Let ’em come, these Philadelphia Phillies fans. As long as there are seats available, they’ll come anyway, with their shirts of red and their language of blue. Their cash is green, and if the Washington Nationals are going to continue to sign children to hefty deals, they need it.
Let Phillies fans use their gas money to come see their team drop two of three, and in such sucker-punching fashion as well! The Nats are now third in the division and within sight of .500, that magic number. Someday, with a little luck, they could be — should be — where the Phillies are now.
Of course, for now, even though the Nats have emerged from the chrysalis of the NL East cellar, they are still not full-fledged butterflies. They are 20 games behind the Phillies, which is a little like being lapped in a marathon. But so what? Not even the biggest spring training dreamer thought the Nats would contend for the title this season. A third-place finish and a .500 record would be quite an achievement for this club. And all these chest-thumping Phillies fans know it. Because their team used to stink.
“You have to earn the kind of fans the Phillies have. That takes time,” said Ryan Zimmerman after Sunday’s walk-off hit-by-pitch. (Perfect!)
Zimmerman’s correct, to a point. When the Phillies were bad all those years, you couldn’t get arrested at Veterans Stadium, and that’s saying something.
The Phillies now have rabid followers, as do all successful teams. Not all of them were with them in the lean times, as is the case with all fan bases of successful teams. The Nats’ fan base will undergo a similar expansion when the team gets good, and the longtime Nats fans — well, “longtime” is relative in this case — will be grumbling not about the Phillies fans who clog the roads and Metro cars and food lines, but about the carpet-bagging, bandwagon-jumping, Nats Town newbies who couldn’t pick Chad Cordero out of a lineup if he wore a flat-brimmed cap.
Until then, the Phillies fans will descend upon us like locusts, with their irritating buzzing, and there isn’t anything Washington can do about it — except buy tickets. Maybe that would work as a promotion: “Buy a Ticket, Annoy a Phillies Fan.” That would be better than the former practice of actively encouraging them to hit I-95 like a jersey-wearing convoy from hell.
Most Phillies fans are good fans who know their baseball and travel with their team. They are all painted as drunken jerks when that’s really only sometimes true. And they are loyal: They donated the money for the statue of their late broadcaster, Harry Kalas, which was unveiled last week at Citizens Bank Park North.
I do question their treatment of Jayson Werth. Why the boos? Last season, Werth hit .296 with a .388 on-base percentage and a .532 slugging percentage for Philadelphia. The Nats lured him away for big bucks — hopefully payable in gold bars, not stocks — and through Sunday’s game he was hitting .227/.329/.378. Seriously, they ought to give the guy a standing ovation every time he comes to the plate, in either ballpark. The irony would not be lost on the pockets of Washington fans, whose biggest cheers for Werth came on opening day.
Still, let ’em come. They delight in your chagrin, outnumbered Nats fans, so don’t give ’em the satisfaction. Your day will come. And I-95 runs in both directions, you know.