Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Twin Teams of Different Towns

A ballplayer's view of why the Phils and Red Sox seem so familiar.

Twin Teams of Different Towns

Today's column on the similarities between the Boston and Philadelphia fan bases belonged on the metro page, not the sports page, mostly because there's no way I could get any baseball analysis past my editor, who knows better about what makes a metro column.

But what if we got a seamhead to really look at the ways in which the Red Sox and Phillies mirror each other, and how they got to be pre-season favorites.

I posed this question to Russ Krause, left centerfielder of the Pen and Pencil Softball team - don't laugh, he not only plays, he brings cold beers - and the fleet-footed member of the plaintiff's bar delivered a fine argument from his heels.

This, from my query:

yo - i went thru center city today and saw only a small portion of fair-weather fans in their ellsbury t-shirts and their wicked accents.  i'd like to think this is a precursor to the series, but the sox had a little too much trouble with the friggin pirates to get that cocky. boston - philly isn't a real rivalry. it used to be a self-pity party, the object of their lust being new york. now red sox nation is a little advanced of phillies nation, but give the locals a little bit of time. citizens bank and fenway are pretty similar experiences, except for the fact the bank sits where a mutant oil filter used to sit and not in a the middle of a breathing city, as it should. basically these are similar towns with rabid smart fans and some loud buttholes.

This, from Krause:

Yeah I agree, the similarities between the two teams are striking, if not eerie. Both teams with a history of losing that is fairly epic (the Phils being the losingest team ever and the Sox with the championship drought from hell). Both teams with an absolute heartbreaking loss in the Series when it looked like the era of losing might end (86 sox and 93 phils). Both teams switching to a dedicated homegrown approach in the mid to late 90's which produced their core players for a decade of winning (phils - rollins, burrell, hamels, utley, howard, victorino, ruiz. sox- pedroia, nixon, nomar, v-tek, lowe [admittedly both tek and lowe in a trade, but while they were still prospects, so i count it] ellsbury, papelbon, lester, youkilis).
Both teams with a key acquisition of a middling player with huge potential who wasn't catching anyone's eye at the time: phils-werth, sox-ortiz.

The sox hit their stride a few years before the phils, and so had the clout to pull in big name free agents before the phils (mostly just ramirez and drew that come to mind, although I guess renteria was a "big" name). But for the most part, it was their farm system development that allowed them to get big names, by parlaying their young talent. They stole Pedro from Montreal (for pavano and armas haha). Schilling came in a trade. Beckett came in a trade (not cheap: for Hanley Ramirez!). Mike Lowell was a throw-in for that deal, with nobody expecting much of him. The fact that he went on to mash and stay mostly healthy was fortuitous more than anything. Then, after using free agency dollars and prospects-for-big-names trades to supplement their homegrown talent, they won the world series and of coursethey'll have the money to attract big name free agents after that (crawford and gonzalez obviously. to a lesser extent beltre, who worked out fantastically but was originally a bit of a gamble).

Take the phils now, in what I would argue is a comparable period to the red sox of 2001-2005 era (with the most obvious comparison being 2005, since that was the same "post WS win" era as for the phils recently). They have used trades to turn their well developed farm system into immediate big league talent (halladay, oswalt, blanton, lidge) and used their post WS clout to sign some notable free agents (lee, ibanez, polanco).

What's the difference? I don't see one, really. Other than the fact that big bats get paid more than big pitchers, there isn't a whole lot (arguably the red sox free agent moves this year are a step above...but I would counter by saying that the phillies are a few years behind in the progression, so they'll get there [also the fact that phils have a higher payroll than sox this year]).

Both teams have ravenous fanbases (the phillies more recently re-energized; the sox fans always ravenous, only lately more joyous). The Sox have a million straight sellouts or whatever, but the phils have 180 straight. Both teams travel well (the announcers alwaysnote that there are way more Phillies fans than Marlins fans even when they play in Florida). Does a fanbase that travels well denote arrogance, or ignorance, or fair-weather-ness, or whatever arbitrary (and often contradictory) terms the phillies fans are throwing around at red sox fans these days? In justifying their hatred of Boston fans, I would be curious to hear a philadelphia fan name one objective thing about the red sox or their fan base that didn't equally implicate Philadelphia fans. The teams are weirdly similar.

Is it not the pinnacle of arrogance to assume that, of two mostly equal teams, it is yours (and only yours) that is respectable and worth rooting for, and that the otherteam and their fans are just a bunch of ignorant jackasses? I think it is. Yet, that is exactly what the outspoken Philadelphia fans do with the Red Sox.

And he can play.

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