NEW YORK -- The on-field behavior of the Mets, particularly that of Jose Reyes, again has been called into question by an opposing player, this time by World Series MVP Cole Hamels.
In response to questions asked during an interview on radio station WFAN on Thursday morning, Hamels insinuated that Reyes "pimps" after he hits home runs and said flatly the Phillies consider the Mets "chokers."
Hamels' comments came less than two months after then-Philadelphia general manager Pat Gillick suggested that league-wide hatred for the Mets had helped the Phillies win the National League East championship. And they were consistent with the sense many veteran players have expressed.
The Phillies pitcher was asked about an instance in Game 2 of the Phillies' NL Division Series against the Brewers when teammate Shane Victorino hit a grand slam against CC Sabathia and gestured as he rounded the bases. The Phillies, Hamels acknowledged, later chastised Victorino for what they considered an indiscretion. They hung a photo of Reyes -- it might have been a piece of paper -- on his locker with the inscription "J. Reyes?"
Hamels explained, saying, "I'm hoping I don't hurt too many people right here with this. ... When Jose Reyes hits home runs, he points his finger up like he won the game. And he might have hit in only in the first inning or the third inning. Well, when Shane did it, he did the same exact thing. So we were [saying], 'Hey, Shane, this doesn't win the game. We still have a lot of game to play. Ya know, why are you trying to be like Jose Reyes?'
"And so that was kind of where it came from. ... Even though you hit the big home run, you don't need to pimp it. You just need to run around the bases and just kind of get the game started."
Hamels then was asked whether he considered the Mets "choke artists."
"Last year and this year, I think we did believe that," said Hamels. "Three years ago, we didn't, because they smoked everybody. I really thought that was the year they were going to the World Series. Unfortunately, it didn't happen.
"That's kind of what we believe. ... I think we're always going to believe it 'til they prove us wrong."
Asked again, he said, "Yeah, for the past two years, they've been choke artists."
Opponents have been routinely irritated by the Mets' on-field celebrating that has been a constant for four seasons. The Mets' unpopularity transcends their being a big-city team and a mostly successful -- but not ultimately successful -- team. Opposing managers have called it "classless" and "childish" and "unprofessional."
One veteran player last summer spoke of the effect of their behavior on their final-day elimination for the 2007 division race.
"How stupid do you have to be? They tick off every team they play," the player said. "Teams get up to play them, beat them and then they lose by one game. And they can't figure that out?
"They've got guys like [David] Wright, Billy [Wagner] and [Johan] Santana who want to kick your butt. And they've got a bunch of high schoolers who want to act like they've won something in June. They celebrate ground balls up the middle. ... Hey, it's their season they're throwing away."
Gillick's comments covered similar territory.
"If you want to know the best thing we had going for us this year," Gillick said in October, "it was the fact that all the other teams in our division hated the Mets' guts. It started with Atlanta and all the hostility they had with the Mets through the years. Then Fredi Gonzalez left Bobby Cox to manage the Marlins and he didn't forget everything that went on between the Braves and Mets. Look what Florida did to us the past two years.
"Washington doesn't like them very much either, and all those teams seemed to really get up for the Mets."
Former manager Willie Randolph wasn't comfortable with his team's behavior. But he stood by his players who wanted Reyes to "be himself."
Current skipper Jerry Manuel discussed the issue in Las Vegas this week at the Winter Meetings before Hamel's comments.
"I really don't mind that," said Manuel. "If you can back it up, that's fine with me. And you have to do that in a way that is somewhat respectful to the game. You know, if you're doing it, let's term it 'show boating,' OK?
"If you're doing it when you're down 15-1, that's not the right time. If you're doing it up 15-1, that's really not the right time. But if there is a critical part in the game, in the flow of the game, in the rhythm of the game, and something happens good, express yourself. ... I have no problem with that. My expression might be different than yours. You know what I'm saying? And that's OK. But if it's in the right time, I'm cool with that. I don't have no problem with that."
But opponents view the Mets' behavior as poorly timed as well as "over-the-top." Manuel didn't disagree.
"I think there were times when we were out of rhythm with what was going on," said Manuel. "But regardless of what the opposition thinks, that doesn't affect me at all. It's good you don't like me if you're the other team, the Marlins, the Phillies, the Braves. That's OK; this is competition.
"And if that motivates you more than what you are when you're on the field to begin with, that's your bag. You know what I'm saying? I don't have a problem with that."
Marty Noble is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.