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New York Post: Mets, Phillies Now Best of Enemies


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February 24, 2008 -- CLEARWATER, Fla. - Jimmy Rollins was presented yesterday with a monster-size bat from Max Bat in honor of winning the MVP. The bat's 85 inches long and weighs 45 pounds. As he picked it up, outfielder Shane Victorino yelled: "Take that against Johan. That's for Johan's changeup."

Rollins laughed and held up the bat as if to bunt against Johan SantanaJohan Santana t.gif. Yes, the MetsNew York Mets t.gif and Phillies are never far from each other's thoughts.

"You just don't want to lose to them," Rollins said with passion in his voice. "The season counts, every game counts, but it seems the season doesn't start until you play them. Now you've played the Mets, let's get going."

The Mets' home opener is April 8 against the Phillies, starting a stretch of six games in 13 days between the teams. Bring it on, Rollins said, knowing his Phillies are the team to beat in the East no matter what Carlos BeltranCarlos Beltran t.gif says.

"That's going to be a lot of fun," Rollins said. "The reason I said what I said last year was really for this team. And I was talking about the NL East, not just the Mets. Once the Mets got hold of it and responded to it the way they did, the pressure wasn't on us, it was on them, to prove us wrong."

And the Mets caved under that pressure.

"They took it personally," Rollins added, "and it got legs, once New York gets hold of it, it could go. But it helped me personally as the season went on, knowing I was going to be under the microscope, and then at the end of the season, I earned me some [MVP] votes." Rollins and his teammates want to ratchet up the rivalry. Who knows if there will be a brawl? But you can be sure that, beginning that opening series, the Phillies will be looking to continue where they left off, beating the Mets eight straight and getting in their heads in the process.

"To win the division the way we did was a lot of fun," slugger Ryan Howard said.

Rollins chuckled over the fact Beltran is now stealing his material, accusing Beltran of plagiarism.

"He's stealing mine; I stole Hillary's," Rollins said with a laugh, showing he is politically in tune as well. "We know what we have to do this year. Last year is behind us. No one is reflecting on that. Now we just want to be better."

Rollins said his team could win 100 games. That hasn't happened in Philadelphia since 1977.

The Phils are counting on new acquisitions such as closer Brad Lidge. However, Lidge had to leave practice yesterday with an injury to his right knee and is to be re-evaluated today.

"A lot of players want to be part of a rivalry like this," Howard said. "You want to go out there and beat that team, and the competition makes everything better - the pitching, the games. You want to go out there and have good competition, that's what the fans want to see. They want to see a good game that comes down to the last at-bat.

"Basically, it's both teams making each other better."

This is not Red Sox-YankeesNew York Yankees t.gif. That's like saying the grouper sandwich at Hooters is as good as the grouper at Frenchy's, But it is beginning to become a real-deal rivalry.

Reasoned Rollins, "There are more than those two teams in baseball."

Offered lefty Cole Hamels, "It's fun to see the MetsNew York Mets t.gif-Phillies rivalry on ESPN. We want to be on more games on Fox."

These teams are rivals because they are better teams. The Mets and Phils have finished with winning records only seven times in the same seasons. Only three times have they finished 1-2, and before last season's historic collapse by the Mets, the two teams never really were within reach - in 1986 the Phils finished second, 211/2 games behind and in 2006 they finished 12 games back of the Mets.

"How do you make up a 12-game lead?" Rollins asked. "By winning by one. That's what we did."

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