The first Phillies series since the NLCS. This is frightening because the Phillies are an excellent team. This is pleasing because it brings back memories of the Giants winning the National League Championship Series*.
But this isn't a series for nostalgia. This isn't a series to revel in past achievements. The Giants are a contending team, and they have unfinished business this year. To make too much of last year would seem touristy.
So the real question is this: is there a rivalry between the Giants and Phillies?
Whoops. Sorry. Yeah, I guess I found that picture in February and thought it would make a good .gif to haunt Phillies fans. This is because I'm a poor sport and probably a bad person.
But that's enough. There's no sense living in the past. Just because the Giants won the NLCS last year on the best, most perfectest pitch I've ever seen in my life ...
... doesn't mean that we need to bring it up every ... single ...time ... the Giants play the Phillies. There are other story lines, people. Here's one: what would that .gif of Wilson striking out Howard look like in slow motion?
Dang it, I'm just doing what I said I wouldn't do. So tacky. So satisfying.
But the original question is a good one, I suppose. Is there a Phillies/Giants rivalry now? Sometimes the best rivalries are the ones that aren't necessarily set by tradition or geography. The Giants and Cardinals had a pretty sweet rivalry in the '80s, and to switch sports, 49ers/Cowboys and 49ers/Packers were great rivalries. Those weren't around in the '70s, but when the Giants and Niners were championship contenders in the '80s and '90s, the rivalries found them.
My first reaction to the Phillies/Giants question: no. Give it a few years. One NLCS does not a rivalry make. The Rockies and Diamondbacks fans seem to hate the Giants more than each other, and they faced each other in the NLCS just four seasons ago. Even though both the Giants and Phillies are leading their divisions right now, it's still somewhat unlikely that they'll both reach the NLCS again -- not because they aren't good enough, but because weird things can happen between no and the middle of October.
But I can come around to the idea for a couple of reasons:
- The strengths of the two teams are similar. Both teams have superlative starting pitching. The Phillies have the better offense (but not as much as you think) and the Giants have the better bullpen (but not as much as you think), but the starting pitching is the biggest reason the Phillies and Giants are where they are.
- The Phillies never stopped being the overdog. Before the NLCS started, everyone knew the Giants were going to lose in five. And after the World Series, the biggest story was Cloyroyco. Coroyroyiff. Oshamleehal. It was an impressive collection of talent, it was. And people forgot about the Giants' rotation for a while. That's the sort of slight -- even if it's in the imagination of talk-radio mouthbreathers -- that can start a rivalry.
The litmus test, then, is this: how pissed off would you be if the Giants were swept in this series? How ecstatic would you be if the Giants were to sweep? The answer to both in scientific terms: Very a lot. So pissed. So ecstatic. And if the Giants dropped two, I'd perseverate on the losses far longer than I'd need to. If the Giants took two of three, I'd have a smug sense of satisfaction.
All of those feelings are heightened compared to, oh, a series against the Reds or Mets. Not even close. This series has haunted me (in the best possible way) for a while. Maybe after the stories change for the 2011 playoffs, it won't feel like a rivalry. But right now, yeah. Of course it is.
Hitter to watch
Carlos Beltran. He's totally going to do one of these:
... for both the Phillies and Giants. This will be possible because the Giants will accidentally DFA Beltran
Pitcher to watch
Not Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee! But before you get too excited, note that every pitcher is Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee to the Giants. Kyle Kendrick is like Halladay against the Giants, except he can get Cody Ross out. Vance Worley is like Cliff Lee, except right-handed and with the element of surprise. Cole Hamels is like Barry Zito, except much, much, much, much, much, much, much better, and those two are facing each other tomorrow.
I'd rather not face Halladay or Lee, don't get me wrong. But I'm also not about to get cocky.
Oh, man, there's gonna be hella trash talk on Twitter. Hash tags blowin' up and all. Looking forward to at least six "your stupid"s in baseball debates around the internet. Sometimes I wish I could just give humanity a big ol' sloppy kiss, I love it so.