Tuesday, December 16, 2003

Pitching Points

The Inquirer gives Billy Wagner a big wet kiss today. Under the headline "A Perfect Fit," complemented by a deck that reads "Gritty Billy Wagner, the Phillies' new closer, should be a hit with Philly fans," Todd Zolecki profiles the hard-throwing southpaw, writing:

Phillies fans should love Wagner, and not only because he is the sure-thing closer they desperately have craved. They should love him because he worked hard for just about everything he has and everything he is.

I'm all for positive coverage when it's warranted, and Wagner seems like good guy who has indeed overcome what the sportscasters like to call "adversity." But, honestly, is it really, you know, news that someone has "worked hard for just about everything he has and everything he is"? Haven't all of us not named Paris Hilton done that?

Elsewhere in the Inky, Jim Salisbury reports on the Phillies' signing of Roberto Hernandez; see Paul Hagen's story in today's Daily News here. (The Baseball Crank isn't enamored of Hernandez, but is glad he came cheaply.) Salisbury's and Hagen stories also note that the Phils are targeting either free agent Eric Owens or likely free agent Brian Buchanan to serve as a right-handed bat off the bench. Additionally, Salisbury all but chants "Liar, liar, pants on fire" to Scott Boras:

The Phils are keeping a close eye on [Saturday] because they have offered pitcher Kevin Millwood arbitration. On the surface, interest in Millwood appears to be slight, but agent Scott Boras continues to maintain that his client has suitors other than the Phillies.

"Kevin has been the ultimate submarine racer here," Boras said before leaving the [winter] meetings yesterday. "He's going to have a couple of good decisions to make."

It is believed that Millwood would agree to pitch only in Philadelphia, Atlanta or St. Louis. The Braves are not in the running, and the Cardinals could be out since they signed righthander Jeff Suppan yesterday to a $6 million, two-year contract.

ESPN.com's Jayson Stark is even blunter:

For two guys [Millwood and Greg Maddux] who have won nearly twice as many games as they've lost in their careers, it sure has been a quiet free-agent winter. A little too quiet.

But that seems to have more to do with the mammoth price tags Boras has been floating around the marketplace than it does with their desirability.

Before Boras turned down a since-yanked three-year, $30-million offer from the Phillies on Kevin Millwood last month, he intimated Millwood had a five-year offer at big-time bucks that he couldn't wait to accept. Instead, Millwood seems almost certain to take the Phillies' offer of arbitration -- and go back to Philadelphia on a one-year deal at $11-12 million.

The alternatives? Oh, the Cardinals and Mets have poked around, exploring what it might take to keep him from saying yes to the Phillies. And Boras tried his best to add to the intrigue Monday by calling Millwood "the submarine race of the winter meetings" (meaning there's lots of excitement about him below sea level).

"He's going to have a couple of good decisions to make," he said, at his cheery agent-like best. But Millwood's friends say it would be a shock if he ended up anywhere other than Philadelphia -- unless the Cardinals clear a huge chunk of payroll in the next few days. And there's no sign that's doable.


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