Friday, August 14, 2009


One of my best friends and fellow Mets fans emailed me the other day, saying he was hoping that former Met Pedro Martinez would pitch well in his Phillies debut, but that he still hated the Phillies and hoped they'd lose.
I wrote my buddy back, saying the opposite, that I hoped Pedro would not only win, but pitch a perfect game if he could.
As it was, Pedro the once-Met -- who could've easily been a Met again this year, if General Manager Omar Minaya reached out and signed him for a relative pittance -- labored through five innings while his team scored 12 runs for him and earned his first victory of the season. I hope it will be the first of many "Ws" for the incomparable right-hander who brought excitement to Shea Stadium every time he took the ball there, from 2005 through last season.
And I couldn't care less if he's racking up wins for the Mets' supposed arch rival.
After all, doesn't a rivalry involve two teams actively competing for top billing? Because right now the Mets so far out of the playoff picture behind the National League East Division-leading Phillies -- and so many other teams ahead of them in both the division and wild card race -- their biggest rivals are the Washington Nationals, who the Mets must stave off to avoid a last-place finish.
A rivalry also involves teams trading wins and losses. This year, the Phillies have beaten the Mets like a drum, winning seven of the last eight meetings. While the Mets won the season series against the Phillies last year, in the end it amounted to nothing with the Mets missing the playoffs and the Phillies winning a World Series. In the Mets' doomed 2007 season, they had seven opportunities to beat the Phillies from mid-August until late September and the Mets failed to win any one of those games.
Pedro knows all about an intra-division rival dominating his own team. Back in September 2004 as a Red Sox ace, he conceded, after a loss to the hated Yankees, "I just tip my hat to them and call the Yankees my daddy."
What else can the Mets do at this point, concerning the Phillies?
Before the 2007 season, Phillies' shortstop Jimmy Rollins called his squad "the team to beat," despite having finished well behind the Mets in the standings the previous year. While the Mets were busy squawking about Rollins's boast and choking away a seven-game lead with 17 games left, Rollins put his team on his back and carried them to a division title, later earning National League Most Valuable Player honors for his efforts.
Before the 2008 season, after ace starter Johan Santana was added to the Mets fold, Carlos Beltran warned the Phillies that the Mets would be the team to beat. Then in September of that year, the Phillies took two of three games from the Mets in a crucial showdown at Shea, en route to a World Series Championship, while the Mets' season crumbled on the season's final day.
Before this season?
Phillies' starter Cole Hamels called the Mets "choke artists" on a radio show.
How can anyone now argue that statement?
For Phillie-hating Mets fans, it only adds insult to injury to now to see Pedro pitching for the enemy. But for the combined dollars Minaya paid disappointing and injured pitchers Tim Redding, Fernando Nieve, Jonathon Niese, Nelson Figueroa and Livan Hernandez this year, he could just as easily have signed Pedro.
Not that Pedro may lift the Phillies back into the World Series. But at least with Pedro as a Met this year, if nothing else, fans could fondly look back to his brief Mets glory days in 2005 and 2006.
And with him as a Phillie now, it's another reminder of who's the parent and who's the child in the ongoing Mets-Phillies relationship.

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