Billy Wagner on Clemens, Bonds, steroids

DENVER – We’ve got a quick turnaround from last night to today’s day game, so I figured I’d skip some usual blather and share a few stories that Billy Wagner told the other day on the bench before a game at Wrigley Field, when the subject of Roger Clemens came up.

Clemens was indicted last week on charges that he lied to Congress in his 2008 testimony after Clemens was among those named as a steroid user in the Mitchell Report.

Billy Wagner says it's "hearbreaking" that some of his heroes, including Roger Clemens, may have used steroids.

Billy Wagner says it's "hearbreaking" that some of his heroes, including Roger Clemens, may have used steroids.

I don’t mean to be too Wagner-centric on this road trip, but the man is unique in that he’s got a lot of interesting stories, and both the gravitas and willingness to tell them. Not often can we be privy to this kind of stuff, and I figured a lot of you would appreciate hearing them, too.

So here goes.

On superstars alleged to have used steroids:

“I told Barry [Bonds] this,” Wagner said. “I said, man, if that comes out that you did this it would break my heart. Because I always thought you were the best and I was competing against the best. Because my game got better when you stepped in the box.

“To know that you’ve had to do something to play at my level? That’s heart-breaking.”

I asked Wagner what Bonds said in response.

“He didn’t say anything.”

Then he paused, smiled, told a Bonds story. (Wagner loves telling stories like this, about facing a batter in a big situation, giving up a homer, striking a guy out, etc. He doesn’t always have the dates exactly right, but the details are otherwise always accurate, from the several times when I’ve tried to research the incident after Wagner has told a story.)

“Barry got in the box one day in Houston,” Wagner said. “It’s 2-1 ballgame, and I told Jimy [Williams, then-Astros manager], I’m not walking him. I will not walk him.

“I faced him and struck him out, and hit 102 [mph]. I got to the clubhouse and he calls me and says, ‘You son of a bitch.’ I said, dude, you didn’t think I was going to bring my ‘B’ game for you, did you?”

Another story:

“He hit a home run off me at [San Francisco], the second-to-last time I faced him. We had discussed it before, he said, ‘What are you going to do if I hit a home run? I said, it’s no big deal, Barry, you’ve hit a million of ‘em.

“I said it’s no big deal, but I will get you if you show me up [celebrating]. If you make this out to be bigger than it is – keep it within reason. I said if it’s a game-winner, I understand, you should be happy.

Wagner recalls telling Bonds that he'd hate to find out Bonds did 'roids.

Wagner recalls telling Bonds that he'd hate to find out Bonds did 'roids.

“But he tied the game. And he ran all the way around the bases [without showing Wagner up]. I watched him. And he called me afterward and said, ‘I knew I was going to get you.’

“I said, I felt sorry for you. That was when he wasn’t getting any hits or doing anything. I said, ‘I had to take a little off so you could catch up again.’

“But, I mean, we had a really good time together. I remember when he was going for his [homer] record in Houston. We were losing, and I come in to get an inning, and faced him. I’m amped up. My first two pitches are low and he steps out of the batter’s box and tells me to slow down [Wagner demonstrates how Bonds motioned to take a deep breath].

“So I threw the next one and he rolled over [grounded out]. I get the ball at first base and he says, ‘That’s better, that’s better.’”

Then we got back to talking about Clemens, the original subject that morning.

“My first All-Star game was at Boston, where they presented the All-Century team,” Wagner said. “He comes out and they’re going to introduce him. We had been playing basketball against each other in the offseason [in Houston].

“And he comes out there and he’s probably three or four guys away from me, and he kind of looks at me, tips his cap and winks at me. And it’s like the greatest thing. It’s like, how awesome is this? It’s the greatest thing in the world.

“So then when you hear these guys and there’s that thought that they could have done something [performance-enhancing drugs], it kind of hurts your feelings.

