Tuesday, December 14, 2010

the pain of being a baseball fan: pirates and phillies

i've been blogging for a couple of years now, but i think it's time to break my sports silence.

i recently have had conversations with phillies fans about baseball fandom in general. i will say this: phillies fans are good, passionate, smart baseball fans. however, they look for far more sympathy from pirates fans than they deserve.

here are the hard facts: in the 1990s, the pirates and phillies sucked. after the pirates' 3 trips to the NLCS in 1990-1992 and the phillies' trip to the world series in 1993, pennsylvania produced 0 winning seasons of baseball. from 1994-2000, the pirates posted a 541-688 record (.440) and the phillies posted a 561-670 record (.456). the phillies win the number-of-worse-seasons battle, 4-3. pretty bad.

once the 2000s hit, though, things changed. from 2001 to 2010, the pirates posted a 607-848 record (.417) and the phillies a 796-661 record (.546). the phillies won 4 division titles, 2 national league pennants, and 1 world series. the pirates had a worse record all 10 years and finished under .500 every year with 2 100-loss seasons.

last night the phillies signed cliff lee, adding the best pitcher in baseball to a stacked rotation of roy halladay, roy oswalt, and cole hamels. this might be the best rotation ever assembled in baseball history. the phillies are instant front-runners for the world series. they acquired cliff lee for less money than he was offered by the yankees because lee has enough integrity to do so. the 4th-highest payroll in baseball just increased and will certainly move up.

here's my point: phillies fans have been claiming their awfulness from the 1990s. they were almost as equally bad as the pirates and had a worse record as many times as the pirates in the 90s, but it's time to stop the madness. phillies fans have to let go. yes, they were bad, but they're not anymore. they're good. they're very good. they will probably win a couple more world series, at least, before this staff disassembles. it's time to take ownership of the high-salary, high-quality baseball team on the field.

there is no comparison between pirates fans and phillies fans; we're cheering for different worlds. pirates fans live in a world of hopelessness and despair where our major free agent signings are other teams' middle-of-the-trash-heap fodder. players don't want to play for the pirates and i don't blame them. management is terrible. ownership is stingy. the aura of losing can be felt from april til july (when dem stillers start training camp and the pirates become an afterthought). it's a depressing state. the stadium is beautiful and the fans are loyal, but that can only be attractive for so long.

the phillies, though, they're good. the fans are loyal, the stadium is also beautiful, the money is there, and the players are winners. it's a great place for a baseball player to be. but it's time for fans to take ownership of this identity. they're not the lovable losers of the 90s anymore; they're lovable winners.

bottom line: pirates fans will no longer listen to a phillies fan talk about how hard it's been to be a philadelphia baseball fan. we just don't want to hear it. that era is over and a new one has started; one where the phillies compete with the red sox and yankees. it's not a bad thing, philly. it's a good thing. your team is competitive and has a legitimate chance to win the world series every year. i wish the pirates could spend that kind of money on free agents.

it's time to own it, though. the phillies may be called the next evil empire, but who cares? you're cheering for winning baseball. i am more envious than i'd care to describe.


  1. As a Phillies fan, I'm 100% on board with you. The Phillies are an unbelievable good team, and, realistically, I can't even complain about the yankees and red sox payroll anymore because we're right there with them. I think its just been a slow transition for Phillies fans, especially younger ones, since they are not used to winning this much, and we are certainly not used to attracting free agents (Curt Schilling and Scott Rolen are prime examples of those we pushed away). However, you are totally right, Phillies fans need to stop pretending we are the little guy, the scorned younger brother, and just admit (and enjoy) titan status in MLB.

  2. I agree with both Greg's comment and your premise Jake, the Phillies, especially following the acquisition of Cliff Lee (welcome home big boy), are at least the front runner in the National League if not the pick to win the world series. Not making it to the World Series would definitely be a huge disappointment. Our payroll is now comparable to that of the Red Sox and Yankees and we have shown that we are not afraid to go out and purchase the talent we need (a principle the Pirates need to embrace soon). All of that being said, it is apparent that a "woe is us" mentality from Phillies fans is unacceptable. First, because we aren't bad anymore and a favorite, so there is no basis to mope about and complain about our team or our troubled past; focus on the present and future, which for now, both look bright. Secondly and perhaps more important, even if we did suck, I would never want anyone's sympathy or commiseration. I think it was Steve Spurrier said once that, if other teams like you, it's probably because they are beating you. I think as Phils fans we need to embrace the fact that other teams and fans are gonna hate us, because we're better then them and are beating them. I would much rather have it that way then everyone being like "awww poor lil guys" and kicking the snot outta us.

  3. As a whole I tend to agree with you on this. Though if we are including an exhaustive list of woes from both teams over the last two decades let us not forget the phillies being the first team in MLB to reach 10,000 losses, hooray! I also don't think we will become the next evil dynasty in the way that the Yankees are in that NY always had and always will have phenomenal amounts of revenue, whereas Philadelphia doesn't have guaranteed economic success for years and years to come.