Wagner has no regrets over comments

Updated: May 9, 2006, 10:20 PM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- New York Mets closer Billy Wagner keeps bringing the heat against Philadelphia, only with his mouth instead of his 100 mph fastball.

 Billy Wagner
Wagner

The left-hander caused a stir over the weekend when he said 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."

Wagner made his first trip Tuesday to Philadelphia since signing with the NL East-leading Mets and said some of his comments were taken out of context.

But he expected to be booed if he pitched, and he didn't expect too many former teammates to visit and shake his hand.

"I don't really regret saying anything," Wagner said.

Wagner backed off his comments that some of his former teammates wanted him to fail, saying instead that he didn't have much support from them when he blew a save.

"I know they didn't want me to do bad, it was never that," Wagner said.

Wagner also insisted he didn't leave Philadelphia because of money: He left because the Phillies failed to offer a no-trade clause.

Wagner, who had 59 saves in two seasons with the Phillies, said he told former general manager Ed Wade in the middle of last season that he would have signed a $24 million, three-year extension with a no-trade clause. Wagner said Wade told him he was overpricing himself.

New York offered $43 million over four years, a no-trade clause and a chance to win. That was enough to sway the four-time All-Star to the Mets.

With his 100 mph fastball and his "Enter Sandman" theme, Wagner was an instant fan favorite in Philadelphia but he said the fans who are allowed to hang near the rail over the bullpen were often abusive to him and his teammates.

Enjoying some quiet moments to himself in the dugout, Wagner joked with a security guard about the time he paid a heckling fan $20 to shut up and go away.

"I don't think you have to be hated to be booed here," he said.

Wagner began to feel unpopular in the Phillies clubhouse last July after he 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 said he felt it was "24 against one." Wagner said Tuesday he was trying to defend his comments about the team in the meeting and hoped a teammate would support him.

"I didn't hear them speak up in the meeting and say anything to back me up," Wagner said. "They were the ones shaking their heads and nodding with some of the things going on."

Some Phillies suggested a media boycott, and to this day it's rare to find more than one or two available starters in the clubhouse after the game.

Wagner was about the only Phillie to always make himself available, whether it was a dramatic win or a crushing loss. He was the first player reporters interviewed to take the pulse of the team. Wagner said that pointed to a lack of leadership in the clubhouse.

"When you have leadership, you don't have this nonsense," Wagner said. "When you have leadership, it's a look, a glance, something like that. You don't have this BS."

Wagner disputed that he said Burrell called him a rat.

"All I said was I was called a rat," Wagner said. "I never said Pat called me a rat at all."

But Wagner told The Philadelphia Inquirer for Sunday's editions that Burrell did call him a rat, though the reliever later clarified it wasn't during the team meeting. Wagner also took a subtle shot at Burrell before Tuesday's game.

"We needed to quit worrying about little piddly things and play the game and play hard and quit worrying about our hair or what's going on after the game," Wagner said.

Wagner has seven saves in 10 chances, while closer Tom Gordon hasn't blown a save in 10 opportunities as the replacement in Philadelphia's bullpen.

"When we got Tom Gordon, we got a guy who's a great replacement for Billy Wagner," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said.

Wagner said he enjoyed his two years in Philadelphia, he's just having more fun in New York.

"The guys that know how I feel about them, they know I tried to be a good teammate, be very supportive," he said. "The guys that thought I was jerk, they know who they are, too."


Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press

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