PHILADELPHIA -- There's no rivalry and no aura, at least according to Billy Wagner. The outspoken Mets closer should know. As a representative of both factions, Wagner has friends in each clubhouse, despite once being labeled a "rat" by Phillies outfielder Pat Burrell. The Phillies and Mets don't hate each other.
"Not at all," Wagner said on Friday from the field at Citizens Bank Park. "Philadelphia fans hate New York fans and New York fans [hate Philadelphia fans]. I don't have any problems with any of these guys. I mean, they'd like to take me deep, not because they hate me, but because it's part of the game. If I'm out there, you have to beat me." The Phillies beat the Mets plenty last season, going 12-6 -- including the last eight meetings -- en route to the National League East title. The Mets won back some respect by taking two of three at Shea Stadium last week. A mutual dislike for each other seemingly has been fueled on radio talk shows and local bars, where the intensity grows with each pitch thrown by Johan Santana or Cole Hamels, or every base hit by Jose Reyes or Jimmy Rollins. The "who's superior debate" extends beyond baseball. Eagles fans and Giants fans don't get along, and Flyers supporters haven't been known to break bread with those wearing Rangers jerseys. Wagner took it a step further, throwing cold water on arguably the most storied rivalry in professional sports. "I don't think Yankees-Red Sox is what it makes out to be, either," Wagner said. "It's all fans -- that's what a rivalry is. Over the last two three years, this has become pretty good. Every series we played last year was big. Do I hate them? I want to beat everybody. I don't know if I hate them. I know a lot of them and I don't personally hate them, but I like beating them." Phillies manager Charlie Manuel seconded that notion, adding that he feels Wagner is entitled to his opinion, but said, "Right out there [the field] is where you play the game. Results come from out there. Performance you can't take away from anybody." Speaking about the burgeoning rivalry, Wagner created a stir in the tabloids with his contention that the Phillies lacked the "aura" of the Braves teams who has a long history of winning divisions -- before the Mets broke through in 2006, then the Phillies in '07. Wagner clarified those remarks. "As good as [the Phillies] are, you don't get that sense of 'Oh geez, we're going to lose this game,'" he said. "I don't think it came out right. It wasn't like I said they weren't going to be any good or we weren't worried about them. All I was saying is the Phillies don't have that type pedigree where they've been to the playoffs 12 years in a row. "That aura isn't here. It's still a young team. They haven't had five or six years of going to the playoffs." Eventually. "If we didn't get their attention last year, we never will," Manuel said.
Ken Mandel is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.