Watching the Mets beat the Phillies tonight felt good. Watching them knock around Cole Hamels was sweet. And watching the Phillies fans boo their team? The best of all. Even as a strong believer in the “it’s a long season” mantra, I couldn’t help but feel it was somewhat of a “statement” win.
It made me realize how much I yearn for more positive Mets moments against the Phillies.
I remember it all too clearly. It was late August 2007, and my dad and I had taken a trip to Philadelphia to see the second and third games of a four-game series between the Mets and Phillies. The Mets had already lost game one, and we watched them lose game two on Friday. The next day, we were subjected to the torture of witnessing the infamous ‘Marlon Anderson Interference Play,’ when Anderson was called out for interference to end the game after he slid hard into second base to break up a double play with runners on the corners and the Mets trailing 3-2.
An image is permanently lodged in my brain: Sitting in the upper deck of Citizens Bank Park, head in hands, trying not to look as Anderson and Willie Randolph protested furiously while the Phillies celebrated, and attempting to drown out the voices of three drunk 20-something-year-old Phillies fans screaming in my face, laughing and telling me to go home. That is the moment that keeps coming to my mind when I think of the Philadelphia Phillies.
(The Phillies swept the series, and although the Mets actually won nine of their next 10…well, you know the rest.)
Of course, I wouldn’t bring myself back to this painful moment for no reason. The point is, Mets-Phillies is supposedly one of baseball’s best rivalries. Certainly, the hatred is there. However, my memories of the rivalry–one which really only dates back a few years–are predominantly agonizing ones. Yes, the Mets won the division in 2006, but the rivalry only truly took off in January 2007 when Jimmy Rollins called the Phils “the team to beat in the NL East.” Since then, it’s been four years of Mets failures.
I don’t want Mets-Phillies to turn into Mets-Braves. Sure, it was a great rivalry, and there were scattered Mets triumphs (i.e. Ventura’s “Grand-Slam Single” in ’99, Piazza’s homer to cap a 10-run eighth in 2000, Piazza’s post-9/11 blast in ’01) and it was plenty heated–especially after John Rocker’s quips about New Yorkers in ’99. But the Braves won the division from 1991-2005, and in the 1999 NLCS they won the only playoff series between the two teams that wasn’t in 1969.
The Mets’ other current rivalry is, of course, with the Yankees, and here too they have consistently come up short. It’s hard not to when the Yankees are your competition.
I’m not saying I wish I were a Yankee fan or a Braves fan, and lord knows I don’t want to be a Phillies fan. I take pride in rooting for an underdog, and in staying loyal to a team that has failed time and time again. Nonetheless, I’m waiting for the Mets’ time to come. I’m waiting for their rivalry tides to turn. Because what fun is a rivalry if your team always loses when it really counts?
The Mets may not be ready to take the upper hand over the Phillies in 2011, but hopefully they can do it sooner rather than later. Tonight’s win gave me about as much hope as Game 4 of the regular season can.