You’d figure the same NY Post columnist who lambasted Orestes Destrade for calling Manny Ramirez “the consummate professional” would be the last guy on earth to lionize a me-first reliever whose sullen critiques of teammates, paying customers and his own manager have scaled the heights of self-importance. But that’s the wild, unpredictable Phil Mushnick for you, today declaring his devotion to Mets closer Billy Wagner.

Country Time has agreed to do a weekly radio spot on Michael Kay’s ESPN 1050 show. Beware, gushes Phil, tough talking Wagner “will say something that causes anything from a stir to a calamity. It’s a virtual lock.”

Wagner is a terrific interview. Ask him a question and he answers it candidly and almost always in some detail. He can’t help himself. Those kinds of answers made issues when he pitched for the Phillies and they’ve caused some heat in his two years with the Mets.

Wagner’s pre-game sessions with Ed Coleman on WFAN have been special. Coleman asks him a question – any question – and Coleman could leave to do his taxes and get back before Wagner’s done. It’s like when a disc jockey plays the FM version of In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida.

Wagner pitches hard, dies hard. The Mets have some players who don’t always play hard. The guess here is that when asked about something like that, he’ll eschew the politically evasive answer to say what he thinks. And it’ll make for headlines and talk show chow. Just wait; you’ll see.

As always, I appreciate Phil’s timely cultural references, and look forward to a future column where a Tim McCarver monologue is unfavorably compared to Joe Walsh’s “Life’s Been Good To Me”. There have been no shortage of allusions since last September that certain Mets vets —- usually those named Beltran and Delgado — should’ve taken a harder public stance in the midst of the club’s historic collapse. Wagner, easily the most deocrated member of the Mets’ bullpen, is apparently immune from such criticism so long as he bitches to a radio host after the dust has cleared.