By Rico Brogna
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Phillies fans are some of my very favorite people in the world of sports. I love passionate Philadelphia. It is where my favorite Italian restaurants are (South Philly). I admire and respect the sports mindset of that town. It is so relentless and so competitive. The loyalty in Philadelphia is right in your face. Man, I love that!

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Oh, how quickly some do forget. I was a member of one brutal Phillies team. It was in 1997. I was a part of, probably even a larger part than I would like to remember, the reason that team didn’t exactly smell like roses. I know when I stink it up and I am not afraid to admit to it. What did the Philadelphia sports fan have to cheer for that 1997 summer? To be perfectly honest, I knew it was the NFL draft and pre-season, and the start of Flyers hockey season arriving in the not too distant future, or not soon enough. The City of Brotherly Love sports junkies had been basically relying on the cold, hard fact (or is it “Urban Legend?”) that they were the tough ones that were booing Santa Claus! Booing Santa? Get real people! That’s not being Rocky Balboa tough, that’s just being silly and sad. Hey, I like Santa. I’ll bring it right back to Philadelphia is a sec …

The 1998 New York Yankees were the best baseball team I ever played against. I’m obviously, and for good reason, done playing anything remotely close to athletics anything nowadays. However, if I were a player in the opposing dugout, I’d have to believe that this years Phighting Phil’s team rivals that 1998 Yanks squad managed brilliantly by Joe Torre and company. I’d be in awe of the players they have filled this roster with. You want intimidating? Come to Philadelphia for a cheesesteak sandwich and add Roy Halladay or Cole Hamels that evening’s festivities! You’ll be burping onions, cheese and peppers all the way back to the dugout after you strikeout for the third time. That’s a nightmare of a rotation to face in a series and the offensive lineup can get you at every turn. What a team!

Kris Kringle can now come or go, either way, it’s not a topic that Philadelphia Phans feel the need to brag or boast about these days. They have their “best baseball team” Philadelphia Phillies now and think that they always have. Always have? Oh, wait a minute, was that 38,000 people at the Vet dressed as seats and guest suites back in the late 90’s? Just saying. Man, we had an announced crowd of 17,000 usually and if you subtract say, 14,000 from that, well, that’s about who showed up.

Now back to the Bombers: My 1998 Phillies team had the mighty Yankees beaten by like a score of 5-2 going into the bottom of the 9th inning at the incredible “old” Yankee Stadium. “Phew, at least we won’t get swept by these dudes” and “we’ll take this 3rd game of the series,” we numbly hoped. C’mon Rico! A Jeter hit here, a Paulie O’Neil knock over there, a base on balls and a minute later a moon shot BOMB by Tino, Tino, Tino into the right field upper deck traveling at warp speed directly over my noggin as I planted myself at 1B. Best part of this story? We did not even record one single freaking out in that half-inning. Not one out! The Bombers walked us off and didn’t even blink, game over.

As far as starting rotations go, the Phillies of 2011 and the Yankees of 1998 are two of the better rotations ever assembled. Look not much further than that to know why these two teams were (are) successful. The Yankees offense scored 965 runs that 1998 season and only gave up 656 runs. The game is about runs scored and run prevented. Pettitte, Cone, Wells, Irabu and El Duque. Oh ya, forgot too mention the “bully” they threw at you, ouch! It was Mariano, the versatile and rubber-armed Mendoza, Stanton, Nelson and Graeme Lloyd just to name a few who toed the bump after starters were yanked.

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As for the Phighting Phillies, they are currently well armed with Halladay, Hamels, Oswalt and Cliff Lee. That’s a fairly daunting task for opposing offenses certainly. Somehow though, a Madson and a Bastardo do not do the same for me. Don’t get me wrong, I believe and am convicted in the fact that starting pitching is the key for any baseball team and this Philadelphia team does have that now. Believe that!

You cannot even get a ticket there now? The brightly lit and well-decorated stadium just off of Broad Street is packed and rockin every night. But you’d think that it was forever this way down there? Give me a Lee Corso, “Not so fast my friends!” How quickly people forget. I believe ‘they’ call it selective memory?

Santa’s cold, wet and bruised face, just a short time ago, was the object and focus of your steel tough ways Philadelphia. I too have Philly Red running through my veins. But I cannot forget those challenging years where only true and hardcore Phillies fans braved the elements visiting the Vet. A little different than it is now. Ed Rendell and Howard Eskin would have to agree.

Nope, not this time. Cliff Lee rejecting the mighty Yankees or not, I’m taking the 1998 Yankees in this street battle.

Rico “Suave” Brogna

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Former major-leaguer Rico Brogna will be writing for WFAN during the MLB season.