DIBIASE: Mets/Phillies rivalry gains substance, steam

Justin Dibiase

Leviticus 9:18. Love thy neighbor as thyself.

If only it were that easy. If only we could abide by this simple law, we would never see Red Sox fans bicker with Yankees fans. Michigan Wolverines would never have anything bad to say about the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Cameron Crazies would cheer when North Carolina is introduced in Cameron Indoors.

This, of course, is not the case. Rivalries are the best part of sports, and there is no hotter rivalry in the nation than the Philadelphia Phillies and the New York Mets. This National League East rivalry has all the ingredients that can make it the best in recent memory. Let’s specifically look at what makes this rivalry unique.

Location

Despite being the birthplace of our great nation, Philadelphia has lived in New York’s shadow for many years. The two teams play about 100 miles apart, but fans from both teams can be seen and heard as games are played in both cities. Historically, Mets blue and Phillies red can be seen in Shea Stadium and Citizens Bank Park.

Winning

The Atlanta Braves held claim to the top spot in the NL East for 14 consecutive seasons, leaving the Mets and Phillies battling for a wild card spot most years (which came into being in 1995). Bad timing has certainly been a reason why this rivalry was never as large as it is now. When the Mets made their playoff pushes in 1999 and 2000, the Phillies were a combined 36 games under .500. When the Phillies went on their magical run into the World Series in 1993, the Mets lost 103 games. Both teams finally have found consistency at the same time, and things should stay this way for a long time.

Trash Talkin’

What’s a good rivalry without some old-fashioned trash talk? There has always been bad blood between the two teams in the new millennium, but Jimmy Rollins stirred the pot when he proclaimed the Phillies “the team to beat” prior to the ’07 season. After the Mets’ catastrophic collapse up seven games on the Phillies with 17 games to play, Rollins won the National League MVP.

More trash talking was heard during the ’07 season between Phillies’ leftfielder Pat Burrell and ex-Phillie Billy Wagner. In 2006, Wagner claimed Burrell called Wagner a “rat” for his clubhouse antics while the closer was still in Philadelphia. Mets centerfielder Carlos Beltran told reporters at the beginning of ’08 spring training that the Mets were now “the team to beat” after the acquisition of Johan Santana. Hall-of-Famer Mike Schmidt got into the action last week as he sent an e-mail to Phillies Manager Charlie Manuel, telling him to relay this message to his team: “The Mets know you’re better than they are.”

Fan Support

Enthusiasm for both teams is at an all-time high as the Mets and Phillies rank second and fourth, respectively, in the Major Leagues in attendance. The Phillies have set a new sell-out record with a month to play, and the Mets are the only National League team to average over 50,000 fans per game. The two major media markets also have sparked this rivalry and placed more pressure on both teams. For a hilarious study break, tune into either WFAN (New York) or WIP (Philadelphia) online after a Phillies-Mets game to see what the hosts and callers have to say about their teams’ performances. Both fan bases are starved for a championship, as the Phillies have won only once in 125 years of history, and the Mets haven’t won a championship in over 20 years.

Star Power

The Mets have won five Cy Young Awards between Pedro Martinez and Johan Santana. The Phillies have had the past two NL MVPs in Ryan Howard and Rollins. The Mets and Phillies also have a few exciting young players that are sure to be MVPs someday. These players include Jose Reyes and David Wright for the Mets and Chase Utley for the Phillies.

Exciting Games

When the Mets and Phillies get together, fans know they are in for a treat. These two teams have produced more memorable games together in the past three years than any other rivalry in baseball. Who could forget Reyes’ three-home run game in Philly a few years ago or the Phillies’ heroic comeback last year at Shea in late September? This season has produced several great baseball games, including duels between Jamie Moyer and Martinez and Cole Hamels and Santana.

Future of the Rivalry

With the Atlanta Braves and Washington Nationals looking lost in the cellar of the National League East, it is fair to say that the Phillies and Mets will be battling for the top spot in the East for at least a few more years. The season series between these two foes is finished, but this hot feud will not be cooling off anytime soon.

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Justin DiBiase is a senior civil engineering major from Franklinville, N.J. He can be reached at [email protected]