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Greg Prince and Jason Fry
Faith and Fear in Flushing made its debut on Feb. 16, 2005, the brainchild of two longtime friends and lifelong Met fans.

Greg Prince discovered the Mets when he was 6, during the magical summer of 1969. He is a Long Island-based writer, editor and communications consultant. Contact him here.

Jason Fry is a Brooklyn writer whose first memories include his mom leaping up and down cheering for Rusty Staub. Check out his other writing here.

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Us and Them

The 2014 Mets have their problems, goodness knows — tepid hitting, shaky defense, ever-shrinking payrolls, changing stories and omnipresent drama.

But at least they aren’t the 2014 Phillies.

My word. The snarky term in vogue for what the Phillies are is “tire fire,” and it’s a good one — tire fires are gag-inducing, visible for miles and hard to extinguish and clean up. But that doesn’t really do the current incarnation of the Phils justice, and I’m not sure what would.

The Phillies are the backed-up commode on a transcontinental bus with no air conditioning.

How’s that? Hmm. No, the damage is too limited.

The Phillies are a full sewage pumper truck overturning on the hill above the town reservoir.

That’s better. But it still doesn’t really capture the scope of the problem.

The Phillies are $178 million in contracts — more than twice the payroll of the Mets — for a 70-win team. Where’d that money go?

Ryan Howard is 34, helpless against lefties and will get $25 million each of the next two seasons, with a $10 million buyout after that.

Cliff Lee (age 35) is due $25 million next year, with a $27.5 million 2016 Omarpalooza option and the right to reject a trade to 70% of MLB teams.

Ill-advised shit-talker Cole Hamels is 30 and owed $22.5 million a year through 2018.

Chase Utley, a 35-year-old betrayed by 70-year-old knees, is owed $10 million next year, with some kind of option that made me too dizzy to process.

Jonathan Papelbon is 33, about as reliable as a meth-addled babysitter, and owed $13 million next year.

Yipes! Let’s give it one more try.

The Phillies are baseball Chernobyl, a man-made disaster that will render their surroundings uninhabitable for years to come.

Yep. There it is.

We should keep this in mind for a few reasons.

First off, of course, because it’s fun — the Phils’ brief renaissance was singularly unpleasant to live through, particularly since it coincided with the Mets becoming the Kansas City Royals East.

Second, because it’s a useful reminder that there are worse things than watching raw kids and reclamation projects fail and be discarded in favor of other raw kids and reclamation projects. Sandy Alderson repeating Jeff Wilpon’s tale du jour isn’t fun to witness, but I’ll take it over Ruben Amaro Jr. trying to create a time machine at the center of a vortex of money, or whatever his plan is.

Third, because beating the Phillies four out of five might otherwise make us think that the Mets are good, when the actual answer is just that they’re better than the Phillies.

Don’t get me wrong — tonight was fun, particularly because it didn’t take an absurd number of innings. There was Matt den Dekker stepping in for the injured Juan Lagares and proving himself a very capable understudy. The Phillies seem also to have signed the wrong scouts: The moment den Dekker scooped up Ben Revere‘s single in the third, I was screaming that he was going to throw Reid Brignac out, which den Dekker did by approximately a ZIP code. There was Bartolo Colon ambling through the enemy lineup with his usual Hakuna Matata shrug and even hitting a couple of respectable-looking foul balls. There was Bobby Abreu continuing to show me that I was wrong about him and his bat is young even if the rest of him is not. There was Daniel Murphy with one great goofball moment, overrunning home plate and then nearly corkscrewing himself into the dirt turning back to unmiss it. There was Phils skipper Ryne Sandberg, inexplicably positioning his fielders in to transform double-play grounders into Met hits. And finally, there was Wilmer Flores simply unloading for an unMetsian grand slam, parking the ball in a spot that would have been out in a normal-sized park too.

It was all fun, of the stress-free variety for a change. But I’m not going to take it too seriously. For that, I need the Mets to keep playing well against lousy competition and hold their own against mediocre foes, to say nothing of taking on the big boys of the NL. I need to watch a lineup that scares somebody other than me. I need a whole lot that this team shows no signs of delivering quite yet.

The Mets aren’t there yet. They may never get there in this incarnation. But I am certain of one thing: By the time we figure out what this Mets team might realistically become, the Phillies will still be what we saw tonight, only even older and more bloated with disappointment. I’d much rather be us than them, and around here that’s progress.

16 comments to Us and Them

  • Lenny65

    The Mets are a young team with some definite holes that need serious upgrading. The Phillies are a creaky mess built to “win now”…four years ago. I’d rather be us than them. They had their little time in the sun but that’s a memory now, that team is a total teardown. And the way they let the NL down in ’09 was a disgrace, too, I’ll always carry an extra grudge against them for that.

