Billy Wagner Sets Strikeout Record, Declares It 'Stupid'
Count Billy Wagner as a conscientious objector to that milestone obsession, though, as the veteran closer reacted with open disdain to attempts to celebrate his ascension to the top of a particular statistical list.
Wagner's strikeout of the Marlins' Mike Stanton in the ninth inning Friday night -- as he was in the midst of mop-up duty in a 7-1 Braves loss -- made him the all-time leader in strikeouts by a left-handed reliever, with 1,170. He passed Jesse Orosco for that rather obscure but nonetheless impressive honor.
The Braves noted Wagner's feat on the Turner Field video board and both umpire Tim McClelland and catcher David Ross tried to get Wagner to throw the ball into the dugout for safekeeping -- standard procedure in these situations. Wagner refused, however. Rather adamantly.
"I said 'We're getting our (butts) kicked, it's raining, let's go,' " Wagner told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It's stupid. Who in their right mind makes a big deal out of doing something they're supposed to do in the first place? I'm out there pitching in a (bad) game; we're getting our butt kicked. It's not worth it to make a big deal out of that. That's embarrassing."
Wagner kept pitching with the historic ball, first walking Logan Morrison before Hanley Ramirez fouled a ball down the third-base line. Wagner picked the ball up at that point and tossed it into the stands, but the Braves sent a clubhouse attendant into the crowd to retrieve it for him.
Maybe one day, as he gazes at that ball resting in its case over his fireplace, he'll have a bit more appreciation for the feat. Braves manager Bobby Cox -- perhaps a bit more given to sentimentality as he, too, plays out his final season -- is already there.
"I think it's big," Cox said of the record. "It may never be broken again."