With Billy Wagner heading to Boston, I wanted to put together a farewell post, much like was done for Marlon Anderson and Ramon Castro. Given Billy's propensity for memorable quotes, I went through news archives to find some of the best from his time as a Met. Here they are, in chronological order:
The Mets are trying to win a World Series. I felt like this was the right place to be. There's a difference between winning and being competitive. In the end, I thought (the Phillies) were more interested in being competitive than winning.
3/7/06 - SI.com, On how the Mets successfully wooed him before he signed with them in November:
They had to win over [my wife] Sarah by showing her that this is a family organization. They included her, they talked to her, and they wanted her opinion. My wife's the opposite of me -- she's someone everybody likes, and she's very quiet. Not like me, the guy everybody thinks is a jerk.
On New York City life:
I'll be playing ball. I'm not going to have much time to do things. I'm not excited about the traffic. I told Tom Glavine that he's welcome to drive and I'll drive in with him. I'm just a country boy, but I can fit in.
5/9/06, ESPN.com, Regarding comments he made while still a Phillie in July 2005, saying that the Phillies "ain't got a chance" of making the playoffs:
I don't really regret saying anything. 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.
As a closer, sometimes you're not into the game mentally with a 4-0 lead.
Commentary: This is one of my least favorite baseball related quotes of all-time.
5/22/06, New York Post, Billy somewhat redeems his previous comments:
I've got to be ready for that. I do. I just wasn't anticipating. But that's my job.
Commentary: Damn right it's your job!
8/20/06, New York Times, On how he learned to throw 100 mph with such a small body:
When I was growing up, I didn't have a coach who told me, 'This is how you do it.' They just said, 'Hey, get on the mound, throw at the mitt and take it from there.'
10/14/06, ESPN.com, On the significance of the day he gave up 3 runs in the 9th inning of NLCS Game 2:
Aahhhh, Friday the 13th. Well, I know after 10 years and almost 300 saves, I've been asked about weirder stuff.
10/20/06, Times Herald-Record, On his playoff failures:
These are the games that define your year. I'm the one who has to live with pitching crappy.
2/21/07, MLB.com, More reflection on the 2006 playoffs:
I had nothing left when we went to St. Louis.
KNOW YOUR PLACE, ROOK
What happens with closers in that situation is that sometimes you get a little too much adrenaline.
Commentary: So I guess the key to closing is to achieve the right level of adrenaline - not too much, not too little?
10/1/07, New York Magazine, Responding to critics of the Mets bullpen:
We’ve been throwing four innings a night—for months! Our pitching coach [Rick Peterson] has no experience talking to a bullpen. He can help you mechanically, but he can’t tell you the emotions. He has no idea what it feels like. And neither does Willie [Randolph]. They’re not a lot of help, put it that way.
Note: Billy did backtrack from some of these comments, praising Randolph and Peterson for their leadership.
11/27/07, MLB.com, On the bullpen going forward from September collapse:
I understand what Willie wants -- for a lot of guys to be able to pitch whenever they're needed for as long as he needs them. I'm not sure you can have that. Guys are used to having roles. They'll take the ball because that's what the job is and that's what the manager wants. But the idea is to get them into situations where they can be successful. I mean, you wouldn't ask Carlos Delgado to bunt.
12/14/07, MLB.com, On PEDs and the Mitchell Report:
I know there's more to it than throwing as hard as I can. But sometimes I just think how cool it is that I can throw harder than most guys. When it says 96, 97 on the gun, on the scoreboard, you know someone's going to ask, 'How can a guy 5-10 throw that hard?' Then they'll start wondering, 'Did he use? Did he use and just not get caught?'
3/28/08, MLB.com, Providing his outlook on the 2008 season:
We didn't just come in second last year. We took a step backwards. Nobody's scared to play us anymore. We've got to build that up again... We should be scarier with him [Johan Santana]. But we shouldn't assume that we will be. Right from the first inning, we have to play with that urgency we all know we didn't have most of last year. But we get 30-35 starts from Johan Santana. That makes us tougher. We can say we have a bigger margin for error because of him. And we do. But we can't start thinking like that.
It's really sad when humanity comes to the point where somebody getting hurt, it's fun to watch. It's sad when that happens. Nobody wants anybody to get hurt. I don't want Jimmy Rollins getting hurt. I don't want Pat Burrell to get hurt. I don't want none of these guys. I want to compete against these guys because they're the best, and you want to beat the best. You don't want excuses. When you see Reyes laying there - it's a tough shot, a clean play - and the fans cheering that he's hurt, that just goes and shows you volumes about where our society is headed.
The Joba thing, to me, there's no question about where he should be. He's in the pen and that's where he should stay. He's dominating out there, so you want him comfortable, just doing what he's doing. You don't want him thinking, 'Well, if I'm going to be starting (at some point), do I need to work on my other pitches to keep that stuff sharp?' You don't want to give him anything that might have him wondering, 'What do I do?' You don't want to put anything in his head except getting those three outs in the eighth inning.
Perez has honestly got to step up and know that we've just used every guy in our bullpen the night before. He can't come out there and decide that gee, he hasn't got it today, and so be it.
Can somebody tell me why the f***ing closer’s being interviewed and I didn’t even play? Why they’re over there not getting interviewed? I get it. They’re gone. F***ing shocker.
Note: Billy later apologized for the comments.
7/23/08, New York Post, On what Jerry Manuel says to him when he messes up. It's also probably a subtle dig at Willie Randolph for lack of support:
When you make a mistake, he [Jerry Manuel] says, 'It's OK, just continue to play fearless.'
9/12/08, New York Post, On his Mets future, after having arm surgery:
I've played my last day as a Met, that's the way it goes.
7/18/09, New York Post, On his role upon returning from injury this season:
[I'll be] a Brian Stokes-type player [who] might pitch once a week.
I'm outta here!
Although I didn't care for some his comments in the media, namely ones that threw teammates under the bus, I'll certainly have fond memories of Billy. He threw hard, racked up strikeouts, had a cool theme song (he used it before Mariano Rivera did), and the Mets were a better team when he was available to pitch.