Friday, August 25, 2006

Wagner and his winning way

David Lennon at Newsday writes about Billy wagner and his greatness that he has refound:

Billy Wagner hasn't been asked a question about "Enter Sandman" in months, and with a streak of 10 consecutive saves, as well as 18 in his last 20 chances, there's not much buzz around his locker these days.

Which is just fine for a closer, and especially someone like Wagner, a part-time alpaca farmer from Charlottesville, Va. Despite the occasional roller-coaster ride in the ninth inning, his attitude is the most consistent thing about Wagner. And along with a 98-mph fastball, there is no greater ally on the mound during those pressure situations.

Wagner usually is the first one dressed, even though he is the last player to enter a game, and his routine never wavers. On Wednesday, Wagner grabbed two Slim Jims from the cafeteria, poured himself a cold drink and plopped down on the couch with a newspaper.

As reporters flooded the clubhouse, he sat blissfully unaware of the commotion around him, and that's pretty much how Wagner goes about his business, from the moment the bullpen door swings open to the final out.

Never mind that he still hears boos from the Shea fans from time to time, and callers to talk radio say that the $43-million closer makes them nervous. Coming from Philadelphia, the city that booed Santa Claus, Wagner seems immune to criticism. Or better yet, doesn't really care.

Wagner won't pander to the fans, or apologize after a blown save. When asked this week if he believes he finally has won them over, Wagner flips a page and shrugs.

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