Here is a list of questions I’d rather answer than the one I’m going to tackle:
- Who do you love more – your mom or your dad?
- How would you prefer to die – by strangulation or gunshot wound?
- Which of Lady GaGa’s ‘organs’ most attracts you?
An excruciating 2009 Major League Baseball season just got a whole lot tougher for us to deal with. The Hades Series featuring the Mets’ most loathsome rivals – the Yankees and Phillies; or if you prefer, the Stankies and Sillies, the Yank-Me’s and Philthies — is an affair that’ll extract equal parts vomit and ire from yours truly and presumably, most of the fanbase.
“Who to root for?” has been something of a moral dilemma for fellow Mets fans. For others, the answer is unequivocal. I’m rooting for the Phillies and I’d like to tell you why, in personal and unadulterated fashion.
Rewind the tape to 1996. The thirteen year old version of me sat in eighth grade home room the morning of World Series Game 1. I was born a Mets fan, allegedly watching games on my father’s lap at age two, reciting the roster on command for friends and family at age four and watching every game of the baseball season from age six and on. I loved baseball and especially loved the Mets. Throughout my childhood, however, none of my classmates shared either of those loves. I could not so much as mention the sport without being reminded that it was boring and not as entertaining as basketball or football.
With shock and awe, I watched four of my classmates walk in with Yankees caps on. When the visual set in, I became livid. I yelled at them in my pubescent teen girly voice. I told them they didn’t know a thing about baseball. I told them the Yankees were going to lose and that I would laugh in their faces when they did. I rooted against the Yankees for the first time. And I loved it.
This Phillies hate is just too new. Victorino, Rollins, Brett Myers: all contemptible, but it’s just not deep-seeded enough. This rivalry really began in 2007. Personally, the last three years doesn’t outweigh the last thirteen, even if there are extra hate points for recent scarring.
I’m not one to get bent out of shape about the Yankees payroll. As I covered last week with the Mets, a large payroll doesn’t guarantee anything. The real reasons why the Yankees have been more or less indomitable for the last decade-plus are that they have three freakish cornerstone players in Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada and Mariano Rivera. Two of the three have been elite at the toughest positions on the diamond and the other is the best relief pitcher of all time. They’ve been great for so long and would be irreplaceable in the free agent market.
With that said, it’s a little tough to stomach the likes of Jon Heyman calling Brian Cashman the Executive of the Year. He signed the top two free agent pitchers and the best position player on the market to deals that exceeded the rate at which free agents were signing last off-season. Spending at or above-market rate in a buyer’s market is neither novel nor shrewd. Cashman did the job he had to do and just call it that. Remember, this is the same guy who traded good prospects for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte.
Hate Thy Neighbor
Philadelphia fans are generally difficult to deal with, boorish louts that behave badly and violently. For the purpose of this exercise, the most critical word in that last sentence is “Philadelphia”, as in that’s where they’re located. They’re not in New York and you rarely have to deal with them – except for those of you in South Jersey.
Yankees fans are entitled and arrogant, pompous and insufferable, trollish and annoying. It’d be somewhat – I stress, somewhat — gratifying to see the Yanks lose at the hands of a team that’s nettled the Mets for the last three seasons. Part of this is Schadenfreude. I want Yankees fans to hurt like we’ve hurt. Mainly, I’d just like them to shut up.
Maybe the Mets Could Learn Something*
Consider this: according to FanGraphs, the Mets’ core (Beltran, Reyes and Wright) was worth +18 and +20 wins above replacement (WAR) in the “collapse years” of 2007 and 2008 respectively; the Phillies’ core (Howard, Rollins and Utley) posted +19 and +16.7 in that same span. The two groups performed similarly; however, the Phillies fortified their stars with legitimate talent. The Phillies non-core players (not including pitchers) tallied +20 and +16.6 WAR in the “collapse years”, where the Mets non-complimentary talent was worth +11.4 and +10.8. That chasm more than bridged the nearly six win pitching edge (as per StatCorner) the Mets held in 2007 and cushioned the Phillies slight pitching advantage in 2008.
Maybe, just maybe, the Phillies rubbing a second consecutive World Series in the Mets’ faces will force the organization to reconsider their baseball operations. I realize that this sounds delusional, but it’s the only direct benefit either of these teams winning could have on the Mets. A Yankees win would just be chalked up to a large payroll, but the similarities between the Phillies and Mets are real – same division, similar core, similar payroll. This team must realize the opportunities they’ve squandered over the last few years.
[*I must be fair and acknowledge that there’s a real possibility of the Mets learning the wrong thing from a Phillies win. That is, they’ll look to acquire “grit” instead of talent.]
One Last Thing
I’m getting slightly annoyed with the way people are addressing this Yankees or Phillies conundrum. Who to root for is a matter of heart, so there’s no right or wrong answer. This doesn’t call for a movement or rally and nobody is “crazy” for thinking one way or another. Simply put, it’s the worst possible outcome of a long, troublesome season.