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.
Veteran hurler Jake Peavy has not signed with a team. It’s not because he’s not still capable of being a useful pitcher — he’s well-regarded and someone would likely take a late-career chance on him — and it’s not because he no longer wishes to play. Rather, it’s because a bunch of bad things have happened in his personal life lately.
As Jerry Crasnick of ESPN reports, last year Peavy lost millions in an investment scam and spent much of the 2016 season distracted, dealing with investigations and depositions and all of the awfulness that accompanied it. Then, when the season ended, Peavy went home and was greeted with divorce papers. He has spent the offseason trying to find a new normal for himself and for his four sons.
Pitching is taking a backseat now, but Peavy plans to pitch again. Here’s hoping that things get sorted to the point where he can carry through with those plans.
This is fun: The San Francisco Giants recently made their last payment on the $170 million, 20-year loan they obtained to finance the construction of AT&T Park. The joint is now officially paid for.
The Giants, unlike most other teams which moved into new stadiums in the past 25 years or so, did not rely on direct public financing. They tried to get it for years, of course, but when the voters, the city of San Francisco and the State of California said no, they decided to pay for it themselves. They ended up with one of baseball’s best-loved and most beautiful parks and, contrary to what the owners who desperately seek public funds will have you believe, they were not harmed competitively speaking. Indeed, rumor has it that they have won three World Series, four pennants and have made the playoffs seven times since moving into the place in 2000. They sell out routinely now too and the Giants are one of the richest teams in the sport.
Now, to be clear, the Giants are not — contrary to what some people will tell you — some Randian example of self-reliance. They did not receive direct public money to build the park, but they did get a lot of breaks. The park sits on city-owned property in what has become some of the most valuable real estate in the country. If the city had held on to that land and realized its appreciation, they could flip it to developers for far more than the revenue generated by baseball. Or, heaven forfend, use it for some other public good. The Giants likewise received some heavy tax abatements, got some extraordinarily beneficial infrastructure upgrades and require some heavy city services to operate their business. All sports stadiums, even the ones privately constructed, represent tradeoffs for the public.
Still, AT&T Park represents a better model than most sports facilities do. I mean, ask how St. Louis feels about still paying for the place the Rams used to call home before taking off for California. Ask how taxpayers in Atlanta and Arlington, Texas feel about paying for their second stadium in roughly the same time the Giants have paid off their first.