“It’s heartbreaking to know that your heroes, the guys you looked up to and wanted to be like, to think they’ve done this….”

Wagner didn’t finish that sentence before another upbeat story about his buddy came to mind. Wagner laughed softly and told this one, perking up as he got into the details.

“[Clemens] told me a great story,” Wagner said. “We were at an exhibition game, Yankees were playing Houston, and we were all getting innings. Clemens is in the dugout, [Derek] Jeter is on deck, and I was pitching. Jeter looked at Clemens and said, I’m going to turn that [Wagner] fastball around.

“So I faced him and struck him out. And the next day Clemens tells me that story, what Jeter had said. He pulls me out to left field while [the Yankees] are warming up and I talk to him….

Wagner smiles slyly as he prepares for the kicker to this story, which is clearly one he relishes telling.

“[Batting practice] ends and I run back [from the outfield]. Jeter’s at short, and I run by him and I go, ‘Hey, you might want to start a little earlier.’

“He’s looking out there [at Clemens] like, I can’t believe you told him that.”

Wagner paused, smiled.

The expectations that he felt were on him to be Roger Clemens-successful, a 20-punchout guy ..."

Wagner: "The expectations that he felt were on him to be Roger Clemens-successful, a 20-punchout guy ... that's hard to live up to."

“That’s the greatest,” he said. “That’s the greatest part about baseball.”

That’s the part Wagner’s going to miss when he retires. The camaraderie.

He won’t miss the unseemly stuff. Like steroids, and the mixed emotions he has – anger and disappointment that guys did them, sadness to see what some friends and others he respected so much as players are now going through.

I asked him if it was rough watching Clemens go through what he’s going through, regardless of whether the mess was self-inflicted.

“It is hard, because he worked hard to get where he was at,” Wagner said, “and it’s just kind of unfortunate that he had to take – possibly take – steps to stay on the field. That’s why this is a battle. It’s not easy to go out there and pitch every day, and to be good.

“The expectations that he felt were on him to be Roger Clemens-successful and known as a 20-punchout guy. That’s hard. It’s hard to walk out there and to live up to that.”

See, I told you they were good stories.

OK, we’re about to start the series finale here in Denver, on what has to be the prettiest day we’ve had anywhere all summer. Stupendous weather, 70 degrees or so and sunny, with low humidity and a light breeze.

The Braves will turn to Jair Jurrjens as they try to avoid their first three-game losing streak since June 22-24, when they dropped all three in a road against the White Sox.

That was also the Braves’ only time being swept in a series since it happened in back-to-back series at New York and St. Louis during the nine-game losing skid in late April.

The Braves are a terrific home team (majors-best 44-17) and a mediocre road team (29-36), and they’re facing a Colorado team with a similar disparity, but even more extreme.

The Rockies are 40-20 at home and 25-40 on the road. They’ve hit .314 while going 17-6 in their past 23 home games, including nine wins in their past 11.

On the road, the Rockies have hit .218 while going 7-17 in their past 24 games.

To repeat, that’s a .314 average in their past 23 home games, and a .218 average in their past 24 road games.

“At some point we are going to have to win on the road,” Rockies shortstop Troy Tulowitzki told the Denver Post after a 5-2 win against the Braves on Tuesday night. “But we are giving ourselves a chance here.”

The Braves know the feeling. Fortunately they survived the worst part of their road schedule in the first half of the season, and are still in first place despite their ongoing road woes.

The Braves are 34-11 with a 2.86 ERA and .269 batting average in their past 45 home games, and 17-9 with a 2.33 ERA in the past 17.

But on the road? Oy. The Braves are 15-19 with a .256 average and 3.77 ERA in their past 34 road games, including 7-11 with an ugly .232 average and 3.87 ERA in the last 18.

OK, let’s get ready for a game. Enjoy these new songs from Ryan Bingham off his new, T Bone Burnett-produced album due out Sept. 7. There a re two videos, here and here.

