The Old Billy Buhrooooooooo
Oh, Billy, Billy, Billy, Billy....
While it's been awhile since we held Billy Wagner's character in high regard, we had taken him for a fairly good poker player the last few months. So, imagine our surprise when he goes and shows us that he's really just the kind of gambler who does not know when to hold'em or when to fold'em. At least there's time enough for counting the money, now that the dealing's done.
Wasting no time at his introductory press conference with his new club in Flushing (as in, the sound of money going down the toilet in huge chunks), Wags called his own pitches approximately in this order: one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one, one...you get the idea. For a guy who was so happy to go to New York, who was "finally ready," who is now nice and close to his farm in southern Virginia, who has the best chance of his career to be on a winner (Houston, we have a problem with memory), lucky #13 sure had a lot to say about his former player. Sounding like a spurned ex-lover, Wagner sang every variation and remix of the "just don't feel appreciated, nobody wanted me, I want the best for my family, it's not about the money" medley the human ear can take. Good Lord, get over it already.
There are too many revelations about this story to go through -- from the Phils offering exactly what Wagner asked for back in 2003 only to see the ante upped repeatly for no apparent reason to conflicted reports about who offered what when -- but let's concentrate on two of Wagner's claims which show him to be a fraud saying anything to justify his wants to himself and presumably anyone in the Delaware Valley still listening:
#1: Wagner on his new (would have been) teammate:
"While the Phillies were getting rid of one guy, the Mets were buying up talent, and that's hard to overlook." The "talent" Wagner referred to is slugger Carlos Delgado, whom the Mets picked up the same day the Phillies traded Jim Thome to the White Sox last week.
This is by far the most insulting comment Wagner has ever let out of his one-pitch mouth. To Wagner, signing one guy to a big contract is a commitment to winning, while trading one guy with health problems and a younger, equal replacement for a world series champ ring-wearing regular and two hot prospects is simply getting rid of a guy. Aaron Rowand should tape this comment to his locker because it's a slap in the new Phillie's face. Forget that Rowand would be a defensive improvement in back of Wagner, how about the fact that getting young arms is exactly what a team committed to winning does?
Truth: Wagner was uncomfortable with the Thome trade becasue as a 34-year old vet, youth movement, even if it improves a club, is not in his interest. How much do you want to bet that Wagner took one look at the Thome trade and thought "if I sign here, that could be me"?
#2: Wagner cancels phone call:
Wagner was so impressed with the Mets' offer that he had his agent cancel the conference call with the Phillies, who, sources say, were ready to raise their offer and add a fourth-year option. "I knew they wouldn't match all the Mets had done," Wagner said of his decision not to speak one last time with the Phillies. "They were still worried about age and all that stuff organizations worry about."
It's tough to reconcile this line of thinking with real events and basic logic. The Mets behind the Phils last year, they were not as good a team. After speaking with Gillick a few weeks ago, Wagner and his agent were "encouraged" by the new GM and the direction of the team. For team to truly be concerned with winning, it has to make rational decisions based on multiple lines of reasoning. Spending is not a line of thinking. Worrying about "all that stuff that organizations worry about" is exactly what organizations are supposed to do. Who wants to work for an organization that doesn't consider that stuff? Isn't that the very quality assigned in the dictionary to the term "ignorance"? If Wagner has such contempt all of a sudden for his former employer's commitment to winning, why would he ever have entertained re-upping with them in the first place? Or is Gillick the guy who's not committed to winning? Surely, Wagner wouldn't hold a grudge against an organization for a guy they've since fired? Doesn't firing the mistake show a committment of some sort?
Truth: When hearing that the Phils could go to a fourth year on their offer, Wagner had Stringfellow cancel their call before the Phils could offer because the last thing he wanted was for the Phils to take away his best reason for walking. Having previously said that all things being equal, he'd like to return to Philly, that would not have been good for his M.O. or his leverage with the Mets.
So, blowhards like Howard Eskin and their incoherent contempt for the Phils front office can have their day of haughtiness. This was really the only move the Phils could make and sleep at night. Have a good 2006, Billy, because being an underperforming vet with a big contract is no fun in any town. Give Mike Piazza and his $16 million/year a hollar to talk about that one.