PHILADELPHIA -- Billy Wagner has come out firing more than
fastballs at his former team.
Wagner closes for the Mets now instead of Philadelphia, but the
opinionated lefty has thrown some gas on the rivalry between the
two best teams in the NL East.
Wagner told The Philadelphia Inquirer for Sunday's editions that
he was not well-liked in the Phillies clubhouse, his former
teammates were waiting to see him fail and left fielder Pat Burrell
called him a "rat" during a midseason team meeting last year.
The division-leading Mets open a three-game series Tuesday at
second-place Philadelphia. The Phillies wrapped a three-game series
Sunday with San Francisco and the Barry Bonds circus.
"Now it goes from Bonds to Wagner," Phillies starter Brett
Myers said in mock indignation.
Forget the heckling Bonds received. The Phillies fans will
surely stuff the fence over the visitor's bullpen where Wagner will
sit within earshot of the nonstop abuse.
"Bring on Billy Boy," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said,
Wagner saved 59 games in two seasons with the Phillies before
signing a free-agent deal with New York, but sometimes made as much
noise with his mouth as he did with his 100 mph fastball. Last
July, Wagner said the Phillies "ain't got a chance" of making the
playoffs and criticized his teammates for not having enough
intensity, saying they quit when they got behind.
That led to a team meeting where Wagner told the Inquirer he
felt it was "24 against one," and added that Burrell called him a
"rat" during the meeting.
Also, Wagner said he didn't believe the Phillies supported him
and felt that he deserved to fail, especially in a late-season loss
to Houston where he gave up a ninth-inning, three-run homer to
Craig Biggio in an 8-6 loss.
The Phillies finished just one game behind National League
wild-card winner Houston.
"That wasn't a good comment," Phillies pitcher Cory Lidle said
before Sunday's game. "I don't know what was going on in his mind
when he said that. That wasn't the case. We needed him to pitch
well down the stretch if we wanted to make the playoffs."
Lidle said Wagner's description of the team meeting was
"completely false" and he never heard anyone call the reliever a
Manuel understood why the Phillies would be upset with the
comments because he took them to the media.
"A lot of that should have stayed in the locker room among the
players," Manuel said.
Manuel, though, believed the quotes would add to the hype of the
important early series. So does Manuel think Wagner would be booed
now that the former fan favorite is on the other side?
"There may be a good chance," he said, smiling.