Folks around these parts like to think the Phillies-Mets are natural rivals separated by one turnpike, but the Washington Nationals seem poised to take over as the team we most like to hate.
The Nationals' front office stoked the fires of this rivalry by complaining publicly of the huge number of Phillies fans who had the effrontery to fill their own stadium for games between the two teams. Worse, the Nats alleged brain trust decided to limit the number of tickets it would make available to Phillies fans for the 2012 season. If that weren't fuel enough, the Nats went out over the last two seasons and drafted some damn good players, some of whom are coming into their own and others who have arrived on the scene with a bang! This, mind you, while the Philllies were getting old and injured.
It's difficult to imagine exactly how the Nationals can control who buys tickets to their games unless they track ISP's on web purchases and conveniently fail to fill any mail orders whose zip codes include 191_ _. I guess they can also monitor Stub Hub, but it seems unlikely the latter would agree to such restraints of trade.
The assumption here is the Nats just want to get their fans whipped up into enough of a frenzy to go out and buy tickets.
Ever since the Montreal Expos expired only to be resurrected as the Washington Nationals, one of the questions surrounding this latest incarnation of a franchise in the nation's capital has been "will anyone show up"?. Washington is famously hot and humid during the summer and, worse, abandoned by many of its better-heeled inhabitants who prefer Bethany or Rehoboth, DE, to the banks of the Anaconda River. Years of losing haven't helped, but now the Nats seem on the verge of becoming winners. They still need offense and a serious closer, but they have addressed one of those needs with the call-up of Bryce Harper, the most touted phenom in baseball.
Tonight's meeting between the clubs, the first of the season, promises to be a doozy with one caveat: instead of sending out one of its aces, the Phils are throwing Kyle Kendrick to the wolves....er...Nats. Kendrick hardly inspires confidence, especially when his mound opponent is the Nats bona fide star hurler Stephen Strasburg. Tomorrow night the Phils get to face former farmhand Gio Gonzalez, who has blossomed into a front line pitcher as well. The Nats will be without star third baseman Ryan Zimmerman, on the DL, and possible Adam LaRoche, who has a habit of hitting well against the Phils.
The Phils, meanwhile, are coming off a series win in Atlanta during which the offense exploded at times.
It should be a good one, especially when the turnstile results are counted.