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Ah yes indeed it’s fun time: Phillies vs. Mets series preview

Three more against the Mets before the real games begin

MLB: Wild Card-Philadelphia Phillies at St. Louis Cardinals
Hopefully there will be more celebrations to come
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

With the Phillies locked into their playoff seeding and the Mets no longer in contention, this final series of the season means little in terms of the standings. But wouldn’t it be fun if the Phillies beat up on the Mets again anyway?

New York Mets

Record: 72-86, Fourth place in National League East (30.5 games back)

The last time they Met

The Mets came to Philadelphia last weekend for a four-game set, and left town with the same number of wins they came in with. The games were close: None was decided by more than three runs, and one of them came via a walk-off, but in the end, a four-game sweep is a four-game sweep.

Since then?

The Mets split two games with the Marlins before rain caused Thursday night’s game to be suspended in the ninth inning. Which means, pending how the Marlins and other Wild Card contenders fare this weekend, the Mets might be forced back into action on Monday to play the final inning.

I’m sure the enthusiasm of Mets players and staff will be off the scales for that if it happens.

Isn’t it nice that the Phillies get to spend this final weekend preparing for a home playoff series rather than having to play to win, and dealing with all the possible playoff scenarios?

Let’s laugh at the Mets

The Mets aren’t the worst franchise in baseball. But the Mets are the team most likely to repeatedly step on a rake.

Remember how one year ago today, the Mets were in first place and on the way to a 101-win season? They promptly blew the division lead to the Braves and lost in the Wild Card round to the Padres.

You’d think that yet another colossal failure would have wrung the last drops of hope out of their fans. But these are New York sports fans, and arrogant idiocy dies hard:

Mets fans really thought that this year was going to be different. And on paper, it should have been. They had two future Hall of Fame pitchers at the front of their rotation to go along with an impressive debut by Japanese import Kodai Senga. They got a 46-home run season from Pete Alonso to go along with strong years by Francisco Lindor and Brandon Nimmo.

And they still couldn’t sniff the playoffs. Adding insult to injury, after he was mercifully traded away from the trainwreck, outfielder Tommy Pham said the roster was full of losers.

Looking at the retired numbers

Sometimes, you can tell a lot about a franchise by the list of players who have had their numbers retired. For instance, Keith Hernandez’s #17 has been taken out of circulation by the Mets. Hernandez was an excellent player - even if a lot of his success came with the Cardinals. His guest appearance on Seinfeld was also great.

But did his tenure with the Mets really merit number retirement? it seems clear that the Mets felt they should retire someone’s number from the excellent teams of the 1980’s, but the two biggest stars of that era were drug-addicts whose careers both ended up being disappointments. Instead, Hernandez got the call.

It’s very similar how the Hall of Fame voters wanted to vote for somebody last year, but the actual HOF-worthy players were deemed ineligible due to PED-taint. So, they just voted for the next best guy they could find, even if he probably didn’t truly deserve enshrinement.

Remembering a crappy player from yesteryear

The Mets traded for starting pitcher Oliver Perez in July 2006, and he sucked for them down the stretch, putting up a 6.38 ERA in seven starts. He made two postseason starts, pitching poorly in one of them (which he won thanks to 12 runs of support), and well in the other.

The following year, he won 15 games and the Mets thought they had a rotation mainstay. Sure enough, he did remain in the rotation for a few years, except that he wasn’t very good. He led the league in walks in 2007, which bizarrely didn’t stop the Mets from signing him to a long-term deal after the season.

He rewarded their faith by giving them 14 starts with a 6.82 ERA in 2009. The next season, he was limited to 17 mostly poor appearances before requiring knee surgery that cost him the entire 2010 season.

Perez actually recovered to have eleven more decent seasons as a reliever before retiring at the end of 2022.

In the end we shall achieve in time

What a season it’s been for the Phillies. They didn’t get off to the start we hoped for (Remember starting off 0-4 and then 1-5?), and they were basically out of the running for the division by Memorial Day. (To be fair, even if the Phillies had gone all out, winning the division was probably never going to happen with every one of the Braves’ hitters performing at a 95% outcome or better.)

During that slow start, there were some people - myself included - who thought the team might have been too focused on managing workloads for the postseason instead of worrying about just getting to the playoffs in the first place.

Ultimately, the organization was proven correct in prioritizing the health of their pitchers. The high level of talent on the roster eventually asserted itself, and the team did what it needed to do to not only make the playoffs, but they look capable of doing some damage once the “real” season begins.

I’m sure we’ll all remember this next Spring if the Phillies’ starters barely play in exhibition games, and they get off to another slow start.

Non-Phillies thought

I didn’t realize emotional support alligators were a thing, but now I kind of want one.

Closing thought

It’s somewhat hard to believe we’re at the end of the (regular) season already. March becomes October in a blink of an eye. I think I fulfilled my goal of not mailing in more than 50% of these previews, but either way, I’d like to thank everyone for reading. I’ll be back next week with what is hopefully the first of what is hopefully four playoff series previews. Until then, enjoy this final weekend of games before the real games begin!

Rise and Phight: 12/11/2023

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