Over the past few years, the NL East's Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets have developed on of the fiercest, most competitive rivalries in professional sports. Located just over 80 miles from one another, these two cities have long been a rivalry waiting to happen, but over the years, the two teams had never been good simultaneously.
Now both teams are perennial playoff contenders and the players know it, and are not afraid to say it. This is what sports is all about.
The following is a (probably incomplete) history of the trash-talking between the teams. Enjoy what you see, and I encourage anyone who knows of more trash-talking that I missed to post it below in the comments so we can all learn about the art of talking trash.
2005 was Billy Wagner's second and final season with the Phillies. In July, Wagner trashed his own team by saying they "ain't got a shot" of making the playoffs.
In a heated team meeting, left fielder Pat Burrell apparently calls Wagner a "rat", which to me seems like a very appropriate description of Billy.
After the team meeting, Wagner would tell the Philadelphia Inquirer he felt like it was "24 against one" in the Phillies clubhouse.
Following the 2005 season, Billy Wagner signed as a free agent with the Phillies' main rival, the New York Mets. Apparently he was feeling bitter about nobody in Philly liking him.
In May of '06, Wagner would begin talking trash about the Phillies again, but this time he actually did it as a member of an opposing team.
Wagner said he felt disliked in the Phillies clubhouse and brought to light some things that had happened in private team meetings with the Phillies, including the fact that Burrell called him a "rat," which i mentioned in the previous slide.
The rivalry was now on.
Following Wagner's comments in May 2006, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel had his own two cents to chip in.
"Bring on Billy Boy," taunted the Phillies manager, encouraging fans to heckle Wagner as much as possible when the Mets came to town.
The 2006 season didn't do a ton to fully develop the rivalry, since the Mets finished with 97 wins, giving them 12 more than the Phillies. In order to have a true rivalry, the teams have to be more evenly matched than that.
Jimmy Rollins set the tone early on in 2007, making sure it would not be a repeat of the previous year. Before spring training had even begun, Rollins said, "I think we are the team to beat in the NL East--finally."
Although his ideas about the team's improvement were partially misguided, since he was counting on free agent signings Freddy Garcia and Adam Eaton to provide a boost, the Phillies did have one of the best young infields in the NL, led by reigning MVP Ryan Howard.
Unlike most trash-talkers, Rollins backed it up and in a big way. Not only did the Phillies win the division, in part due to the Mets' epic collapse, which was aided by the Phillies' 12-6 record against their NY rivals, but Rollins also won the NL MVP award.
He edged out Colorado's Matt Holliday thanks to establishing career highs in batting average (.293), home runs (30), RBI (94) and triples (20). Nobody has ever backed up trash talk so well.
Following their 2007 collapse, Mets center fielder Carlos Beltran figured his team needed a bit of fire for the upcoming season.
Beltran said, "This year, tell Jimmy Rollins WE'RE the team to beat."
Now that the teams were performing at equal levels on the field, and the players were doing their share of talking off it, the rivalry was reaching full force.
The winter after his prediction of being the team to beat, Jimmy Rollins went with a new prediction, that the Phillies would win 100 games in 2008.
Apparently Brett Myers was unimpressed by the copycat nature of Beltran's boast, saying "Sequels are terrible. You can't predict it twice. That's why Jimmy went with his sequel, of 100 wins. The plot has changed for us. I guess their favorite movie was us last year or something, I don't know."
Relief pitcher Tom Gordon begged to differ with Beltran, stating "You know what, we're the team to beat. That's what I think. I think we're good. This is a tough team. So don't say I'm coming back with talk because that's not what I'm doing. All I'm saying is, I believe that we're a good team that can win a championship."
As it turns out, Gordon was right.
At the World Series championship celebration, team leader Jimmy Rollins couldn't resist using the big stage to take another shot at the fallen Mets.
He talked about how the offseason hype had surrounded the Mets' acquisition of star pitcher Johan Santana, and how he really is a good pitcher.
But, Rollins said, the Mets forgot one thing, that "it takes more than one player to win a championship."
When asked to respond to Rollins' comments, Mets third baseman David Wright was clear in his response. He said him and his teammates aren't fans of the world champs.
"I don't like those guys," Wright said. "I know they don't like us. There are guys that I respect on that team. I respect them, but that doesn't necessarily mean that I'm going to be friends with them."
World Series MVP Cole Hamels showed that he's as fearless with trash talk as he is with an inside fastball. Not only did he label the Mets as choke artists, but he went on a New York radio station, WFAN, to do it.
"That's kind of what we believed and I think we're always going to believe that until they prove us wrong," Hamels said. "For the past two years they've been choke artists."
So what's next for this escalating rivalry? First are the new players. Already, such stars as Francisco Rodriguez, J.J. Putz, and Raul Ibanez have been acquired by these two combatants this offseason.
The current trash talking is going on mostly between fans of the teams, who say either that even K-Rod can't save that pathetic bullpen or that the Phillies were lucky to even make the playoffs in the first place.
Either way, 2009 is shaping up to be a great battle in the NL East.