Mets face harsh reality with Phillies' win
Rivalry grows with World Series championship in Philadelphia
NEW YORK -- It was the morning after the night before, and echoes from downtown Philadelphia still were audible -- even in Kansas. Mike Pelfrey heard them Thursday, he considered the source and said, "OK, good for them." The Phillies are champions of Major League Baseball and, of course, champions of the National League East. For the second straight year, they were the obstacle that stood between the Mets and October. Their success hardly could be ignored by the Mets.
"It doesn't make you mad," Pelfrey said. "What it does is make you think, 'That could have been us.'"
"You see a team that you play 19 times go on and win a World Series, and that goal becomes more of an objective in your mind," David Wright said. "It feels like it becomes more attainable when it hits that close to home."
Disappointment that developed in the final days of last month hasn't dissipated for Pelfrey, Wright and their colleagues. "But that doesn't mean I hate the Phillies," Pelfrey said from his home in Wichita. Indeed, the Mets pitcher feels a certain allegiance to the National League, so, "I wasn't rooting for them every minute, but I wanted our league to win it."
Ambivalence is what the Mets experience now that the Phillies are the World Series champions. Few of them watched the Series, and few wanted to talk about it.
"Next question," Ryan Church said Friday morning. He hadn't seen a pitch. "I found out who won from the ticker across the bottom of the [television] screen."
Pelfrey caught bits and pieces. Brian Schneider didn't see that much.
Damion Easley was the exception. A self-proclaimed baseball fan, he made sure to see most of the protracted five-game series.
"It's always fun to watch a World Series champ," he said. But he noted, "knowing they're our major rivals hurts." He recalled his 2007 feelings. "I couldn't watch the first round after [the Phillies] knocked us out. After they were out of it, I could watch. ... But I always watch the World Series."
To Pelfrey, Easley and some of their teammates, whatever animosity exists between the Mets and Phillies is, for the most part, an emotion that moves in one direction. The Phillies dislike the team they have denied in successive Septembers. Their general manager, Pat Gillick, was quoted as having said as much during the 46-hour freeze that separated the top and bottom halves of the sixth inning of the Game 5. And from time to time, other members of the Phillies family have expressed a lack of appreciation for the Mets.
The suggestion is that the Phillies are fueled by their dislike for the Mets, and that other teams in the National League East have similar motivation.
"I don't know if that really matters," Pelfrey said. "You try to win every game anyway, no matter how you feel about the team you're playing.
|"I'm not happy we didn't make it. We had our chances. But I'm not ticked off at them for winning. What they did is what every team sets out to do. I wish we were there. I wish we had made it. I didn't watch [the World Series] much because they were in it. But I don't hate them, I just want to beat them."|
-- Mets catcher|
Perhaps the Phillies' success will serve as a high-octane additive to the Mets' motivation.
"If that doesn't light a fire under us, nothing will," Church said.
Schneider, like Church, was a Mets opponent until the 2008 season and acknowledged his former Nationals teammates did have a greater sense of purpose when they "played against the team from the big city or playing the team in first place." But he said, "Is that hatred? I don't know. It's not like I hate the Phillies because they won."
But praising them hasn't come easily to all the Mets. For every salute, such as the one Wright expressed Friday -- "They deserved it. They have a knack of playing their best baseball when they have to. That's why they got to the World Series" -- there are moments of consternation that prompted Mets to ignore the Series.
"I'm not happy we didn't make it," Schneider said. "We had our chances. But I'm not ticked off at them for winning. What they did is what every team sets out to do. I wish we were there. I wish we had made it. I didn't watch [the World Series] much because they were in it. But I don't hate them, I just want to beat them."
Comments by the Marlins and Phillies since the final weekend of the 2007 regular season have pointed to the Mets' on-field celebrations as factors in their dislike for the Mets.
"When you're the better team and you celebrate every little hit and home run, other teams don't like that," Easley said. And he acknowledged that, "I probably saw some more intensity" from opponents the Mets had offended.
On-field celebrating became an issue during the final week of the 2007 season when the Marlins thought the Mets were excessive. Some Mets had the same sense. They addressed it with Lastings Milledge, who had been a most conspicuous and animated celebrator.
Jose Reyes, often the leader of the Mets' choreographed responses to home runs, said in Spring Training said he would cease and desist with such antics. But, urged by some teammates, he abandoned the lower key in May.
"Jose has to be himself," Easley said, echoing the words Carlos Beltran and Carlos Delgado spoke after Reyes had reverted. "If that's what he needs to do to get more out of himself, then he should do it. When he did ... I think I saw more vigor in the way we played.
"But there's backlash to that. He has to understand there's a consequence to it."
One of the consequences was there to be seen, heard and lamented in the streets of Philadelphia Wednesday night.
"Their fans enjoyed it," Pelfrey said. "They should. We need to give our fans the same thing. Then everyone can hate us even more."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.