Monday, March 9, 2009

Phillies-Mets: Rivalry Report

By John Gehan

The smell of spring is in the air and most sports fans are starting to think baseball. In the city of brotherly love, the Philadelphia Phillies and their fans are just starting to wake up from that World Series hangover. About 110 miles northeast of Philadelphia, the New York Mets are trying prepare for the season that lies ahead.

What has been said to be the second best rivalry in baseball, the Mets- Phillies rivalry, past and present, has created some bad blood between these neighboring cities of the east. The teams have played 797 games thus far.

The first meeting between these two bitter rivals was in 1962; it was the Mets inaugural season, a season where they lost 120 games (the most of any team in the 20th century). The Phillies finished a respectable 81-80 that year, which was a huge improvement on the year before, when they lost 107 games.

Although bad blood existed, the years that followed did not lend themselves to a rivalry. With both teams having successes at different times, it was hard for tenure of competition to arise.

- In 1969 the Mets won the World Series while the Phillies found themselves in fifth place in the NL East.

- In 1973 the Mets won the National League pennant while the Phillies finished last in the NL East.

- 1976-1978 the Phillies made three strait playoff appearances and one trip to the NLCS while the Mets hovered with mediocrity.

- In 1980 the Phillies won their first World Series while the Mets finished last in the NL East.

- In 1986 the Mets won their second World Series while the Phillies finished second in the NL East. This season was a precursor for things to come.

- In 1993 the Phillies won the pennant and the Mets had the worst record in the league.

Finally in 2006, both teams started to compete. The Mets led the NL East for almost the entire season. The Phillies looked poised to make a run at a wild card bid when their hopes were smashed on the 161st game of the season. The young potential of the Phillies shined through Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Jimmy Rollins. Something special was brewing in South Philadelphia.

In 2007, the Phillies made a legitimate run at the Playoffs late in the season. With 17 games to play, the Mets led the Phillies by seven games in the NL East, despite the fact that the Phillies swept three series with the Mets that year. The Phillies caught fire and shocked the baseball world, winning the NL East in the last week of the season.

In 2008, the Mets led the NL East going into the last month of the season. With teams flip flopping control of the top spot; it would take the final few games for the Phillies to secure the division. Meanwhile the Mets lost their season finale to miss the playoffs for a second strait year.

The Phillies went on to win the 2008 World Series, their first championship since 1980 and the city’s first championship since 1983.

Two consecutive collapses by the Mets have made this rivalry that much more bitter.

Look Ahead: 2009 Rivalry Preview

This upcoming season has the 2008 Champion, Philadelphia Phillies, coming back strong as ever. Replacing the long-time Phillie, Pat Burrell with left fielder Ramon Ibanez. The addition of Chan Ho Park, who could possibly take the fifth rotation spot from Kyle Kendrick, is a great improvement. Other than a few minor tweaks, the Phillies will keep the nucleus in tact.

For the Mets, they keep their star power and address their real woe, the bullpen. The Mets signed Francisco Rodriguez and JJ Putz to bolster their bullpen a little. The starting rotation looks really solid, headed by All-Star Johan Santana. This is a team that is much improved and has the ability to score runs in a hurry. I look for this rivalry to continue for many years to come.

While the verbal battle from years past continues into the 2009-2010 campaign, there is only one way to solve it. Lets play ball!

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