Some love for Billy Wagner

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How about ending your career with a season like this: 7 wins, 2 losses, 37 saves, 1.43 ERA, 104 strikeouts and 22 walks in 69 1/3 innings.
39-year-old Billy Wagner, who has maintained all season that this would be his last, ended his 16th major league campaign by striking out the last four batters he faced in a win that sent the Braves into the playoffs Sunday.
If he’s truly done — and it seems doubtful that he’s the type to flip-flop — he finishes his career with 422 saves, a 2.30 ERA and 1,196 strikeouts in 903 innings. A seven-time All-Star, he ranks fifth all-time on the saves list and sixth for strikeouts among relievers. Among pitchers to throw at least 300 innings, only Rob Dibble and Brad Lidge have stronger strikeout rates than Wagner, who finished with 11.9 K/9 IP, and Lidge will probably fall behind Wagner during the downside of his career.
Wagner will be an interesting Hall of Fame case. His numbers are remarkable, but he ranks as just the No. 3 reliever of his era and he’s struggled mightily in the postseason. It’d help him a bunch if he were a big part of a Braves run to the World Series this month. Wagner’s teams are 1-6 in seven postseason series, with the left-hander giving up 13 runs over 11 1/3 innings in 13 appearances.
And that’s a big negative. Since he’s a closer, it will probably be held against him more than a similarly poor postseason performance would be held against a Hall of Fame-caliber hitter. Wagner, though, was a big reason why most of those teams got to the postseason. In his 13 relatively healthy seasons, his worst ERA was a 2.85 mark.

Terry Francona isn’t sure how long his health will allow him to manage

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 19:  Terry Francona #17 of the Cleveland Indians reacts during batting practice before a game with the Boston Red Sox on August 19, 2015 in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images)
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Terry Francona just won the American League pennant, the Manager of the Year Award and his Cleveland Indians will likely be among the favorites to win it all in 2017. Between that and his 17-year track record as one of the best managers in the business, he will have a job, somewhere, for as long as he wants one.

He said yesterday, however, that his body will likely limit how long he manages:

“It gets harder and harder physically. It really does. It takes me longer to recharge every year . . . I’ve had a lot of surgeries, a lot of health problems. It just takes a toll on you. I love [the game of baseball]. I really do, but I can’t see myself doing something else. But there is going to come a day when I feel like I’m shortchanging the team or the organization. That’s not fair.

“Even now, during batting practice, I’ll come in and get off my feet a little bit. I think everybody understands. But when there comes a day when it gets in the way, I’m going to have to pull back, and it’s not because I don’t love managing. You have to have a certain amount of energy to do this job right.”

Francona experienced some chest pains and had an elevated heart rate that caused him to leave a game early last season. In 2005 a similar episode caused him to miss three games while managing the Red Sox. He also has a history of embolisms and blood clots, some of which have hospitalized him.

With multiple World Series rings there isn’t much more in baseball that Francona can accomplish, but here’s hoping he sticks around and accomplishes a lot more before he trades in his baseball spikes for golf spikes and calls it a career.

David Ortiz could be in the Red Sox TV booth this season

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A month or so ago it was reported that David Ortiz was going to meet with the Red Sox and NESN to discuss, maybe, spending some time in the broadcast booth in 2017. He’s retired now, of course. Gotta keep busy.

Today we read that, yes, Big Papi may take the mic. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy said that Ortiz may be in the booth on a limited basis, and that Ortiz has talked about wanting to “dip a toe in that water.”

I’m quickly becoming a fan of ex-players who want to, as Kennedy puts it, “dip a toe” in broadcasting as opposed to those who want to make it a full-time job. Former players who become full-time broadcasters tend to start out OK, but eventually burn all of their good anecdotes from their playing days and just become sort of reactionary “back in my day” dudes. There are some exceptions to that of course — guys like John Smoltz and Dennis Eckersley have kept it fresh and Tim McCarver never rested on his playing laurels as he forged a long career in the booth — but for any of those guys there are just as many Rick Mannings Bill Schroeders.

The part time guys who dip in and dip out — I’m thinking Pedro Martinez, Alex Rodriguez and even Pete Rose, who did a good job this past fall after a rocky 2015 postseason — tend to be more fresh and irreverent. They really don’t give a crap on some level because it’s not their full time job, and that not giving a crap allows them to say whatever they want. It makes for good TV.

If Papi can hold off on the F-bombs, I imagine he’d be a pretty good commentator. If he can’t, well, at least he’ll be a super entertaining one for the one or two games he gets before getting fired.