Billy Wagner was one of my favorite players on the Mets during his tenure in New York, and chills would soar down my spine each time he zipped his 100 mile per hour fastball down the middle of the plate in the ninth inning.
Wagner spent parts of four seasons with the Mets between 2006 and 2009, and his Mets’ resume includes an impressive 2006 campaign when he led the team to the league championship series and closed the door on both the NL East clincher and the Divisional Series clincher.
Wagner spent time closing out games with the Astros and hated Phillies before striking gold as a closer in New York, which the Mets saw as an advantage considering he was familiar with the rest of the division. The Braves are also satisfied at this point, considering Wagner has now been on three times in the NL East.
Wagner was a fan favorite in New York; He would march out of the bullpen to the sound of Metallica’s “Enter Sandman,” surrounded by the Shea Stadium faithful. He would reach the mound and unload a wad of his cheek-full of chewing tobacco before beginning his practice pitches.
These are characteristics of a stereotypical redneck, and Wagner clearly fits the bill in Atlanta. Most of the core players on the Atlanta Braves come from the Southern states, so it comes as no surprise that Wagner was born in Virginia. In fact, when the Braves visited him in the off-season, Wagner picked up manager Bobby Cox in a muddy truck.
It’s an interesting story that has unfolded, but it will be even more intriguing to see Wagner pitch against the Mets and the rest of the NL East. I don’t remember how it felt to see Wagner pitch against the Mets since I was so used to seeing him wearing orange and blue, but I’m sure I’ll be just as scared as fans of the opponent while he was on the Mets.
I’ll still feel the chills down my spine, but the chills will occur as a result of fear rather than excitement. Wagner would want nothing more than to beat his former team that traded him away.