And let’s close with some REK.

medium_keen

“OH ROSIE” by Robert Earl Keen

I’m long past hungry

I need a bed

I got some real wild things

Runnin’ through my head

Oh Rosie, don’t forget me now

I’ve been to Tulsa

And New Mexico

Still got Tucson and

Colorado left to go

Oh Rosie don’t forget me now

Do you remember

Our lucky star

We gave all our wishes to

Now I’m in Denver

In this old bar

Tryin’ to do anything to hang on to you

And not be blue

It’s all-night TV

With nothin’ on

I should be goin’ but I’m

Too far gone

Oh Rosie, don’t forget me now

There’s rotten singers

Lousy art

Western swingers

And my old broken heart

Oh Rosie, don’t forget me now

Do you remember

Our lucky star

We gave all our wishes to

Now I’m in Denver

In this old bar

Tryin’ to do anything to hang on to you

And not be blue

It’s a hard old highway

A long slow burn

I think about ya Rosie

At every little turn

So don’t you worry

Please don’t cry

When we’re together

That old time will fly on by

Oh Rosie, don’t forget me now

Do you remember

Our lucky star

We gave all our wishes to

Now I’m in Denver

In this old bar

Tryin’ to do anything to hang on to you

And not be blue

It’s a hard old highway

A long slow burn

I think about ya Rosie

At every little turn

Oh Rosie, don’t forget me now

3,208 comments Add your comment

Hillbilly

August 25th, 2010
3:10 pm

It’s too dark to put the keys in my ignition.
And the morning sun has yet to climb my hood ornament.

P-Town Brave

August 25th, 2010
3:13 pm

Nova Scotia Steve

August 25th, 2010
3:14 pm

P-Town Brave

August 25th, 2010
3:14 pm

Where is everybody….

HELLLLOOOOOOOOO

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:15 pm

Yea Marteeeeen!

Nova Scotia Steve

August 25th, 2010
3:15 pm

Good job Prado.

We need this.

.579

August 25th, 2010
3:15 pm

U kiddin’ me????

An early lead?

Amazin’!

Nova Scotia Steve

August 25th, 2010
3:15 pm

I would love to go to Colorado for a ball game. It looks beautiful there.

Sopheeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:16 pm

His name is Marteeeeeen.

.579

August 25th, 2010
3:16 pm

C’mon Joke!

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:17 pm

Alright BMac!

McFann Ô Ô

August 25th, 2010
3:17 pm

GT Fan

August 25th, 2010
3:17 pm

Nice job, Heyward and Prado. Great to have a 1st inning run.

bravesgrl4lifeeeeeeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:17 pm

Braves bats are lively so far in this first inning :)

Sopheeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:18 pm

Obviously, my radio link is lagging a bit because you guys are letting me know what happens before I hear it. Fun.

cabravesfan

August 25th, 2010
3:18 pm

Nova Scotia Steve -

Colorado is gorgeous! Never been to the park, but the city and especially the surrounding area and mountains are well worth a trip :)

DAP

August 25th, 2010
3:18 pm

scoots, i get your point just fine, and your assertion is ridiculous. parameters are when they give up EXACTLY 4 or 5 runs, they need to win 50% of the time to have a sufficient offense? thats just silly. first of all, having a sufficient offense is directly related to how good your pitching is. seeing that the braves have won 73 games so far, the offense has been sufficient.

but, i ran those numbers. braves are 12-15 when they give up exactly 4 or 5 runs. they are 4-3 when giving up 4 runs, 8-12 when giving up 5.

but how dumb is it to judge an offense based on how many games the team wins when pitchers give up 4 or 5 runs? what does the pitching have to do with how good an offense is?

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:18 pm

Darn right Braves will take that!

Nova Scotia Steve

August 25th, 2010
3:18 pm

Lee poundin the ball for RBI # 999.

