By Dan MacNeal
As a new segment on Team to Beat, I’ll be profiling former Phillies who are still active in MLB. This week, facing the Braves, we’ll be focusing on Billy Wagner.
After the Phillies traded for (at the time) a three-time All Star closer, the Phils bullpen looked stronger with the lefty fireballer closing out games. His first season was cut short due to shoulder problems, but 2005 was a great year. He won the teams’ pitching MVP, saving 38 of 41 games, posting a 1.51 ERA and earning his fourth of sixth All-Star appearances.
However, during the 2005 stretch drive, Wagner told the media that the team had “no chance” of making the playoffs, which irked teammates. The team confronted him and Phillies left fielder Pat Burrell called him a “rat”. Wagner said that the confrontation was one of the reasons Wagner decided to leave the team after the 2005 season.
Wagner then pitched the next three and a half years for the Mets, earning his last two All-Star appearances in 2007 and 2008. The Red Sox claimed him off of waivers to finish the 2009 season, and he signed with Atlanta for this year. He announced recently that 2010 would be his last season, however, he had previously said he would not pitch past the 2009 season. Currently this season, he is 1-0 with 4 saves and a 1.64 ERA for the Braves.
Wagner is closing in on 400 saves, likely to hit the mark sometime this season. Wagner still ranks ninth all time for the Phillies for saves (59). When he was acquired, he was quickly a popular player, hitting 100 mph or close on his fastball. However, as quickly he became a fan favorite, he became public enemy number one.