in the game to solidify a rotation that had already won a World Series. The phrase “the rich getting richer” was probably coined for situations just like this.
But the one thing the Phillies couldn’t acquire was a pitcher who could shut the Giants down. Last year, San Francisco made their way through Philly’s stacked rotation in the N.L.C.S, and then they went on to beat Cliff Lee’s Rangers in the World Series. They answered every challenger who faced them with key hits, and more importantly, even better pitching.
This made the Phillies furious. After all, they had done everything they could to build a dominant staff, only to be dispatched by a group of home-grown youngsters with far lesser reputations.
All the pitching the Phillies acquire hasn’t been enough to consistently dominate the Giants the way they should.
7. The Holders of the Crown, and the No. 1 Contenders
Above all else, this is the reason that the Giants and Phillies rivalry has escalated.
As the postseason draws near, both teams are naturally going to get more focused on the task at hand. For the Phillies, that means avenging their NLCS loss to the Giants. For the Giants, that means repeating last year’s magical run despite a slew of devastating injuries.
Based on the strength of their starting staff, if the Giants can limp into the playoffs, they will once again be a dangerous team. And they would also find the Phillies standing in their way.
The fact that these two teams could meet again in the postseason simply enhances all of the reasons that they hate each other. The difference in the fanbases and roster construction. They differences in attitude, and the ways the two teams carry themselves. The polar-opposite personalities of the teams. All are underscored by a looming (potential) rematch.
And for two teams competing to be the best in the world, this is the only reason that really matters.