    • nestornajwa

      That’s a comforting thought, but the Phillies problems, while deep and systemwide, will last only as long as those bad contracts. Sure, that figures to be at least three or four years, but the Mets’ problems are permanent. In a game with no salary cap, money changes everything. And if that’s your strategy, you have to be willing to eat your mistakes and keep spending, albeit more wisely than the Phillies have done this decade. But they did secure one title, one pennant and a slew of division titles with Amaropalooza. That’s a successful spree, even if it leaves you hamstrung for a while. Yes, they did foolishly lock down a lot of those has-beens post-title. The Mets were NEVER willing to eat their mistakes, stubbornly insisting Bonilla or Bay or Baerga or Alomar would come around. And even in the best of times money-wise, the Mets were never good at offseason multitasking. They always took the “one-and-done” approach: K-Rod, Bay, Johan, etc. By the time the Mets’ current farmhands are ready to take over, we’ll be in the market for a third baseman, as well as anyone who can bat 3 or 4, and Harvey will hit the open market.

  • Scott M.

    So after 2 strong starts and room needing to be made for young pitching, what are the chances Bartolo would be shopped for a bat?

  • Chuck

    OT, but why was Steve Phillips in the radio booth last night? Has he subbed before and I just missed it? I didn’t need to be reminded that he’s an awful a broadcaster as he was a GM.

    • SJGMoney

      He’s filled in afew times this year for Howie Rose and did it again the last couple of days. I think Philips actually adds some value when prompted by Josh to talk about making deals, revamping coaching staffs etc, he’s been thru this situation before. He was great last week speaking with a very skeptical Mad Dog about the Mets firing their hitting coach. Made a very rational argument, with mulitple reasons, for why it might work. Also thought he was good last night calling out the Phillies for their lasckluster and fundamentals-lacking play, in sharp contrast tot he Mets who’s defense kept them in the game until they unloaded offensively.

  • Chuck

    Ok, I did miss it. What were they thinking this spring?

  • Dave

    Jason – tire fire, backed up commode, Chernobyl – they’re all apt descriptions. You nailed it, just as the Phils’ coffin is nailed until at least 2018 or so. Welcome to the last place neighborhood, cheesesteak eaters who call Italian ice “water ice,” as though there could be other things that ice is made of.

    All nice karma for fans who probably deserve to suffer a bit.

  • kd bart

    The Phillies current situation was foreseeable a few years ago when they handed out all those bloated terrible contracts. You knew they’d be old and terrible by mid decade with nothing in the minors ready to step in. At the time, they were hoping to make another run or two at a championship but that never materialized as the decline began in 2012. At this point, Utley, Howard, Rollins, etc. are nearly untradeable because no GM in his right mind is going to pick up those contracts unless the Phillies are willing to pick up almost all of the tab. The Phillies need a total strip down.

  • open the gates

    You didn’t need Chernobyl. “Omarpalooza” sums it up quite nicely. Just sign Jason Bay and Oliver Perez to ridiculous contracts, and you’re good to go. Oh, and give Ryan Howard a Bonilla-esque retirement plan while you’re at it.

  • Dennis

    Loved seeing them take 4 of 5, and last night was just sweet. I despise the Phillies and their fans even more than the Yankees. Was nice to see a large portion of the Mets faithful overtake CBP this weekend as well.

  • Rob D.

    I’d still rather have their 2007-2010 than our present. At least they went for it.

    • M Bordick

      Yea, their ‘brief’ renaissance was longer than any similar stretch in Met history.

      Is it better to be a fan of a team that spends money foolishly or one that doesn’t have money to spend in the biggest city in the game and still spends it foolishly?

  • The Jestaplero!

    The good news is, the way our rotation and bullpen are shaping up, beginning in 2015 we are two Big Bats away from being World Series contenders. But it will take a Piazza/Alfonso or Carter/Hernandez type of duo to get us there.

    THe bad news is, we too have a limited window of opportunity, from next year till around 2018, when Harvey will reach his free agency year and all the other young arms that we don’t ship off in a package for a Big Bat will be reaching arbitration eligibility, and the Wilponzis will no longer be willing/able to pay them all. 2018 is also probably the David Wright expiration date.

    I would like to think that this has been the Secret Plan all along, and that they would have made at least one major aquisition this year if Harvey hadn’t gone out.

  • SL

    As usual, well said. The Mets continue to prove what we have known despite Sandy’s absurd 90 win dicta (read wet dream). A mediocre team, capable of beating bad teams like the Philly’s, playing even with mediocre teams like the Yankees, but looking bad playing legit teams like the Cardinals and Dodgers.

    But, there is light, and that hasn’t been able to be said for some time.

    den Dekker reminded us why he was a prospect, and certainly when Juan comes back don’t we all think he could give us .196 with rare power a la C. Young?

    Even better is Colon’s “renaissance” which means he might be a valuable trade piece to a contender like the Blue Jays, to bring back a bat.

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