Former Mets closer Billy Wagner isn’t upset he wasn’t brought in during Game 7 of the 2006 NLCS
The 2006 Mets’ season is arguably one of the greatest in franchise history. In fact, in our recap of the best teams of all-time, that club cracked the top 10. Unfortunately, it concluded in a terrible fashion with a Game 7 loss at Shea Stadium to the hated Cardinals.
That final game was as stressful as any in recent memory with it going down to the ninth inning tied at 1. Manager Willie Randolph opted to go to Aaron Heilman instead of closer Billy Wagner to pitch that top of the frame. Heilman – who has almost been forgotten as the goat of the 2006 NLCS – gave up the two-run shot to Yadier Molina. In the bottom of the ninth, the Mets would load the bases. And we all know what happened afterwards.
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Well, many Mets fans over the years have wondered why Randolph chose to not bring in his closer in the ninth inning of a tied game at home. Logic would dictate that even if you’re guiding yourself by the “save” theory, you’d still want him in because the save opportunity is no longer feasible with those circumstances.
Wagner apparently doesn’t think it was that big of a deal. In fact, in an interview with Mathew Brownstein of MetsMerized Online, the 46-year-old lefty said he agreed with the decision.
“I’ll be honest with you, at that time the guy that was throwing the ball the best for us was Heilman,” said Wagner. “I was up and I was ready and you would suspect that I was going to be in there, but I also know that Willie was going with what he felt was his strength at that point.”
Wagner is realistic about the fact that something similar could have happened to him.
“I know Heilman ends up giving up the home run but I could’ve very easily been that guy because I’ll be honest with you, I gave up a home run to (So) Taguchi in Game 2 that lost the game and then I came in the night before and I pitched,” recalls Wagner. “I think I pitched three out of the seven games, and I think I hit the wall and I think he (Randolph) was trying to give me space and I think Heilman was the best guy right there.”
That series was wild. Maybe it was the best decision to run Heilman out there instead of Wagner, but we’ll never really know if the same thing would have happened had Randolph done something differently.
Manager decisions can always be questioned once they fail, but much like with Matt Harvey in Game 5 of the 2015 World Series, at the time, they felt correct.