Country Time = Time to burn some bridges. From the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Jim Salisbury. (link courtesy Chuck Meehan)
Three days before returning to Citizens Bank Park in a New York Mets uniform, outspoken former Phillies closer Billy Wagner yesterday painted a grim picture of his final weeks in the team’s clubhouse last year.
“I knew I was not well-liked there,” he said, referring to his former teammates. “I felt like an outsider.”
Worse, Wagner said, he got the feeling late in the season that his teammates, whom he described as overly sensitive about media coverage, were just waiting to see him fail.
Wagner said he became “everyone’s least favorite Phillie in the clubhouse” after he called his teammates on the carpet for their spiritless play in an interview that appeared July 1 in The Inquirer.
In response to Wagner’s critical comments, former teammate Kenny Lofton called a team meeting in the weight room. Wagner described the meeting as “24 against one,” and added that Pat Burrell called him a “rat” during the meeting.
On Sept. 7, in the heat of a pennant race, he surrendered a two-out, ninth-inning, three-run home run to Houston’s Craig Biggio after David Bell committed an error to extend the game. The Phillies lost, 8-6.
“After I called them out, they were waiting for me to fall flat,” Wagner said. “In my mind, when I went out to the mound, they were waiting for me to go in the tank. I could be wrong, but that’s the feeling I got.”
Pitcher Brett Myers reacted angrily to that observation.
“That’s a stupid comment,” Myers said. “I can’t believe he said that. We missed the playoffs by one game last year. Yeah, we cared if he blew a save. Maybe he didn’t care. Maybe that was it. Maybe that’s why he’s saying this. That’s a cop-out.”
Wagner said he was hurt by his teammates’ lack of support and added that he’s loving life with the Mets because the team is like a family.
“There was no support there,” he said of the Phillies’ clubhouse. “As soon as the game was over, everyone was gone and I was there by myself.”