Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Billy Wagner has a fantasy baseball team

It was a good news-bad news situation when Billy Wagner struck out Toronto's Aaron Hill in his Red Sox debut a couple of weeks.

The good news: Wagner showed off a 95-mile-an-hour fastball and a nasty slider, the two pitches that has made him such a devastating addition to the Red Sox bullpen. Hill might be one of the best hitters in the American League this season, but Wagner made him look foolish with a two-strike slider down and in.

The bad news: Wagner and his 11-year-old son, Will, have the All-Star second baseman on their fantasy team.

"I was in the bullpen, and I was telling the guys, 'Yep, he's on my fantasy (team),'" he said.

It wasn't too long after that game he talked to his son -- and, more importantly, the co-owner of his fantasy team. The message was not positive.

"He said, 'You just killed our fantasy team,'" Wagner said with a chuckle. "I was like, 'Sorry. I had a few different pressing issues.'"

Wagner joined a fantasy league set up three years ago by former journeyman relief pitcher Mike Magnante, a lefty who pitched with Wagner in the Houston Astros' bullpen for two seasons. Magnante now teaches school in California, and he set up the league as a way for a handful of fathers he knew to have something to do with their sons.

"We have some smack talk between families," Wagner said.

Will Wagner couldn't get enough of it. Like many 11-year-olds, he's a voracious baseball fan. Before the Red Sox made their August trade with the Mets, Will knew more about the American League from tracking his fantasy team than his father did.

"I never watched any of the games," Wagner said. "At the end of the games, I'd just check the scores and see if I needed to move somebody or go get somebody or if anybody was hurt or healthy or whatever. ... My son was always trying to trade guys, and I was always trying to tell him, 'No.' I always had to look to make sure he wasn't trading someone."

The league doesn't do a live draft -- some of the fathers and sons pre-rank their players and adjust their rosters from there. (Wagner opted not to pre-rank his players and just went with what he was given.)

Among the players either autodrafted or later picked up by the "Six Wags Down" ownership team: Russell Branyan, Chris Carpenter, Ryan Franklin, Zack Greinke, Dan Haren, Hanley Ramirez and Brian Wilson.

"I had Jayson Werth and let him go," Wagner said with regret in his voice. "God, he had a great year."

Oh, and, of course, Hill.

At no point this season did Wagner own himself. Another team in the league, in fact, tracked his progress during his rehab and picked him up even before he made it back to the major leagues.

Will was specifically instructed not to put in a waiver claim.

"I told him I wouldn't (own myself)," Wagner said. "I stink. It's too much pressure as it is."

Will did trade for his dad during the first year of the league. He promptly was instructed to unload him again -- and it's not because his dad had inside information about the Tommy John surgery he was destined to undergo.

"I told him to trade me so we could trade and get some outfielders," he said. "It took some doing, but we got it done. ... We always had decent pitching, so I've always said, 'Get hitters. They're better.'"

1 comment:

floydiansea said...

I love stories like this ... lets us see the real people behind the players. And it's funny!

Great story, good stuff.