This past week the Washington Nationals won the National League’s Eastern Division. As a fan of the team I was thrilled but even more so that the Philadelphia Phillies finished third and did not have a winning record for the first time in nine years. Like most fans who do not live in or grew up in Philadelphia, I hate the Phillies. For the past eight seasons the Phillies and their legions of obnoxious fans have tortured the Nationals by beating them regularly and by filling our ball park with busloads of their screaming, insufferable fans. During one particularly one- sided drubbing the thousands of Philadelphian bus riders began chanting, “THIS IS OUR HOUSE.” We were not amused.
In 2008 the Phillies got lucky and squared off in the World Series against a very young Tampa Bay Rays team who had just eked out a win over the much stronger Red Sox. The Phillies won their first world title in nearly forty years making their fans, the most obnoxious, rude and loud fans in sport even more so. The Nationals in the meanwhile were quietly and steadily rebuilding their farm system that had been decimated by years of ownership by MLB. The Nats were getting better while the Phillies were getting older.
Last season thing finally began to turn for the Nats. The finished just one game under .500 and ended the season by beating the Phillies soundly. The Phils had already won the NL East but they carried the losing streak into the post season and were out in the first round. One of the most satisfying days I’ve ever spent at any ballpark was watching the Phillie fans streaming out of the park as their team fell behind in the late innings as the Washington faithful chanted “GO HOME, GO HOME!” This season the Nats have held onto first place in the East since early May. The Phillies bounced between third and fifth place and in a late season run at the second wild card slot fell flat. They were beaten by the Nats in DC for the last two games of the regular season. Oh God, that made me happy! Citizen’s Bank Park, the hitter friendly band box the Phillies call home had sold out every game for years but now that the Phillies were not doing so hot the fans stayed away in droves. No shock to me, years ago I used to dive up to Veteran’s Stadium to see the Braves play when they were the hottest team in baseball. The ugly cookie cutter stadium was never close to half full but the louts who were there tried to make up for it by screaming obscenities and throwing trash on the field.
At the end of this season as the Nats prepare to go on to the playoff and the Phillie players head back to their homes in Florida and Arizona, the city and team have taken their less than excellent season in their usual stride. Jimmy Rollins, the Phils’ aging shortstop, said that the Nationals were a talented team “but if we’d been healthy they’re no better than second place”. It’s true that there were some key losses to the Philadelphia line up but their vaunted pitching staff was less than stellar while the Nats starters led by Gio Gonzalez and Stephen Strasburg were gold. David Murphy, a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News wrote a column dissing the Nationals, their fans and beautiful new stadium. Worse than that, he took a shot at Teddy, one of the racing presidents. Washington baseball fans, in his words, are only there for the gimmicks, caring less about the team and more about the “giant foam heads.” I’m not surprised some hack writer who makes his home in that second rate city might resort to taking a shot at our team but keep your muck raking tabloid rat paws off Teddy.
Tomorrow the Nationals begin their first ever post season appearance in St Louis. I believe this is only the beginning for my guys. They may not make it to the Series this year but with their very deep farm system and core of young players they should be in contention for years. The Phillies meanwhile get older with much of their aged players signed to long term contracts. The Phillies have been the National League version of the Red Sox, they spend huge sums of money on players trying to buy another pennant but at least for this year they our out and the Nats are in. This is our house!
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