Monday night at Nationals Park, the differences between the Washington Nationals and Philadelphia Phillies were on full display. It was a brutal, thorough and complete embarrassment; from the result on the field down to the omni-present Phillies fans chanting and taunting the few Nats fans in attendance.
The Phillies operate under one simple credo: Win.
They have all-stars at almost every position. They signed a Cy Young Award winner to head their staff, then traded for another perennial all-star pitcher at the trade deadline. They have homegrown superstars at first, second and shortstop (when healthy).
When the Phillies lose a player to age, injury, or free agency, the organization simply fills the gap, utilizing resources (both monetary and personnel) efficiently.
And they have a loud and dedicated (if boorish and obnoxious) fan base that fills road stadiums and generally acts as if they own the place.
The Nationals, losers for the 90th time this season, continue to send lower-round draft picks and castoffs from other organizations out in front of sparse and polite crowds, as long as the weather's nice and the Redskins aren't playing.
What homegrown players they do have generally are still too young to be considered fully-functioning major leaguers. And they certainly don't have enough of them yet.
And the organization, despite claims of attempts at being players in high-rent free agent sweepstakes (Teixeira, Chapman), have for the most part peddled in reclamation projects and dumpster diving, hoping to polish coal into diamonds -- to expected results.
Yes, the dichotomy was certainly on display once again Monday night, as several thousand Phillies fans packed the lower bowl of Nats Park to laud their heros, as Roy Halladay threw a two-hit complete game shut out, and Philadelphia clinched a fourth consecutive N.L. East title, winning 8-0 before a soggy, pro-Philly crowd of 14,309.
The only other statistic to cite to prove the utter domination the Phillies hold over the Nationals: the Nats are 20-50 against Philadelphia the last four years.
With chants of "Let's Go Phillies!", "This Is Our House!", and finally, "We're Not Leaving!" after the players retreated to their clubhouse to celebrate with the customary champagne showers, Phillies fans left in no uncertain terms that their invasion of opening day, while more impressive in total numbers, was no fluke, and could be repeated seemingly at will.
At least the Phillies players were classy enough to stay in the clubhouse and not dignify the rabble with a curtain call in their opponent's stadium.
Nats Park ushers and security had their hands full trying to escort their "guests" from the seating bowl, reveling in another division championship. The fact that they secured their title on enemy soil seemed to further embolden them.
But at least Phillies fans were there, which is more than can be said for their counterparts.
It's trite to say that the Phillies have what the Nats want. But then, it's hard to say exactly what the Nats want. Sure, the players and coaches and General Manager want a championship of their own to celebrate. But is the ownership really willing to do what it takes to provide the necessary talent to make that goal a reality?
They profess to have the desire to bring winning baseball to Washington, but do these powerful business-people really understand what it takes to be successful in this new business they've taken on?
Their arranged marriage partner, team President Stan Kasten, is running off after the bare minimum commitment he made to the Lerner family and to Major League Baseball. He's not retiring, just resigning from his position with the Nationals. Kasten has bigger fish to fry now.
They've squandered all but shreds of the original goodwill this organization enjoyed when it first moved here in 2005, when a season ticket base of 22,000-plus filled dingy, dark and depressing R.F.K. Stadium, simply because baseball was back in D.C.
Now, in a brand new stadium, the Nats can draw 22,000 only when facing a favorable opponent -- and the weather is nice. They are literally giving tickets away -- offering four seasons tickets for the price of two -- for any new full-season ticket package for 2011.
Does the organization have any idea how disenfrachised the core fan base feels right now? The Lerner family is local, so one has to assume a civic pride. Anyone that calls D.C. home -- and not just the place they're currently living -- had to feel embarrassed and neglected by the franchise they so heavily have invested in Monday night..
The problem? The majority of that fan base was at home watching on TV -- if at all -- tuned out and turned off by almost 300 losses the past three season, while thousands of Phillies fans celebrated another division title in the ballpark paid for by taxpayers of the District of Columbia.