Venice Jim

August 25th, 2010
3:19 pm

Soph – my radio link is ahead of the TV, so I feel prescient…

.579

August 25th, 2010
3:19 pm

ugly, but we’ll take it.

Heck, we’ll take about anything right now. :(

GT Fan

August 25th, 2010
3:19 pm

Can we change the rest of the season schedule to day games? It’ll be hell on my productivity at work, but the Braves seem to play better in day games.

bravesgrl4lifeeeeeeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:19 pm

Venice Jim

August 25th, 2010
3:19 pm

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:19 pm

Liking the way the ball is bouncing today so far!

McFann Ô Ô

August 25th, 2010
3:20 pm

cabravesfan

August 25th, 2010
3:20 pm

Boys off to a good start today

P-Town Brave

August 25th, 2010
3:20 pm

3 runs in the first….

THATS more like it!

Why can we only do this about every 5-6 games?!

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:20 pm

How many Rockies does it take to pick up a ball?!

bravesgrl4lifeeeeeeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:20 pm

I just think day games, with the heat, are harder than night games. This day game is going good in this first half inning. Now, if defense works like the offense has so far, we’ll be okay.

.579

August 25th, 2010
3:21 pm

A freakin’ long time Chip….that’s when.

Nova Scotia Steve

August 25th, 2010
3:22 pm

cabravesfan – Right on. I’m surrounded by pretty picturesque mountainous landscape as well living close to Alaska – so not to say that would not excite me.

But i’ve seen it ya know – lol. :D

But there’s something that makes me want to go visit. Potentially when the Braves are in town would be most desirable.

But i have to decide whether i want to go back to Atlanta to see the Braves or visit another ballpark i haven’t been before.

Chop Chop

August 25th, 2010
3:23 pm

Braves can’t possibly lose now, right?

This one’s in the bag.

.579

August 25th, 2010
3:23 pm

Why can we only do this about every 5-6 games?! – P-towny

Because we’re not the Phils, Pads, Yanks or Rays…..or Rangers?

Katherine

August 25th, 2010
3:23 pm

Great way to start the day…..hopefully they can start turning things around today.

RC

August 25th, 2010
3:23 pm

“To know that you’ve had to do something to play at my level? That’s heart-breaking.”

That’s a fantastic quote. Puts it in such a great context, while subtly showing how confident he is in himself.

Sopheeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:24 pm

Melky did something (good)? Yay.

What did he do? I missed it.

ncscoots

August 25th, 2010
3:24 pm

scoots, i get your point just fine, and your assertion is ridiculous.

Certainly no need to carry forth the conversation, then, so I’ll just let that go.

cabravesfan

August 25th, 2010
3:24 pm

Nova Scotia Steve -

You can always go to take a tour of the Coors Brewery in nearby Golden ;) (they used to give free samples in full 16 oz. glasses at the end…not sure if they still do, but it always seemed like a not great idea, considering you have to drive back down a mountain to get to Denver :) )

Katherine

August 25th, 2010
3:24 pm

.579…wait haven’t the yanks been fighting all season for 1st place with the rays?

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:25 pm

Sopheeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:24 pm
Melky did something (good)? Yay.

What did he do? I missed it.

Bloop double RBI

McFann Ô Ô

August 25th, 2010
3:25 pm

For the love of Pete…don’t steal!

dickfer

August 25th, 2010
3:26 pm

man, i missed the first.

was mancrush heywards trip a liner to the gap or a deep fly that just missed getting out?

P-Town Brave

August 25th, 2010
3:26 pm

For the love of God, why can’t we have a 1-2-3 inning after scoring?!

Sopheeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:26 pm

Thanks, MIBraveeeeeesFan. I guess I have to be nice to him today.

Darryl Blackberry

August 25th, 2010
3:27 pm

Great article, DOB. The sense of humor and camaraderie are what I love about baseball above all other sports, so reading these kinds of stories really reinforces that.

