Billy Wagner hinted yesterday that he’s leaning toward retirement, saying “I don’t plan on talking to nobody” when asked where he’ll pitch next season.
Wagner was dominant after coming back from Tommy John elbow surgery, posting a 1.72 ERA, 26/8 K/BB ratio, and .154 opponents’ batting average in 15.2 innings, but gave up two runs in Game 3 of the ALDS as the Red Sox were swept out of the playoffs.
As part of the trade that sent Wagner from New York to Boston the Red Sox agreed not to exercise his $8.8 million option for next season, with the assumption being that he wanted to pursue closing elsewhere. Wagner is just 15 saves from reaching 400 for his career, which is a mark topped by only Trevor Hoffman, Mariano Rivera, Lee Smith, and John Franco.
Wagner called the 400-save milestone “just dust in the wind” yesterday, but Mike Puma of the New York Post quotes “a source close to the situation” as saying that he “might just need a cooling period before deciding to pitch in 2010.” That seemingly makes more sense than battling all the way back from Tommy John surgery to reestablish himself as an elite reliever only to call it quits 15 innings later.
Wagner’s awesomely named agent, Bean Stringfellow, seems to think that he’ll be pitching in 2010, saying the following to the Boston Herald this morning:
Those comments probably came right after the Red Sox lost, so I’d bet they were said in the heat of the moment, when he was very frustrated. That’s probably not the best time to take comments like that as gospel. That’s not what Billy has told me or indicated to me about next year. That’s not to say that he couldn’t, but he’s given me no indication that he will retire. Certainly I am moving towards him playing next year.
Wagner is a Type A free agent, so retiring rather than signing elsewhere would cost the Red Sox a pair of compensatory draft picks. And more importantly the best left-handed reliever of all time showed that he has plenty of gas left in the tank at the age of 37.
The Athletics have hired former MLB manager Matt Williams, the team announced Friday. Williams will take over third base coaching duties under manager Bob Melvin, filling the vacancy left by Nationals’ bench coach Chip Hale after the 2017 season.
Williams is no stranger to the Bay Area, but this will be his first time sporting the green and gold. He got his start in pro ball with the rival Giants in 1987, where he manned third base and collected four All-Star nominations before jumping ship to the American League in 1997. After a one-year stint in the Indians’ organization, he returned to the NL to finish off his 17-season career and eventually hung up his cleats with the Diamondbacks in 2003.
Post-retirement, Williams has crafted a resume that almost over-qualifies him for a coaching gig. He led the Nationals to a cumulative 179-145 record from 2014 to 2015 and earned props as NL Manager of the Year after bringing the team to a first-place finish in 2014. In 2016, he split the season as a first and third base coach in the D-backs’ organization, then accepted a studio analyst position with the Giants for the 2017 season. Although he has yet to suit up for the Athletics in any role, he’s not unfamiliar with skipper Bob Melvin. The two were teammates on the Giants’ 1987-88 roster and spent some time in Arizona together when Melvin took a coaching job there in the early 2000s.
While next year’s reunion will be fun to watch (unless, I suppose, you’re a Giants fan with a long memory), Williams may not have his sights set on a coaching role forever. As the San Francisco Chronicle’s John Shea reported back in July, the 51-year-old knows what it feels like to win as a manager, and it’s a position he might be open to pursuing in the future.
“For me, my most comfortable space is in uniform,” he told Shea. “I’ve done the ownership thing and front-office stuff, and that’s fun. The most gratification I get is swinging a fungo and throwing batting practice and being on the field. It’s what you know and love. I look at myself as a teacher first and foremost. At the end of the day, I think that’s how I have my greatest influence.”