Monday, November 03, 2003

Billy, Don't Lose My Lead

It appears that Ed Wade is again dropping off early Christmas presents for the Phillies faithful. Peter Gammons is reporting that Wade has obtained closer Billy Wagner from the Astros today for Brandon Duckworth and players to be named. A 1 p.m. news conference is scheduled.

Despite a relatively small stature, Wagner is the kind of flame-throwing, lights-out closer that Jose Mesa never was here, even in his best days. Forty-four saves, an ERA under 2.00, 105 whiffs (against only 23 walks) in 86 innings pitched this season -- this guy is the real deal.

In a September 14 New York Times Magazine piece on fastball pitchers, Pat Jordan caught up with Wagner in Houston, where he closed out a win over the Cubs. "In one inning and a third, Wagner threw 11 fastballs," Jordan wrote. "One was timed at 98 m.p.h., eight were timed at 99 m.p.h. and two were timed at 100 m.p.h. No one murdered Billy Wagner's fastball." Additionally, Jordan's article frames Wagner as a grounded, regular guy, an attentive father to two young sons; one can't imagine him cursing out and shoving an Inquirer reporter who deigns to ask him about the save he just blew. (The Times story is too old to link to; sorry.)

Losing Duckworth, a demoted No. 5 starter who never fulfilled the promise he showed early in his career, is not a big deal. We'll need to see the names of the players to be named to determine exactly how big a price the Phillies paid. But for now, Merry Christmas, fans. And thank you, Santa Ed.


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