If you've ever read my blog, it's not difficult to figure out a few things. One is that I love the Phillies, another is that I hate the Mets. But I really am going to attempt to be even-handed in this post. (After I include this link to a pretty good summation of the Mets season).
Make no mistake, the 2009 Mets are a train wreck.
Jayson Stark weighs in on the Mets current situation as the lead in this week's edition of his phenomenal column for espn.com, Rumblings and Grumblings.
I agree with many of the points made. As a bit of an outsider, I'm not in the Mets situation. But, I've seen more of their games this year than almost any non-Met fan (thank you, MLB Extra Innings), so I feel a certain level of knowledge regarding their situation too.
There are a ton of issues, most of them outlined by Stark. Injuries. Paying too much to players who don't produce, like Oliver Perez. And on and on. But it's more than that.
This is completely unquantifiable and unprovable, but I think you can sum up the biggest difference between the Mets and the Phillies this way: how many guys on the Mets would you want on your side in a scrap? Now, how many guys on the Phillies would you want on your side in a scrap? I don't mean, for example, that you would want Jim Thome on your side because he's huge. I mean, for example, you'd want David Eckstein on your side because he's an irritant, a pesky, driving, nose-to-the-grindstone-gives-you-sharp-boogers player with an edge, even though he's about 5-5 and 120 pounds in full hockey gear.
Guys you want on your side in a scrap are guys that are gamers, that want the ball or the bat in their hands with the game on the line. Guys that leave it all on the field. Guys that would rip your heart out and show it to you in order to win. Killers, as I like to call them.
So who on the Mets fits that description? Who's a killer? Johan Santana. Anyone else? Anyone? Bueller? The only other guy of recent vintage like that I can think of playing for the Mets was Paul LoDuca, bu his skills had eroded enough that it was probably time for a change anyway.
How about on the Phillies? Well, hmm. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Shane Victorino, Jayson Werth, J.C. Romero, Cliff Lee, Greg Dobbs, Matt Stairs, Brett Myers, Ryan Madson, Brad Lidge. Cole Hamels is goofy as heck, but when the lights are bright and he's feels like it, he's a killer too.
Think about other recent championshp teams. Who on the 2007 Red Sox would you want on your side in a scrap? Off the top of my head, Varitek, Pedroia, Beckett, Youkilis, Ortiz, Papelbon, Lowell. '06 Cardinals? Pujols, Edmonds, Wainwright, Eckstein, Spiezio. How about the great Yankee teams from the late '90s-early 00's? Jeter, O'Neill, Brosius, Tino Martinez, Rivera, Clemens, Jeff Nelson.
You get the picture. By the way, I don't think it's coincidental at all that the Yankees haven't won it all since they started replacing 'killers' like Paul O'Neill with big names like Jason Giambi or A-Rod.
I think it's also telling that on the teams that win, the 'killer' attitude comes down from the best players, and it's also seen in the role players. Part of that is an infusion of attitude that effects a whole team, but part of that is also a role player thinking 'If Chase Utley/Albert Pujols/David Ortiz/whoever takes the field with that edge, I better do the same.' The Mets have some very talented players, but sorely lack killers. David Wright is a great player, but may be too nice. Reyes and Beltran want to talk about winning and dance like they're winning, but don't seem interested enough in really putting it out there every night the way Utley & Company do.
I have a saying I use all the time, whether in professional or personal situations- "Don't talk about it, be about it."
The Mets talk about it (and dance about it). The Phillies are about it.
And until something in that equation changes, the Mets will continue to be a high-priced train wreck, while the Phillies remain the class of the NL East.