Every time the Mets and Phillies get together, there is a race to define the expectations and import of the series that would make the post-Iowa Caucus spin room look like a sane place. The Mets need to make a statement. The opening weekend home attendance depends on a single series. The win is a symbol of success for Sandy Alderson.
The effort is also made to downplay such victories. The cliche “just another game” is thrown around quite a bit.
The answer is found somewhere in the middle, and it is important not to lose sight of that fact. It is okay for the fans to care more about these games- they should.
Look, if the Mets are going to challenge the Phillies, who look to be the best team in the National League East, these games count twice as much as any other game. Each win is a Met win and a Philly loss (or vice versa). When the Mets beat the Cubs, it has no effect on Philadelphia’s record. That is true in April; that is true in September.
Going back to 2007, the Mets failed to beat Philadelphia once after June 30. Had they done so, just once, 2007 becomes the year they almost lost the division.
It is also a win against one of the better teams on New York’s schedule- presumably, the harder victories to get. There is some minimum number of wins the Mets will need to make the playoffs, so getting one against one of the good teams makes reaching that goal incrementally easier than doing so against a weak team. The same is true of road wins, generally harder to come by than home wins. So the win is not just a win; not in statistical context.
I know anything can happen in baseball. But when Oakland comes to Citi Field in June, a win will not help the Mets at the expense of a division rival- not without seriously misguided in-season realignment.
Now, is there another component to victories over Philadelphia? Let me put it this way: I’m not prepared to say definitively that a win against Philadelphia fails to provide any confidence boost to the Mets, though I am skeptical of the idea that we know it will. It is hard to imagine a victory hurts the team’s confidence going forward. And the Mets do have another 17 games left against the Phillies, so even if the win boosts the confidence of a tiny portion of the roster, that could provide a boost as well.
Point is, no one needs to rely on that as a rationale for caring more about these games. It is an outsized win against the likely competition for a division title. That’s why it isn’t just another game.