MLB: New York Mets at Philadelphia Phillies

The Phillie Phanatic is My Nemesis (And Other Philadelphia-Based Mets Villains)

Growing up, I hated the Phillies. I suppose that’s nothing special for a Mets fan, given the rivalry that’s managed to stay alight between the teams for decades despite them hardly ever being good at the same time. But I really, really hated them. I grew up in Phillies territory, and first saw the Mets in person midst a sea of red, behind enemy lines at the Vet. Once, on a school field trip, the Phillie Phanatic stole my Mets hat and gave me a noogie. On the Jumbotron. Talk about humiliation complète et totale.

The Mets are currently in Los Angeles midst a four-game matchup against the Dodgers, marking the first time this season they’ll come face-to-face with second baseman Chase Utley. Utley, executor of the controversial slide that broke Ruben Tejada’s fibula and incited Major League Baseball to institute new guidelines for sliding into second, is bound to catch some flak from Mets’ fans, if not this week, then certainly when the Mets and Dodgers meet again at Citi Field on May 27th. For me, Utley will always exist in my mind’s eye in Phillies uniform. So while he inspired this week’s staff post featuring an array of infamous Mets villains, I set my noogie-headed sights on the City of Brotherly Love.

The Phillie Phanatic—an obese, pants-less furry alien with a party blower for a tongue—is objectively terrifying, and so earns him the number one Mets villain spot on this list. Here are nine other (human) Philadelphia-based antiheros, in chronological order from their appearances on the team:

Jim Bunning (1964-67; 1970-71) Okay, so perhaps Bunning is not exactly a villain—the Mets were in last place for nearly all of his time with the Phillies in the sixties (though they beat out the Cubs to take ninth in ’66). But the Hall of Famer did pitch a perfect game against the Mets during a double-header at Shea Stadium on Father’s Day, 1964. Father’s Day, guys. It was the first perfect game in the National League in 84 years, and the first no-hitter from a Phillies pitcher since 1906. A New York Times headline later dubbed the Mets the “perfect victims” for the feat, noting that even Queens had begun rooting for Bunning by the end of the game. Though the turning of Mets’ fans against the team speaks more to the dismal state of the organization at the time, part of me reads it as a stroke evil genius; the Phillies also won the second game of the matchup that day.

Mike Schmidt (1972-1989) Another a Hall of Famer, Schmidt spent his entire major league career with the Phillies, where he won 10 Gold Glove Awards, was a 12-time All-Star, and a three-time National League MVP. He also hit 49 home runs during his 268 games against the Mets, second only to Willie Stargell for most career home runs against the team (Stargell had 60). Of Schmidt, Pete Rose is quoted as saying, “To have his body, I’d trade him mine and my wife’s, and I’d throw in some cash.” If Schmidt could inspire such admiration from a Mets villain like Rose, you know his powers were vast.

Tug McGraw (1975-1984) McGraw was a Met from 1965-74, though his best work came as a reliever from 1967 onward. He played his first postseason game with the 1969 Mets, holding the Braves at bay in Game 2 of the NLDS. McGraw’s heart seemed firmly tethered to Shea at the time—he said of that season, “everything changed for me in 1969, the year we turned out to be goddamn amazing.” In 1973 he coined the phrase “Ya Gotta Believe!” and the Mets went on play in the World Series in a decade when the NL East was otherwise swept by the Pirates and Phillies. “Ya Gotta Believe!” was a slogan that stuck, so undoubtedly it burned a bit extra when McGraw was traded to Philadelphia, threw the out that clinched their 1980 World Series victory, then told New Yorkers to “take this championship and shove it.”

Pete Rose (1979-83) He’s most loathed for his time with the Reds (see: 1973 Game 3 NLCS Harrelson-Rose brawl), but Rose also saw several successful seasons with the Phillies. In 1979 Philadelphia, Rose (who, upon signing had become the highest paid player in baseball at the time) still had some Big Red heat in him—he averaged a strong .331 but was even better as a Mets opponent, batting .446, with 29 hits in 18 games. With Rose on the team, the Phillies won three division titles and the 1980 World Series, returning to the World Series again in 1983 before losing to Baltimore.

Pat Burrell (2000-2008) If I had to choose just one of these guys to embody the Mets-Phillies rivalry, it would probably be Pat the Bat. While Burrell’s career batting average is nearly in line with his average against the Mets, he ranks seventh in career home runs against the Mets with 42 in 162 games, approaching double his career average of 24.3 home runs per season. Burrell’s most egregious villainy is visible in his 2002 stats, where he averaged .282 with a slugging percentage of .544 overall, while against the 2002 Mets he averaged .373 with a SLG of .791, leading the Phillies to season series victories against the Mets in 2002 (10-9) and 2003 (12-7). Burrell also took part in a run of heated exchanges with Phillies-turned-Mets closer Billy Wagner, one of which involved Burrell calling Wagner a rat. Before moving on to San Francisco, Burrell went out on a Phillies high note in the 2008 World Series.

Jimmy Rollins (2000-2014)  He’s the Phillies all-time hits leader, so that alone should earn him a spot on the list, though he has many other accolades to his name: three-time All-Star, four-time Gold Glove Award Winner, NL stolen base leader in 2001, 2007 Silver Slugger Award. And, speaking of Silver Sluggers, like Curtis Granderson, Rollins is one of only four MLB players to ever join the 20-20-20-20 club. Rollins’ .280 average against the Mets is slightly above his career average of .265, but he hit 30 home runs and stole 62 bases against the Mets over 241 games with Philadelphia. He also caused a notorious media stir in early 2007, declaring that the Mets had blown their chance and the Phillies were the team to beat in the NL East—the fact that Rollins’s prediction came true as the Mets disintegrated into “the second greatest collapse in MLB history” is certainly salt in the Rollins-shaped wound.

Chase Utley (2003-2015) Utley was a foundational member of the Phillies at their height, in particular providing key hits during their races to the top of the NL East in 2007-08, and so can probably be counted a Mets villain just for that. That, or the 35 home runs he’s hit against the Mets over the years, a personal record against a single team. His batting average against the Mets holds steady with his career average, though his slugging and OBP are slightly elevated as a Mets opponent. All this, combined with the aforementioned slide, means I get just a bit more pleasure than is healthy from watching Harvey take a shot at him last April.

Ryan Howard (2004-present) The only current Philadelphia player on the list, at first glance it appears that Howard plays on or slightly below-par as a Mets opponent—his career average is .261, with .347 OBP and .511 slugging percentage, while against the Mets he averages .245 with a .321 OBP and .500 slugging. But then there’s the matter of the 46 home runs he’s hit against New York in 172 games. The 46th home run came this April at Citi Field against Colón, propelling Howard past Hank Aaron for fifth place in career home runs against the Mets, and proving he remains a Mets threat at age 36.

Jamie Moyer (2006-2010) Moyer is another player whose impact feels less direct than some of the other big-moment thwarts on this list, but the frustrating thing about “the crafty lefty” was that he came to the Phillies at the end of his career, amassing all kinds of Bartoloesque records in those final years—oldest active MLB player, last active player to have played in the 1980s, MLB player with the most wins and strikeouts, and oldest player to hit an RBI—yet still managed to be a thorn in the Mets’ side. Case in point: after spiraling out in 2007, the Mets faced the Phillies at the 2008 home opener (the last home opener at Shea) and a 45-year-old Moyer started and took the win. It was a sign of the season, as the Mets came in second in the NL East behind the Phillies, who went on to win the World Series. Moyer also has two sons, shortstop Dillon and second-baseman Hutton, both currently in the minors; I’m marking them now as potential Mets villains of the future.

Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

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