After watching the Philadelphia Phillies and Pittsburgh Pirates square off this week and culminate their three-game series on the 4th of July, one can’t help but feel Pirate fans are getting short-changed. And Phillies fans too.
The Phillies and Pirates! 4th of July! Day baseball! A sellout crowd! A pennant race! It doesn’t get much better than this.
Well, it could.
What used to be an 18-game hardcore season-long rivalry between two blue-collar baseball teams back in the days of Roberto Clemente, Willie Stargell, Steve Carlton and Mike Schmidt is now a mere three-game wham-bam-thank-you-maam short visit to each city, that can only leave fans from both teams wanting more.
No doubt some of the rivalry remains, but with only six total games over the entire season now being played these days between the two cross-state Pennsylvania foes, it’s hard to build up any good old fashion animosity or any kind of a dramatic storyline. There just isn’t enough opportunity.
Before 1994, when MLB went from two East/West divisions in each league to the current three East/Central/West setup, teams like the Phillies and Pirates had a natural geographic rivalry that played out in 18 games over the course of the long season like a good dramatic film. A few years later in ’97, when MLB adopted interleague play, it all but cut the film into little more than a coming attraction’s trailer.
With hundreds of Phillies’ fans in the stands after making the five-hour car trek west to the ‘Burg to spend their holiday watching the two teams do battle this week, one can only wonder what it would do for both team’s fan bases, as well as baseball fans in general, if there were more games being played between the two geographic rivals. And others as well.
MLB and the major sports networks have no problem shoving the New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox rivalry down our throats every year, as if it was the only series that mattered to every single baseball fan on the planet, so the league must understand the value of a natural rivalry. By not playing teams like the Phillies, New York Mets and even the Washington Nationals more than a handful games, Pirate fans are simply getting the short-end of the scheduling stick.
Maybe, since the line between the American League and National League gets blurred more and more every year, MLB should just scrap the whole present AL/NL divisional setup and regroup every team according to a more geographically friendly format. Then they could come up with a real balanced schedule instead of the unbalanced joke they have now. Do Pirate fans really care about playing teams from the AL West division this summer? Seeing them in the World Series is fine, but before then, who cares?
Would Pirate fans really rather see the Seattle Mariners or Oakland A’s than the Phillies, or the Mets for that matter? Are the Mets even in the same league as the Pirates anymore? Do they still play each other? Blink and you’ll miss it.
As a kid living on the east coast, after watching the Mets and Pirates play 18 times a season on local New York TV, year after year after year, the Mets’ old theme song is forever ingrained in my brain…
Meet the Mets! Meet the Mets! Step right up and greet the Mets! Bring the kiddies, bring your wife, guaranteed to have the time of you life! Because the Mets are really sockin’ the ball, hittin’ the home runs over the wall. East side, west side, everybody’s comin’ down, to meet the M-E-T-S Mets of New York town!
Could I have ever learned such a valuable piece of information with only the handful of games they play now? No. It just wouldn’t have been possible.
Or how about the Mets’ sponsor, Schaefer Beer and their most-excellent ol’ jingle?
Schaefer, is the, one beer to have, when you’re having more than one. Schaefer, pleasure, doesn’t fade, even when your thirst is done. The most rewarding flavor in this man’s world, for people who are having fun… Schaefer, is the, one beer to have when you’re having more than one!
Yes, baseball fans everywhere are truly getting short-changed these days with the modern schedule.