With the Mets heading to Philly last weekend, I could not help but miss the once-great rivalry the two teams had. Gone are the days of the smack talk between Jimmy Rollins and Carlos Beltran, gone are the days of crucial series in September and certainly gone are the days of Pat Burrell unleashing terror upon the Mets every season.
It makes sense really; the Mets and Phillies were at each other’s throats in 2007, when the Phillies took first place by one game and in 2008, the Phillies once again took the best of the Amazin’s.
Since then, the Phillies have become World Champions and been a playoff contender for five years while the Mets have gone into a tailspin, a regime change and complete rebuilding mode. Without that competitive fire, how can a rivalry maintain its gusto?
But back to this weekend’s series. I asked myself — do the Mets actually have a rival at this point?
The once-hated Braves lost the hoist of biggest rival once the Phillies usurped them as the dominant force of the division. Since their fall from grace, Braves series are not the adrenaline (and beer) filled rage-fests that once shook the halls of Shea Stadium. Sure, Chipper Jones is still around, but his soon-to-be hall of fame career is ending this season, so the venom Mets fans once had now calmed to something of a somber acknowledgement.
The Nationals and Marlins have done their fair share of damage to the Mets over the years, but nothing close to a rivalry-like status. The closest thing the Nationals and Mets had to an ongoing rivalry was when Pedro Martinez plunked Jose Guillen in 2006, causing the Nats outfielder to charge the mound with his bat and benches to empty.
Perhaps with Jose Reyes now donning his funky new uniform in Miami, the Mets could kindle some sort of satisfaction from winning games against him down the line. But for now, it doesn’t seem too heated — especially with the revelation that the Mets will be honoring him with a video tribute when the Marlins head to town.
The basic conclusion is that the Mets have not played meaningful games in the past few years, and because of this, they do not have a current heated rivalry. Without high stakes games putting emotions on edge and excitement to build, there are fewer opportunities to bring about the buzz that surrounds rivalries.
Perhaps as the Mets grow and go through their transformation into a younger and more sustainable club, the rivalries that once made stadiums shake and fans roar will come back. Hopefully players like Matt Harvey and Zach Wheeler will thrust themselves into the thick of things and force teams to take the Mets more seriously.
With the development of players like Lucas Duda, Jon Niese and Ruben Tejada — among others — the Mets are gearing themselves up for better years in the future, which will lead to more wins and ultimately to bigger and better rivaliries that will excite a fan base that is in desperate need of some fire.
Maybe then I can feel that same burning desire to watch Philadelphia’s team be devoured by smack talk and passion. Maybe the next few years will ignite the rabid fan inside of me and I can stop writing columns that ask “what if?” and “next year.” We can only hope, the fan in me is waiting to be unleashed.