It’s Opening Day, so I figured I should offer a few thoughts on the upcoming baseball season. And I’m starting with a bit of a bombshell. I’m expecting to get a lot of negative backlash on this, understandably (and I don’t really mind; remember, my dream job has always been bad guy wrestling manager). But hear me out before your head explodes. This isn’t a decision I took lightly, but I decided for a number of reasons why I’d be better off rooting for the Nationals than the Phillies.
1. Rooting for a winner. First of all, the Nationals are simply the better team. That cannot be argued. They’ve been picked by nearly every prognosticator in America to win the NL East and represent the NL in the World Series. Nobody likes to think of themselves as a frontrunner, but as we get older, we realize that siding with a winner is a hell of lot more rewarding than siding with a loser. As a big baseball fan, watching a team that is headed nowhere (The Phillies) seems like a giant waste of precious time, especially when we have an opportunity to watch a team that has a chance to be really, really special.
2. Young Guns. Bryce Harper is the most electrifying young player in baseball, and Steven Strasburg has a flamethrower for an arm. Both are just starting to come into their prime. Why would I want to spend the next 6 months watching night after night of baseball played by over the hill players in the sad twilight of their careers (Howard, Halladay, Utley, Rollins, Michael Young) when I could be watching two of the most exciting young players in baseball? There’s something to be said about getting in on the ground floor.
3. Jayson Werth. What can I tell you? I love all the smack Werth talks about Philly, and his fake foul ball toss into the crowd was something every wrestling fan appreciats. (Again, you have to remember, I want to be a bad guy wrestling manager.) I also appreciate what he did when he was here, and think the hate he’s gotten from Phillies fans is pathetic. Let me know when one company offers you half as much money as another, and you take the lesser paying job. It will never happen. Ever. To any of you. So quit whining about Werth leaving for the same reason. Morons.
4. Charlie Manuel. I’ve had enough. Seriously, I like Charlie and I appreciate what Charlie’s done here, but let’s face it, the game is headed in a different direction (See Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland A’s) and Charlie ain’t about to learn new tricks. Why do I want to spend another season watching a guy manage by the 1970s book when I can watch a Hall of Famer like Davey Johnson, who is essentially the Father of Moneyball? The gig is up, and I wish Charlie the best, but I think he’ll be fired by the midway point of the season.
5. Ruben Amaro. What an absolute train wreck this guy has been. He’s what Ed Wade woulda been if he’d been given a huge payroll. The Ryan Howard contract may be the worst one in baseball. Halladay will get paid $20 million to pitch like a AAA pitcher. He unloaded an extremely productive Hunter Pence. But even after all of that, I gave him a pass.
But then he did something I could not abide by: he signed Delmon Young. That, to me, was like the Eagles signing Vick. One thing that had always been fun about rooting for the Phillies was that (with the notable of exception of Brett Myers) they were such an easy group of dudes to root for. But the Young signing was proof that they would happily sell their souls, and have a negative clubhouse, if it meant a few more season tickets sold because Young was a “Name”. And even worse: HE’S ABSOLUTELY TERRIBLE. It’s one thing to sell your soul to sign Barry Bonds. It’s another to sign an anti-Semite with a WAR of -0.3 over the past two years. HE IS AWFUL. But Ruben doesn’t understand that. He’s like a 6 year old at GM. “Oh, this guy won the ALCS MVP, he must be really good.” It just another example of how the Phillies are going down one path, and the quality teams are going down another.
6. I Used to Be an Expos Fan. I didn’t grow up near any teams, so as a kid I was sort of a vagabond fan. And the Expos really captured my imagination. A goofy logo, stars like Tim Raines, Tim Wallach, and Andre Dawson, and a manager who had the COOLEST name to a 10-year old kid: Buck Rodgers. So they were really my favorite team through 1994, when they had me really excited with Pedro Martinez, Larry Walker, and Moises Alou. But then the strike doomed the team, and I was so pissed about the strike I stopped watching baseball altogether until I moved to Philly. So in a way, this is almost sort of a homecoming for me, a return to my childhood.
8. It’s Not a Big Deal. Ok, I know I’ve talked a fair amount of trash on the Phillies here, but don’t get me wrong: I’m not going to root against them. I’m just going to root for the Nationals as well. I mean, by the middle of the season, when the Phillies are 39-43 and the Nationals are 55-27, you’ll be wishing you had gotten on the bandwagon at the beginning of the season as well. Like I said, I hope the Phillies do well, but it seems HIGHLY doubtful that the Phils can make the playoffs, while it seems all but assured that the Nationals will win the East.
Hey, when the Titanic went down, some dudes jumped on lifeboats, and some dudes went down with the ship like gentlemen. And maybe the guys who jumped in the lifeboats were punks for doing so. But at the end of the day, they were alive, and the guys who proudly “went down with the ship” were sitting at the bottom of the ocean. Don’t go down with the ship. There’s a very viable life raft, with a cursive N on the side. Hop in. There’s plenty of room.