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Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Billy Wagner Sweepstakes

Here are a couple of business rules that reflect good common sense:

1. If you're a sales person, don't insult a potential customer by telling him he's stupid.

1. If you're a picketing union member, don't drive your 2005 Mercedes SUV to the picketing site (as happened in a Bucks County, Pennsylvania school district recently).

3. If you're the GM of a professional baseball team, don't browbeat your star reliever over the telephone at the end of a contract year and when you really want to re-sign him.

4. If you're the GM of a professional team who wants to sign your free-agent, go to his house, talk with him, tell him about your grand plans, and tell him why it will make sense to re-sign with your club.

#3 actually happened over the summer, when then-Phillies GM Ed Wade apparently called Phillies' closer Billy Wagner to berate him on not making negative comments about his team's chances. #4 happened yesterday, when a troika of Phillies' executives visited Wagner in Virginia and made a pitch to him. So pleased was Wagner with the meeting that he was quoted as saying he's optimistic that he'll get something done with the Phillies.

For Phillies' fans, that's great news. Many had figured that once the Phillies didn't sign him during their exclusive period, the Mets were a lead-pipe lock to offer Wagner Big Apple-type bucks (read: more money or contract years than anyone else is going to offer, a la the deal they gave Tommy Glavine). Among those singing that tune were Mike & the Mad Dog of WFAN Radio in NYC.

Then again. . . it may be that Wagner is playing the ambassador, saying the right things to the right people so that he doesn't alienate anyone. Phillies' fans feel so burned by Ed Wade that they might have some skepticism about what really happened in Virginia. My view is that Wagner said what he said, and he's been frank before with the press so he really means what he said. He liked new GM Pat Gillick, he liked the plan Gillick had, and the Phillies had a good run last year.

That said, competition for choice free agents is always fierce, especially proven closers. Will Wagner want to go to NYC, a city that he really doesn't care for? Or will the money be so great that he'll just won't be able to pass it up? And how desperate are the Phillies to keep Wagner?

The Phillies' success last year rested in significant part with their bullpen and with Wagner as closer. He was great last year, and losing him could cost them many games and perhaps push them down to fourth in a competitive division. Then again, the one position that seems to turn over more than any other in baseball is closer, and sometimes teams aren't as worse off after they lose a closer because there's potentially an untapped gem in the wings, a Joe Nathan, a Chad Cordero or someone like that. Okay, so those guys might not be Billy Wagner, but that untapped gem will help you avoid committing $40 million over 4 years to a 33 year-old closer. You're taking a risk if you do that.

The Phillies will send Wagner their proposal in the middle of next week, before Thanksgiving, and perhaps in the midst of Wagner's visit to New York, just to make the situation more interesting. If you're a Phillies' fan, you have to like this news.

Few recall that at one point in his career the successful Gillick was called "Stand Pat", because he wasn't always quick to pull the trigger on deals at the trading deadline.

Yesterday, he was "Pat on the Back" Gillick, going to Virginia to show appreciation to Wagner, and he showed that by going on the road he was doing anything but standing pat.

He visited Wagner in his house.

Sitting Pat.

He was open and frank with Wagner about his plans for the franchise.

Stand-up Pat.

And if he can ink Wagner to a deal and help improve some other areas for the hometown team, Philadelphia fans will give him rousing applause.

And "Stand O Pat" has quite a nice ring to it.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

i guess billy wagner showed his true color is green, and went to feed at the pig truff (spelling?) like delgaldo, martinez, etc..

8:52 PM  

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