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The $115 Million Underdog

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Two weeks ago, the Phillies finished up a four-game sweep of the Mets, putting them within two games of the division leaders. All of baseball rejoiced as the feisty underdog stuck it to the man, giving the bloated big-budget behemoth what for, and then some. Pundits left and right cheered on the insurgents' advance. Even Jim Rome took time off from his busy schedule of arbitrating jackoffs smackoffs to applaud the grit of Team Utley.

Since then, the Mets have gone 10-2, all but ending the race. By contrast, Philly's $90 million team has fizzled -- they just plain run outa grit. Naturelment, baseball observers duly gave credit to the orange and blue crew for getting off the canvas and showing the country that it also had guts, grits, and that old-fashioned stick-to-it-ive-ness you need when your backs are to the wall.

Chirp chirp. Cricket Cricket. Coyote Noise. Tumbleweed. Buffering... Buffering...

Hmmm. Somehow Jayson Stark et al. don't seem so eager to sing the Mets' praises. Well, there must be a rational reason for this seeming double standard; the media couldn't be biased, after all. Maybe it's just a fact of life that Mrs. Garrett is fat and that there's no incentive for media poobahs to focus on a well-financed favorite. After all, it's not like the Yankees get fawning treatment either.

Hmmm.

Oh I see. The media honchos know they have to cater to the biggest market -- that'd be New York. But, knowing that everyone west of Newark hates New York with a passion that would do a Wahabbi jihadist proud, they have to make an effort to appear fair and balanced. So they lead with Chapter 37 in the never-ending, always-fascinating false dichotomy of Democrats vs. Republicans Yankees vs. Red Sox. The Joba Rules! The Joba Rules! Memorize the Joba Rules! You can just see the Yankee fan at his next Texas hold 'em game: "Oh yeah -- I know the Joba Rules. I'm down. I have all the inside dirt. I even got a stock tip from Jim Cramer. I'll raise you five bucks."

And then, as a sop to the smaller markets, ESPN and company let the Mets play heel, delighting in every Mota meltdown, applauding the can-do spirit of the $90 million Cardinals. Did you know that Adam Wainwright makes less money than Carlos Beltran? I had no idea. Wainwright must be a better player. A better person, too. Those Mets are absorbing the ungodly values of Sodom and Gomorrah, but Tony LaRussa, he runs a clean operation out there under the arch. He's good people.

Well, big deal. If John Kruk wants to give MVP awards to 75% of the Philly infield, let him. If Joe Buck and Tim McCarver want to root against the orange and blue, let them. It can't do any harm in the end.

Maybe. But what if those Secret-reading, What the Bleep Do We Know-watching, Annie Savoy-quoting halfwits are half right? What if the 280 million people outside the tri-state area are all beaming their negative energy right at the heart of Shea Stadium next month? What if all that juju is affecting the team on some quantum physics cellular level that doesn't show up in the BABIP? If there's anything to this seeming mumbo jumbo, the media bias against the Mets could ruin the team's postseason hopes faster than an untimely injury to Orlando Hernandez. Hang on a sec -- could that be why he pulled up lame in 2006?

Omar, say goodbye to Jerry Manuel. I think I've found your new bench coach.