This was likely the wrong way to go about it, as the average fan struggles to see past the colors of its own team. That’s completely understandable. You pay good money to support your team – in this case, the Philadelphia Phillies – so you do not want to give props where props are due.
And you’re probably looking at that title and wondering why I’d write nice things about another team, within the division, no less. Well because we are fair and we wont be blinded by our fandom here at Phillies Nation (sometimes we will).
On Monday night via Facebook, I put up a seemingly innocuous post that read:
From the comments on that thread, you would have thought the Washington Nationals were the New Evil Empire. The reaction to that two-sentence paragraph led me to write this – and stick up for the Nationals.
(Note: this goes out to the Phillies fans who claimed they could not congratulate the Nationals for a number of reasons.)
As fans, we often forget where we came from. In this instance, the Phillies were a floundering team playing in a hole at Veterans Stadium, turning in bottom-feeding season after bottom-feeding season. Hell, if it weren’t for a little bit of taxpayer money, and due to the fact that Philadelphia were one of the largest markets in the U.S., MLB probably would have thought long and hard about contracting the Phillies. I say that with a dash of sarcasm, but you get my point. Things were bad.
Not unlike in Montreal, where for decades, winning wasn’t an option. No one showed up to games at the old Olympic Stadium and we were forced to live in a world where Youppi! was no longer a major league mascot.
Let’s debunk some of these myths as to why WE should dislike the Nationals.
You: “I wish the Nationals nothing but failure because of the way they handled Stephen Strasburg.”
Me: Childish, but perhaps you feel as though the Nats made a mistake in sitting down their best pitcher for the postseason. I, too, believe it to be an massive error in philosophy within the organization. But you know what, it’s a move we aren’t used to.
So you almost have to applaud Nats GM Mike Rizzo in his approach, as he attempts to save the arm of a guy he hopes will be around a decade or more. By attempting to reduce the stress on his pitching arm, Rizzo would like Strasburg to be the anchor of many division titles and many trips to the World Series. Can’t fault him for that.
For those who liken this situation to that of Cole Hamels, the two don’t quite match. First off, Hamels wasn’t sidelined a year after having his elbow rebuilt. And Hamels was eased into the big-innings year of 2008 by pitching 132 in 2006 and 183 in 2007.
Strasburg basically made the jump right to the major leagues out of San Diego State University, where he had limited innings in a shorter baseball season. And Mike Rizzo doesn’t want to see Strasburg become Mark Prior or Kerry Wood, flaming out early in his career.
You: “Forget the Nats. They don’t have real fans.”
Me: Kind of hard when your stadium sits 40 miles from another baseball town, Baltimore. And it hurts when you’ve only been in town since 2005. Building a proper fan base in a city that hasn’t had a team since 1971 is a patient task.
When you saw a less-than-full crowd in D.C. last night, celebrating the Nationals clinching the division due to a Braves loss, you probably wondered why. Well, it takes winning for people to notice. The Yankees don’t have fans all over the country because they have three championships in their history. It’s because they’re perennially on the largest stage, so people want to connect with that. That hasn’t happened yet in D.C., but it could be heading that way with the young talent they’ve assembled.
You: “I hate Jayson Werth and Bryce Harper, I can’t root for them.”
Me: You’re obviously entitled to your opinions about players. Jayson Werth has certainly done his best through the media to rub the Philly fans the wrong way recently. He’s also entitled to his opinion about a city he called home for four seasons.
And if you’re still upset about him taking $126 million when the Phillies offered half, you can save that argument. No one wants to hear it. So you dislike him for what, exactly? Because he makes a lot of money? He went to the enemy? Well let’s say you worked at Wegman’s as a manager and Whole Foods liked you so much they wanted to build a new store around you and triple your salary. You’d run right through the front doors of Wegman’s and never look back.
Bryce Harper wears eye black all over his face. He’s also the center of his team on a nightly basis as people want to see what the 19-year-old will do next. He also wears eye black on his face BECAUSE HE’S 19. He’s still a child, so he might not be as grown up as you’d like him to be. But, really, other than not wanting to watch him crush the Phillies on a nightly basis, I can’t think of any reason why you’d hate the kid. He’s an incredible talent and it took years of futility for the Nationals to get him in the draft.
You: “Man, that Davey Johnson really makes me mad. He’s no Charlie Manuel.”
Me: OK, I made that up.
But seriously, the Nationals have won the division in 2012 fairly and squarely. Their young talent stepped forward and as a whole the franchise took a huge leap forward. For that, you have to tip your cap.
However, something tells me the Phillies will be right in the thick of things once again next season.