From September 14 until the end of the season, the Phillies were scheduled to play nothing but division rivals. They have chosen to use that time to bring this division down from the inside.
It won't be too difficult. Right now the NL East is being held up by frayed lengths of old, dusty rope.
"IT'S FINE, JUST... DON'T TOUCH IT," scream Mets fans.
And wouldn't you know it, it was an utter catastrophe. Although "catastrophe" feels far too interesting a word to use to describe an already-clinched team taking on the team battling hardest to call this season a victory by sucking worse than everyone. It was more like a slow-moving event with several bursts of extreme violence.
Mets & Phillies combined for 10 walks, 7 WP and 4 HBP on Wednesday, the 1st game with that many of each in the modern era (via @eliassports)— ESPN Stats & Info (@ESPNStatsInfo) October 1, 2015
So, that was horrible.
But what made it more interesting than other Phillies games this season was that it horrible for both sides, something that has become a recent theme as the Phillies' negatively effect team after team.
First, the Braves. The Braves are terrible. And according to some hate-reading I've denied my therapist's advice to do, Braves fans think that their team is in the best shape heading into the future, and that the Phillies have the NL East's worst outlook.
Tough words from a team that just swept the Phillies in late September, putting themselves well on the path to not the worst record in baseball. Everyone knows while fun teams like the Blue Jays and Cubs contend for actual championships, there's a secret war going on between the league's lurching basement-dwellers to see who can put the sport to utter shame hard enough that the league takes pity on them and lets them have the best player from an incoming crop of rookies.
And the Braves, by serving themselves up three meaningless wins, have just about played themselves out of the honor of selecting [NAME OF THAT GOOD COLLEGE PLAYER WE'RE ALL FAMILIAR WITH]. Somewhere between July and August, the Phillies' ineptitude became their biggest strength, as suckers like Atlanta kept trying to "get runners on base," playing right into the Phillies' hands. Now they have nothing to look forward to except moaning in unison several miles north of where they do it now.
Unless you're Matt Williams, you're probably just as aware of the recent events in the Nationals' dugout as anyone else. While no Nationals writers have blamed the Phillies for trading Jonathan Papelbon to Washington yet, you know they're all thinking it, waiting for the right news item from which to make a logical leap. They've already tried to not quite blame Phillies fans for Papelbon choking out NL MVP Bryce Harper on fan appreciation day, but point out the sadistic joy we got from it, as if that's some sort of subhuman reaction to a hilarious thing.
But for the sake of this post, we can say that, sure; the Phillies and Nationals agreeing on a trade of Jonathan Papelbon for minor leaguer Nick Pivetta certainly feels like the point when Washington's season officially sharted the bed, so if people want to make that the narrative, I think we'd all be cool with it. I certainly am, clearly.
You certainly can't say the Phillies sent out their players via trade to act as rogue agents among other organizations, when Chase and Jimmy's Dodgers are playoff-bound, as are Cole's Rangers. Papelbon's Nats just weren't very good from the start for a variety of reasons, and it turns out the addition of an emotionally compromised imbecile, when the team already has a guy who plays his position, and who is apparently the favorite player of everyone who believes baseball should foster popularity among young people by strangling its hottest stars on television, is a tipping point for a disappointing team to turn into an eliminated team.
And they might not have gotten that way as fast without the Phillies giving them a rather fateful phone call around the trade deadline.
The names on the Phillies' NL East hit list are getting crossed off, and if they'd been paying attention, then this series with the Mets probably had the NL East champs wary to face the feral creatures living in the division's cellar.
So when everybody started throwing pitches at each other, both teams sighed, dropped their britches, and began comparing dick size while the Papelbon apologists giddily explained that this is just how baseball works and you'll never understand their special secrets, outsider.
The point is, Justin De Fratus hit Yoenis Cespedes, whose acquisition and play have been largely formative of the Mets' second half. That's not something that probably happened on purpose. Nor was Adam Loewen's hitting of Kirk Nieuwenhuis later in the game. By the time Odubel Herrera was assassinated on the steps of city hall one week before retirement - and Cespedes watched from the dugout, having left the game with a potential playoff-ruining finger injury - the HBPs seemed a little less like whoop-se-daisies.
Herrera gets HBP as if he is being gunned down in the rain in an action movie pic.twitter.com/wXYtdr7DXy— Justin Klugh (@justin_klugh) October 1, 2015
"Heh heh heh, it's me, Adam Loewen. Now's the perfect time to make my plan to purposefully hit a Mets batter look like an accident, therefore reigniting the Phillies-Mets rivalry that I, a space-filling bullpen pitcher who has been here a few weeks, am 100% invested in. The only question is which key Mets player to strike with my powerful fastball... ah yes! Kirk Nieuwenhuis, the beating heart of the New York offense!"
--Adam Loewen, muttering to himself on the mound.
Not only did the Phillies, completely by accident, give the Mets an injury scare for their best hitter, mere days before their miracle playoff run, but they left them flustered and emotional after playing a last place team in a meaningless game. How are the Phillies doing this? Every division rival they touch suffers a series of small implosions. Nobody wants to play this team right now, especially not with the mayor up the chief's ass to find Herrera's killer.
Perhaps the Phillies have grown so toxic that they are bleeding into other teams, rather than keeping their bad baseballing quarantined within their own clubhouse. Hopefully, this deranged mental warfare they are waging at some points completely by accident sticks around for when the team is contending again.