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Sports

October 15, 2006

Billy Wagner, Baseball Philosopher

The Mets closer is 'writing' an exclusive column during the playoffs for the New York Post. Gelf is writing an exclusive column tearing it apart.

Carl Bialik

UPDATE, 10/20: Here are Wagner's last three columns. His last column, after the Mets' 3-1 loss in Game 7 of the NLCS, was less-clichéd and more heartfelt than those that came before. Wagner wrote, "It was a nail-biter to the end. We won all year because our 26th man—the fans—were behind us and they were behind us tonight."

I'd been reading Mets reliever Billy Wagner's "exclusive columns" in the New York Post since the playoffs began, but until his implosion Friday night against the Cardinals, I felt a little bad about mocking the guy. Three runs and one crushing playoff loss later, I'm ready to compile the clichés and life lessons from Wagner's postgame "columns," as told to Burton Rocks, a co-founder of Chat With a Star, a website that fills the void of trite bullshit from celebrities in our culture. (At last, we know that Miss USA found the pageant victory "very rewarding.") Here are the most meaningless or incoherent excerpts from Wagner's wisdom corner:

October 4
On the upcoming division series against the Dodgers.

Billy Wagner
Scouting report: Great fastball, poor originality.
Does a one-legged duck swim in circles?
I'm still as nervous as a kid on his first day of school.
my heart was pounding.
Just go out there and do the same thing you've been doing all year long - be excited, play with a lot of emotion and adrenalin, and the butterflies will go away and it will all be easy.
the nerves started flowing
the adrenalin undergoes a metamorphosis from raw nerves to focusing on pitching.
He means a lot to the younger guys and to the clubhouse.
Maine stepped up and proved that he can be a big-game pitcher. We have every confidence that he will be the same big-game pitcher when the bell rings against the Dodgers.
we've got a great arsenal of lefties with bats on their shoulders.
His on-field presence will help calm the rookies and help them to gain their sea legs.
the playoffs are a different beast.

October 5
On the Mets' 6-5 victory over the Dodgers in Game One of the division series. Wagner yielded one run in the ninth but got a save.

Yesterday's game had all the drama of a well-crafted play.
rose to the challenge.
a huge momentum builder for us.
dramatic fashion
they are such good teammates and joys to be around in the clubhouse.
a day that will live fondly in Mets history.
it was a roller-coaster ride to get there.
The day started off in typical electric New York fashion.
Our fans hadn't listened to the critics who had counted us out for dead. What everyone forgot about was we were, and are, a clubhouse of 25 guys, one cab! We have heart and we intended to show the fans that we were wearing our true-blue Mets hearts on our sleeves.
Everyone who was anyone was on hand to be seen and heard at the ballpark. I felt like a kid in a candy store.
Comforted in the pre-game drama, I thought back to my home roots, that there are no such things as pity parties. I grew up at the foothills of the mountains and whenever I felt pity coming on, my papa gave me a shovel and had me dig at the edge of that mountain.
The lesson was learned. Work with what you've got and do your best! If you're good enough, you'll persevere in life.
I told the younger guys that we win as a team and that we can do it.

October 6
On the Mets' 4-1 win to take a 2-0 series lead against the Dodgers. Wagner pitched a perfect ninth for the save.

Anytime you come on in relief, playing with a packed house of 57,000 people screaming their brains out, it doesn't get any better than that!
The last thing I wanted to do was let them down.
I needed to make pitches and respond
he would be trying to get on base and set the table any way he could.
The rule of thumb
In some cases it's right on the money, but not in all.
make no mistake, behind that calm demeanor is a fierce competitor.
Finding a fiercer competitor is a tough order.
he goes about his competitive nature in a very professional manner.
the drama played out, beads of sweat and all, right down to the ninth inning wire.
Once again, the team that stays together in the locker room wins together!

October 8
On the Mets' 9-5 victory over the Dodgers to sweep the series. Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth.

everybody writing us off.
I knew it'd be a battle, which it was.
An early lead in hostile territory is a must.
if he's got his game face on and ready to go.
We have heard all of the clichés before of "taking one game at a time" or "staying within oneself." But those clichés, come October, cry out to be embraced.
Knowing that I prepared all I could, that I gave it my all with my entire heart, however, is comforting.
The heart on the other side of that diamond was equally as large and as thumping as ours.

October 11
On the Mets' upcoming series against the Cardinals in the NLCS.

They could be the X-factors of the entire series because of their ability to turn on a pitch in a heartbeat.
The situation is a whole new ballgame in the postseason. Throw the regular books out the window. Adjustments need to be made to be effective. The phrase "the book on hitters" has been bantered around throughout baseball history.
Sometimes a pitcher gets caught up in trying to do too much, so I try to just stay with my game plan: keep it simple.
You've got to make him hit your pitch, not his pitch.
The Cards as a team is a "no-nonsense" team.
He can play small ball out of a textbook.
Our X-factor is our clubhouse. I look inside our own clubhouse and know that we have the mettle to win Game One. We have proven resiliency all year.
We play together. We win together.
This clubhouse, right from the top down, knows how to win and how to be good teammates and good friends in the process.

October 13
On the Mets' 2-0 win over the Cardinals in the NLCS opener. Wagner pitched a scoreless ninth for the save.

the epitome of clutch.
Carlos provided the exclamation point of the night.
Tom Glavine pitched his heart out for us
dramatic fashion
It was ear-shattering. My heart was pounding. I told myself to get the job done; to deliver for the sake of my teammates and for the sake of the fans.
a walk can often open the door for a team.
It seemed like a lifetime at that moment coming from Marion, Va., from humble roots to the electric and wild atmosphere at Shea last night.
all was well in Mets-ville.
We played as a team. We won as a team.

October 14
On the Cardinals' 9-6 defeat of the Mets to level the NLCS at one game apiece. Wagner gave up three runs in two-thirds of the ninth inning to earn the loss.

battled all night
The team did it all as a whole.
he took me deep, plain and simple.
on any given day an opponent can beat you up and down the lineup.
It was a hit parade and I was the server for the table.
The only thing I can offer fans is the fact that I plan to go out and try my best like I've done my whole career.

October 15
On the Mets' 5-0 loss to the Cardinals to go down 2-1 in the NLCS. Wagner didn't appear.

He pitched his heart out
Although nothing compares to our fans at Shea, the loudest and most electric crowd ever, this place packed them in.
St. Louis is a great baseball town.
They live and breathe Cardinals baseball all spring and summer long.
sea of red (x2)
just plain, old textbook defense
Momentum can be a fickle commodity.
the attitude that we┬╣ve had all year long was that we can persevere.

Related on the web

•Wagner's column explains why the sports blog Deadspin is proud not to have access to athletes, why Football Outsiders is named as it is, and why FO's Michael David Smith is correct when he writes on Jim Romenesko's journalism message board, "There's really no reason a reporter has to attend practices or even games to cover a sports team effectively."

•The Big Lead submitted questions to Wagner and wrote of the results, "Wagner was kind enough to bullshit his way through two answers in classic athlete verbiage."

Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.







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Comments

- Sports
- posted on Jun 23, 07
James Willimas from Ferrum College:

Please tell Billy Wager Hello for me. Thanks

- Sports
- posted on Jun 23, 07
James Willimas from Ferrum College:

Sorry for spelling last name wrong. Wagner


Article by Carl Bialik

Carl Bialik, a co-founder of Gelf, is a writer for FiveThirtyEight.

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