The talking back and forth between the Philadelphia Phillies and New York Mets the past two years continued this week when Cole Hamels said in an interview on WFAN that the New York Mets have been choke artists the past two years. Is Cole Hamels right? Should he have made these comments?

The Philadelphia Phillies have won the NL East the past two seasons and are the current reigning World Series Champions. Obviously the Phillies have earned the right to talk about whatever they want. In 2008 there were thirty teams trying to win the World Series and the Phillies were the only one that did it. But I don’t like Cole Hamels’ comments for a few reasons.

Personally I think Cole Hamels’ comments were pretty insulting. It’s possible to praise your own team without insulting the other team. It’s even possible to point out a team’s deficiencies with coming right out and insulting them. I’m not saying the New York Mets shouldn’t be insulted because it will hurt their feelings. The Mets’ players don’t need to be coddled. I think the insults by Cole Hamels are wrong because it makes Cole Hamels look bad.

Jimmy Rollins has had a lot to say about the Mets-Phillies rivalry but I’ve never heard him insult the Mets. When it was the Atlanta Braves that were the Mets’ bitter rivals Greg Maddux and John Smoltz never insulted the Mets. Those guys I liked and respected, despite the fact that they played on my least favorite team. But Cole Hamels is not one of those guys now.

I’m not even sure Cole Hamels comments are true. This is a Mets blog, I’m a Mets fan. Even though I try and be as impartial as possible, I’m an optimistic Mets fan that will usually side with them. (I hate those woe as me pessimistic fans). But even I can’t deny that the end of the 2007 season was a disaster. But 2008? Not so much.

Being a choke artist suggests you play to a certain level all season long, then suddenly when the pressure is on your team cracks. That didn’t happen in 2008. Okay so Jose Reyes disappeared again in September and Oliver Perez ended his season on a bad note. But Johan Santana had a 1.83 ERA in September. Mike Pelfrey’s numbers were up but only slightly. In September Carlos Beltran, Carlos Delgado and David Wright batted .341 combined. They hit 20 home runs, scored 62 runs, had 62 RBI and averaged a 1.042 OPS.

The New York Mets didn’t choke in 2008. The New York Mets lost Billy Wagner to injury, lost John Maine to injury and had a horrid bullpen. That’s not choking. That’s having a weakness that was there all season long and losing two key players. Billy Wagner, despite not being perfect, was the Mets’ best reliever. John Maine wasn’t pitching as well in 2008 as 2007 but he stepped up in games after a loss. When John Maine started a game after the Mets loss the previous game his ERA dropped to 3.35 and his record was 7 – 1. The Phillies only won by three games. Who knows if they would have even won if Wagner and Maine didn’t get injured and that’s even with the Mets dreadful bullpen.

But most importantly I’ll never understand why people’s reaction to winning is to insult the losing team. Insulting a team you just beat does nothing but demean your own accomplishments. When an unranked football team upsets the #1 team in the nation. Why do they chant “OV-ER-RA-TED”? Those fans would rather be known as a team that beat a team that wasn’t really that good rather than be a team that beat the team deserving of the #1 rating? That’s stupid.

It’s the same thing here. Cole Hamels thinks the New York Mets are choke artists. Well if the New York Mets are choke artists then why should anybody be impressed that the Philadelphia Phillies beat them the past two years? All you did was beat a bunch of choke artists! Big deal! Cole Hamels is essentially saying the Mets are a better team but they lost the past two seasons, not because the Phillies beat them, but only because the Mets choked. That’s not exactly praise for your own team. What happens if the New York Mets beat the Phillies next season? If the Phillies lost to a good Mets team no big deal. But now if they lose, they lost to a bunch of choke artists. That won’t look good.

Cole Hamels needs to take a page from the book of J-Roll. When Jimmy Rollins called out the New York Mets two years ago all he did was praise his own team. Rollins didn’t say the Mets sucked, were overrated or were choke artists. All Rollins said was that the Phillies were better. That’s how you make a statement.

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