Mets closer Wagner blasts former Phillies teammates
PHILADELPHIA -- Billy Wagner has come out firing more than fastballs at his former team.
New York Mets
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, laughing.
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 rat.
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.
Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press
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