I've come to realize how much sports fans (Mets and Phillies fans in particular) are tokens. We are all tokens. If you're a huge fan like me, you read the blogs, the papers and surf the internet especially during the offseason for news and rumors that could make or break your team's upcoming season. The Winter Meetings only intensify the habit. I've been a Mets fan all my life. I rooted for Darryl Strawberry and had a huge poster of Doc Gooden and his high leg kick hanging from the wall as a kid. I learned the history of the Mets from the fact that they built Shea Stadium on a swamp (and that the day before it opened in 1964, there was a terrible sewage leak in the basement) to the fact that Ryan Church made the last official out in the stadium's history. I am a token Mets fan. I went to my first Mets game as a sixth grader, worked there as a vendor during my senior year in high school and dreamed of being a future draft pick of my beloved 'Amazins'. I sift through all those rumors, and hang on every word the journalists spew about what the Mets are, aren't, should and should not be doing. I repeat, I am a token. I admit it. I've come to grips with it.
That said, when it comes to the Mets/Phillies rivalry, I could care less. What's more, I could really care less about what the Phillies are doing. I appreciate their fortitude and combination of offensive and bullpen depth. I appreciate the hunger they brought to the table down the stretch the last two years. After over 100 years of ineptitude (much longer than the ineptitude of my beloved Mets mind you), I have no problem saying that the Phillies are the 2008 World Champions. Congratulations are in order. After overtaking the Mets during another September slide, they deserve it regardless of how it happened. Truthfully, I was rooting for the Tampa Bay Rays, not because I dislike the Phillies, but because I am a fan of B.J. Upton and the youthful exuberance his team displays.
Nevertheless for what it's worth, it's the media that builds this hype about a rivalry between the Mets and Phillies. Truth be told, these two franchises have only been relevent in playoff and division championship talk for the last two or three years. If my memory serves me correctly, the Atlanta Braves of the last decade and a half coupled with the surprising Florida Marlins every now and again dominated the division. Now, all because Carlos Beltran proclaims at the beginning of 2007 that his Mets are 'the team to beat', they are suddenly rivals with the Phillies? If you recall, the Mets were a base hit away from the World Series the October before. After the Mets' thrashing of the Dodgers in the NLDS and the see-saw battle against the 80-something win Cardinals in the LCS, what else was he supposed to say? The team had virtually the same pieces in place going into that season, so another season of dominance wasn't totally out of the question. Let's not forget that they steamrolled the National League competition that year. Let's be realistic though. When the Phillies were swept out of the playoffs to conclude the 2007 season, their team went without any major moves to speak of and Jimmy Rollins made the same claim as Beltran during Spring Training the following year. This was 2008 mind you; and he was right, but they eventually had to go through the Mets just as Beltran had stated the year before.The Mets were in fact the team to beat in the NL East. The Phillies had to go through the Mets in both 2007 and 2008 to win the NL East. Regardless of how it happened collapse and all, this is a fact. Perhaps the Mets didn't dominate the way they did in 2006, but the fact is, they held onto first place in the division for quite some time until September doomed them.
So what does this all have to do with being a token fan? Let me explain....The media loves to conjure up the fact that the Marlins were energized to beat the Mets on the last two weekends of the season in 2007 and 2008 because they were annoyed with all the dancing and choreographed elaborate celebrations. And the Marlins, Phillies and Mets fans feed into it. Phillies fans detest the Mets...and their fans because of the media's force-fed perception of cockiness. If anything, New York is a major market, so both New York clubs despite the fact the media also plays these two franchises against each other as well (there is hardly a comparison) is well equipped to make splashes in the free agent market, like it or not. It no fault of the Mets organization or their fans that the Phillies aren't capable of spending the way the Yankees and Mets do. Yes, one could argue that the Phillies won this last World Series on the basis of developing their own players; the Mets and Yankees for better or worse use their farm for the purpose of importing high ranking free agents. Lets face it, that's how it always has been. Will it continue, the state of the economy forces us to think otherwise, but really, can you be mad at the Yankees for doling out exorbitant contracts to C.C. Sabathia, Derek Lowe and A.J. Burnett? If they have the resources and the gall, nope. Fans of their rivals can only envy. But don't hate them because of it. And certainly don't allow the media to build up hate for a franchise that can do more than yours. Heck, why don't the Royals hate the Yankees? Or the Pirates hate the Mets? Because they know their limitations. So what Jose B. Reyes dances? Phillies, Marlins and Nationals fans had better get ready to take a leap off the upper deck after K-Rod converts a save. He's definitely more demonstrative than Reyes.
So give me a break NL East fans, cut the rivalry nonsense. Can the Phillies and Mets compete with one another?Of course they can; the last two years has proven that. But don't become a token and allow the media to add hype to Carlos Beltran and Jimmy Rollins' statements made in jest a few offseasons ago to cloud up the intensity that the major league baseball season will produce in this division for years to come.