SPORTO: It Was Nice While It Lasted

JOE WARMINSKY: Excuse me if the following statement sounds greedy or petty or obnoxious, because it’s really about a deeper, almost spiritual level of dismay: It’s horrible knowing that Philadelphia’s current streak of National League East titles will end at five. My feelings have almost nothing to do with the Nats, so you Washington fans can just step off for a minute. The pain is really about the Atlanta Braves. Like so many things that matter socially or psychologically in sports, the hurt goes back many years, to the Braves team that won 11 straight division titles from 1995 to 2005. If you stuck with the Phils during that miserable stretch, you developed a seething hatred for the Atlanta franchise. You loathed it more than either New York team, even though “Fuck the Mets” was still a valid rallying cry and that era’s Yankees were probably the most evil baseball empire ever. It didn’t matter that the Braves generally crapped out in the playoffs. They got there; Philly didn’t. So when the Phils got good and the Braves fell off, hardcore Philly fans knew what they wanted: Not just one year of division-title revenge. Not just one World Series banner to match the one overall championship Atlanta won during its run. No, the only proper result would be years of dominance. Maybe not 11 division titles—that would be an irrational goal in a league that had changed significantly since the Braves’ heyday. But winning many, many more would be the only fitting result. After the Phils racked up their fourth in a row, the grudge was easier to compartmentalize. Maybe it only surfaced when the Braves were actually in town. But it never went away. When Philly beat Atlanta on Sept. 29 last year, knocking the Braves out of the postseason, it was sweet. Maybe even sweeter than ending the season with a fifth pennant. MORE

RELATED: And now, this, from the pen of what many Washington Nationals fans might visualize as a mouth-breathing troglodyte unable to manipulate such primitive tools—i.e., a Phillies fan: The Nationals have been a much, much better team than the Philadelphia Phillies this year. That statement is based on objective facts, the lifeblood of baseball, in which practically everything can be quantified. Through Sept. 24, the Nationals have won more games, scored more runs, made fewer errors, and allowed nearly six-tenths of a run less per game. These are the cold truths, the incontrovertible statistics. But they don’t represent the totality of why it is slightly easier for this Phillies fan to choke down a plentiful serving of humble pie. Six years ago, the Phillies traded away all-star outfielder Bobby Abreu. While it wasn’t quite the club’s worst trade ever—after all, Philadelphia once gave away both Ryne Sandberg and Ferguson Jenkins for nothing—it was viciously skewered. While that 2006 club boasted potential in Ryan Howard (that year’s MVP), Chase Utley, and Cole Hamels, the trade was considered, at best, a tacit admission that the team wasn’t ready to compete. A little more than two years later, the Phillies were champions. MORE