So Bob Brookover’s column in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer is a strange one- he claims that the Phillies and Mets aren’t rivals. His reasoning appears to boil down to a few key points:
- The Phillies are much better than the Mets
- The Phillies are heading up, the Mets down
- There’s very little shared history
Regarding his major arguments: the Phillies certainly have been much better than the Mets over the past two seasons. The Mets and Phillies were neck-and-neck in the two seasons before that, and the Mets were far better in 2006. Hardly a one-sided battle there. As for direction of the team, pulling back even a little gives a different trend line, at least from my perspective. The Mets, under Sandy Alderson, appear to be well-run for the first time in years, if not decades. And the Phillies, with ill-advised contracts, a bunch of 30-something players, and no apparent room to add additional salary, seem both vulnerable and at the end of their success cycle.
This is no criticism- they’ve won four consecutive NL East titles, two pennants and a World Series. That’s a success run on par with virtually any National League team, ever. But is the logical place for them to go from here… up?
Ultimately, what makes a rivalry, in my opinion, is shared battles, frequently playing, and geographic proximity to maximize the intensity. Brookover’s column was right on, back in 2006. But much has changed, obviously, since then. The unbalanced schedules mean those battles will continue to rage almost as frequently as the Dodgers and Giants playing 22 times a year when both resided in New York. And the two cities could scarcely be closer, with New Jersey serving as a rivalry zone between them.
The fierce rivalries between the Mets and Cardinals, or Mets and Cubs, receded when divisional play separated the teams. My suspicion is that once Chipper Jones retires, the Braves will become another division rival- Bobby Cox disappearing has already reduced the intensity several notches. But the Phillies? Something long dormant, due to the relatively large number of down years from each franchise, has finally awakened. Like a Red Sox-Yankees tilt when one team is down, it will still carry that charge long after Ryan Howard and David Wright retire.
Speaking of rivalries, notice that while the LoHud Yankees Blog has 1,808 likes on Facebook, the just-created LoHud Mets Blog fan page has, as of this writing… two. Similarly, many of you have started following this page on Twitter @lohudmets, but we lag behind the LoHud Yankee Twitter feed as well. So I would urge you to strike back against the smug Yankee fans you work with, follow us on Twitter, and assert that you Like our new fan page. I can’t promise you October baseball, but I will be certain to provide, in September, Meaningful Posts.