How far have the Phillies fallen? So far that a Pennsylvania radio station has decided to drop them from its airwaves to start broadcasting Nationals games. That’s right. Sports Radio 96.5 FM in Harrisburg, Pa., is kicking the Phillie Phanatic to the curb and making way for Teddy and the boys. Ron Giovanniello, regional vice president of Cumulus Media Pennsylvania, confirmed the move to The Patriot-News.
“Our agreement was up and we made the decision last week to part ways with the Phillies and flip to the Nationals,” Giovanniello said. “Nothing against the Phillies, but clearly the Nationals are a team on the rise. They won the NL East last year and are picked to win it again this year.
“Obviously (a winning team) helps in all ways, and they certainly will be a postseason contender that makes a deeper run in the playoffs this year. Unfortunately, I don’t see that in the Phillies’ immediate future.”
Don’t hold back, Ron.
Maybe most of this is in jest. Perhaps just some playful jabs up Interstate 95. Then again, hopefully it’s more battle lines being drawn in a budding rivalry that will last for decades to come.
Most of the first 10 years of Nationals baseball were owned by the Phillies, who won five straight National League East titles from 2007-11, including a World Series championship in 2008. But the tides have turned in the last three seasons for the two clubs separated by just 140 miles. The Phillies are a combined 32 games under .500 during that time period while the Nats, of course, won the division in 2012 and 2014.
Along the way, there’s been plenty of fuel added to the fire. What began as maybe a couple of twigs being rubbed together sparked in 2010 when former Phillie Jayson Werth jumped on the money train for D.C. So if that was the first sign of smoke in this rivalry, then it was Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels who in May 2012 threw a Molotov cocktail on it to make it a raging inferno for years. Hamels, a three-time All-Star and former World Series MVP, intentionally hit Bryce Harper with a 93 mph fastball the first time he faced the then-rookie phenom. After advancing to third base, Harper exacted his revenge by stealing home and beating Hamels’ tag. Teammate Jordan Zimmermann responded by hitting Hamels the next time he came to the plate.
“I was trying to hit him,” Hamels bragged to reporters in the clubhouse, referring to Harper after the game. The macho admission earned him a five-game suspension and the rivalry was on.
Sometimes rivalries are manufactured for ticket sales and ratings and then sometimes you throw a couple of beanballs in an exhibition game. That’s what happened in March 2013 during a spring training game between the Nats and the Phillies. First, Stephen Strasburg hit Phillies star Chase Utley in the ankle with a fastball. An inning later, Phillies starter Roy Halladay quickly responded by sending his own screaming fastball behind the back of Tyler Moore.
“It slipped,” claimed Halladay, a two-time Cy Young Award winner.
Rivalries in sports are truly intense when both teams are playing well. That’s rarely been the case with these two ballclubs throughout the first decade of Nats baseball. It doesn’t appear as if we’ll experience it during the 2015 season either. The Phillies are expected to be cellar-dwellers in the NL East, while the Nationals are the current odds-on favorites to win the World Series.
The teams will play each other 19 times this season with the first series beginning April 10 in Philadelphia. A four-game series follows six days later at Nationals Park. Here’s hoping there will be far more trash-talking during the season about what’s going on in the games rather than where you can hear the games.
Of course, the Nats’ Double-A affiliate makes its home in Harrisburg. So now you can take the beautiful sounds of Charlie Slowes and Dave Jaegler with you on your drive up to scout some prospects at a Senators game.