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The Philadelphia Experiment

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This week in Philly we saw the game of baseball disgraced, tainted by the corruption we like to think is restrained to other sports. Umpire C.B. Bucknor clearly had it in for the Mets in this series; working the home plate in the opener, he rang up David Wright three times on pitches that were borderline, i.e., you'd be borderline insane to think they were strikes. In the third game, he made a rare interference call when Marlon Anderson busted up a double play ball in the ninth inning, ending the game and handing the Phillies a win. Circumstantial evidence suggests that Bucknor is on the take.

And that the Mets are the ones bribing him.

Oh, we're through the looking glass here people. We're following the money, cherchez-ing la femme, dropping cui on the bono. While the Phillies are the ones getting the short-term benefit, it's all to New York's advantage in the long run. And the long run isn't even that long - just the remaining month of the regular season, in fact.

Think about it. If the Mets had swept the series, Philly'd be 10 games back. With Atlanta on the ropes, New York would be playing (yes) meaningless games in September. The final week's games against the Nats and Marlins would be a pretty tough sell at that point. But if it looks like the Phillies are still within spitting distance long about 9/15 ? Sell-out city, sucker.

And let's face it, the Phillies need some help to stay in the race. These guys are pretenders. Right, right, the best offense in the league, sure; at home, anyway, where their OPS is almost 50 points higher than it is on the road. Their pitching can run but it can't hide; it's abominable at home, and even on the road they give up close to five runs a game. The only team their rotation has solved is the Mets. Wink.

Ryan Howard, MVP? I don't think so. He's an RBI machine because he's come up with more than 400 runners on already this year; it's not because he's the man. If anything, he seems to have more of a pass-the-buck attitude. I'm down with the Moneyball / SABR gospel, don't get me wrong; as a general rule, walking's good, free swinging's bad. But a hit is as good as a walk, after all, and when you're the supposed stud of the team and you come up with two men on, you should be looking for a pitch to drive before you're looking for the free pass. He did hit some big home runs this week - against the Mets. Hint, hint.

This isn't the first time the Mets have taken a late-season dive in the Keystone State in a calculated bid to boost ticket sales. Last September, the Pittsburgh Pirates swept a three-game series from New York, the victories going to legendary hurlers Maholm, Capps, and Duke. The Mets returned home and drew 46,729 fans to watch them clinch the division at Shea; the race locked up, attendance dropped by 4,000 in each of the next two nights. Sell an extra 4,000 tickets at $25 apiece in each of those last seven games, you've just paid for Pedro Feliciano - who's given up two homers this year, both to you-know-who. That's right, he's in on it too.