I'm having trouble getting worked up over Cole Hamels calling the Mets "choke artists." (Click here to go to WFAN and hear the broadcast.) It doesn't matter what players say in the offseason - it matters what they do during the season. People got excited last year when the normally reserved Carlos Beltran pronounced the Mets the team to beat in 2008. And at the end of the year, it didn't matter.
Last offseason, the talk was that the Phillies had the Mets' number, since the Phillies beat the Mets seven times in a row down the stretch in 2007. In 2008, the Mets beat the Phillies, 11-7, in the season series. And that didn't matter, either.
What really mattered was that the Mets' bullpen threw away the season. ESPN's Jayson Stark offers several startling statistics to make this point, including:
If all games had ended after seven innings, the Mets would have finished six games ahead of the Phillies.
Stark goes on to say:
The Phillies lost no games they led after eight innings. The Mets lost seven of them -- and lost 13 games they led after seven innings.
Thanks to Omar Minaya's moves, the Mets are extremely unlikely to blow 29 saves again. And Brad Lidge is just as unlikely to go the whole season without blowing a save, as he did last year.
On paper at least, the Mets have closed the gap with the Phillies, and maybe that's why Hamels seems to be worrying about the Mets rather than enjoying his own team's success.
The Phillies dominated the postseason, winning 11 games and losing only 3. They won both the World Series and the NLCS by a three-game margin, 4-1. Over the 162-game regular season, they only beat the Mets by that same three-game margin. suggesting that the Mets were the Phillies' toughest opponent of the year.
Shouldn't Hamels believe that the Phillies won because they were the best team, not because the Mets choked? Ultimately, calling the Mets choke artists only demeans the Phillies.
But the only way for the Mets to remove that stigma is to do it on the field.