How Far We’ve Come

Roy Halladay is a Phillie. One of the best pitchers in all of Major League Baseball is a Phillie. Not only that, he wanted to come specifically to Philadelphia. Halladay’s words, per David Murphy:

This is where I wanted to be. […] This is a dream come true. […] I’ve heard great things about the people and great things about the organization.

It wasn’t that long ago when Phillies fans were feeling pessimistic after missing out on the Braden Looper sweepstakes. When former GM Ed Wade stockpiled aging relief pitchers like canned goods and duct tape during nuclear winter. When ownership had to begrudgingly commit to a much larger payroll ($58M in 2002; $71M in ’03; $93M in ’04) to sign Jim Thome and trade for Kevin Millwood (and Eric Milton!). When Scott Rolen called St. Louis “heaven”, simply happy to be out of Philly. When Wade once called Curt Schilling a “horse’s ass“.

Philadelphia used to be where baseball went to die, like Washington presently. Now, Philly is baseball Mecca. National networks like ESPN and FOX air Phillies games nearly as frequently as Red Sox and Yankees games. Roy Halladay wants to pitch here. Cliff Lee seemed genuinely upset he would no longer be pitching here. Even John Smoltz, a raging homophobe who has trash-talked Philadelphia and Citizens Bank Park in the past, would not be opposed to donning red pinstripes.

It’s so good right now that some of us were legitimately upset that the Phils would not have two Cy Young winners in the starting rotation instead of one.

To echo the sentiments of Matchbox Twenty’s Rob Thomas, “how far we’ve come.”

Meanwhile, two hours north on Interstate-95, you have the bumbling, fumbling New York Mets. In 2007 and ’08, they gift-wrapped the NL East division crown for the Phillies with incredibly depressing late-September climaxes. Daniel Murphy led last year’s 72-90 team with 12 home runs. To put that in perspective, if he were on the Phillies, Murphy would have been tied in sixth place with Pedro Feliz in home runs. Ryan Howard himself out-homered the Mets’ top-four home run hitters combined.

Last year was so depressing that it spawned a Sporcle quiz, “Can you name the 2009 injured Mets players?” Pundits are using the Mets’ futility to complain about seating charts and prices. SNY’s Howard Megdal wants the Mets to simply do nothing, in response to the suggestions by others that the Mets consider trading Carlos Beltran and Johan Santana (that’s right, the Mets could trade a Cy Young winner without actually getting one in return!). With the Mets heavily pursuing Jason Bay, Dajafi of The Good Phight suggests that Bay should “call the other 29 teams first and unleash a barrage of ‘C’monnnnn… pleeeease?’ before saying yes to Omar [Minaya] through your tears.”

The Mets went from one game away from the World Series in 2006 to laughingstocks of baseball in just a few short, depressing years. They are as pathetic and unlovable, if not more, as the late-1990’s and early-2000’s Phillies teams. While the Phillies are at the top of the food chain, the Mets have quickly sunk near the bottom. The current iteration of the Phillies is led by a GM with an apparent Midas touch (see: Burrell, Pat; Ibanez, Raul); the Mets by a GM with little job security and a reputation for racial favoritism.

It’s a great time to be a Phillies fan right now. The starting rotation may not be Halladay-Lee-Hamels but at least it’s not Daal-Person-Chen as it was in 2001. It’s important to regain that perspective from time to time. That doesn’t mean we should always accept the status quo, but simply to see the forest for the trees.

Was I too hard on the Mets, do you think? Hey, at least they’re not the Flyers.