Despising the city of Philadelphia isn’t difficult, of course. It’s a backwater of subliterate drunks that hasn’t been relevant since the eighteenth century, the Liberty Bell is tiny and unimpressive in person, and the whole cheesesteak orthodoxy thing is a pain in the ass — Ooh, someone ordered our precious official city sandwich with the wrong kind of cheese, let’s all freak out. But which Phillies will end up receiving the lion’s share of Yankees fans’ southward-directed antipathy?
Cole Hamels. The lanky left-hander has struggled so far in the postseason, but he’s the reigning World Series MVP and shouldn’t be underestimated. He’ll make a critical start in Game 3 (and potentially Game 7). The reason you’ll end up hating Hamels by the end of this series, if he’s successful, is that he’s the opposite of what we imagine our grizzled, stoic East Coast baseball players to be. He’s a pretty boy who does Precious Moments–figurine poses with his perfect wife and perfect family in magazine ads. Get this guy a blog and some body fat, and in twelve years he’ll be Curt Schilling.
Raul Ibanez. Ibanez is 37 years old, ten years past a baseball player’s typical peak. He’s the kind of guy who gets drafted by the member of your fantasy league who just picks the players he’s heard of before. “Snicker,” you think to yourself. “I bet that loser hasn’t even figured out how to toggle positional-value weighting on the PECOTA projection spreadsheet generator.” And this season, 900-year-old Raul Ibanez hit 500 Goddamn home runs and probably won the league for whoever picked him. Screw Raul Ibanez.
Cliff Lee. Simply a classic infuriating lefty in the tradition of Mark Buehrle: mild-mannered, throws relatively soft (his fastball averaged 91 MPH this year), doesn’t seem to have incredible stuff, looks from the stands like someone you could probably get a hit off of, but is just consistently super-effective. Over the last two regular seasons he’s thrown 454 innings with a 2.89 ERA.
Matt Stairs. Those sad souls who make the argument that baseball isn’t “athletic” have a rare piece of evidence in Stairs, a tubby schlub who looks a lot like that guy at the end of the bar who you’re afraid to make eye contact with, the one chewing the lit cigar, oblivious to the fact that his leather-faced girlfriend has just passed out. Stairs is simply a fat dude who swings as hard as he can to try and send the ball as far as it can go. He rarely connects. But when he does — like he did in the NLCS last season against the Dodgers’ Jonathan Broxton — the result is arcing, beautiful, and entirely demoralizing to the opposition. (The Dodgers never recovered from Stairs’ homer last year, and Broxton’s pitching around him this year led to Jimmy Rollins’ game-winning double in Game 4.) You’ll see Stairs either D.H.-ing or, more likely, pinch hitting off Phil Hughes or Joba Chamberlain in the eighth inning of a tight game this week. Be afraid.
Jayson Werth. A late addition to the list when someone in the office pointed out that it’s annoying that someone so handsome is also so good at baseball. True. Stop hogging all the good luck, Jayson Werth. (Also, unlike many Phillies stars, he crushes left-handers — his OPS against them was 1.080 this year — and he’ll have a lot of chances in this series to extend that dominance.)