Katherine

August 25th, 2010
3:27 pm

I’m just glad they braves aren’t behind already…lets keep it going

GT Fan

August 25th, 2010
3:27 pm

Jurrjens must feel like it’s his birthday. Has he had this big a lead all year?

dickfer

August 25th, 2010
3:27 pm

p-town

i hear ya on the 1-2-3 after throwing some runs on the board

.579

August 25th, 2010
3:27 pm

Katherine – Sure they have, but they’ve also won 77 or 78 games too. 8O

dickfer

August 25th, 2010
3:28 pm

DOB

keep those waggs stories coming amigo…love to read’em

McFann Ô Ô

August 25th, 2010
3:28 pm

Watch the runner, JJ…

Katherine

August 25th, 2010
3:29 pm

Yes .579 i can read the standings too lol

.579

August 25th, 2010
3:29 pm

For the love of God, why can’t we have a 1-2-3 inning after scoring?!

See my 3:23 :D

bravofan

August 25th, 2010
3:29 pm

nice job Bravos gotta love jumping out to an early lead!!

30-24 Dawgs - We Run This State!

August 25th, 2010
3:29 pm

Pullin’ for Wags to break the Strikeout record – TODAY

8O

timthebrave

August 25th, 2010
3:30 pm

DOB, I really enjoy the inside stories. Thats something us common folk can’t get from just watching the games, looking up stats, etc. Thanks again…and…Go braves!

ECU Alum

August 25th, 2010
3:30 pm

Anyone have a radio link?

Bartholomew (Bat) Masterson

August 25th, 2010
3:30 pm

Shut up Nick, you’re an idiot.

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:31 pm

Jeff

August 25th, 2010
3:31 pm

The Topic of this blog wow just gets me riled up. talkin about cheaters. Now I was at the Hall of Fame last week at the Cooperstown DreamsPark . Its a complete Shame that Mr Bonds the 2nd biggest fraud. This man used steriods and his records prove it.,Mr Sosa, Mcgwire, Palmiero, and The biggest loser of them All. Alex Fraud Rodriguez. Every one of these men are not deserving to be there whatsoever. Its a shame we allow cheaters into that Sacred Building. Hank Aaron is the True Home Run King and no one else.Clemens haha same thing A fraud. Not a Hall of Famer in my book.

lexbrave

August 25th, 2010
3:31 pm

looks like the braves are off to a good start in trying to secure a win for philly tonight.

RC

August 25th, 2010
3:31 pm

Listening to Jim and Don talk about Saito’s vision problems, I can’t help but hope this somehow leads to him wearing Army style glasses with a skull and crossbones on the bridge, channeling Rick “Wild Thing” Vaughn from “Major League”.

Bartholomew (Bat) Masterson

August 25th, 2010
3:31 pm

Hillbilly

August 25th, 2010
3:31 pm

DOB,

Ever heard of a southern rock band called Blackberry Smoke? I heard/saw some of their music on youtube yesterday for the first time. Not bad. Straight-ahead, old-style, no-nonsense southern rock

Here’s a taste:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cOuTV6eF1-U

McFann Ô Ô

August 25th, 2010
3:32 pm

Tuck in your shirt.

P-Town Brave

August 25th, 2010
3:32 pm

RC-

Who doesn’t have vision problems on the team?!

Venice Jim

August 25th, 2010
3:33 pm

Katherine

August 25th, 2010
3:33 pm

Maybe Saito should cut out the caffeine like mac….

Katherine

August 25th, 2010
3:34 pm

come on jj……

Darryl Blackberry

August 25th, 2010
3:34 pm

Nothing ever comes easy for JJ, does it?

RC

August 25th, 2010
3:34 pm

P-Town Brave,

Chipper has 20-15 vision, but that doesn’t help us all that much now unless he can steal the other teams signs or something.

timthebrave

August 25th, 2010
3:34 pm

I saw Bonds and Clemens play before they got a lot bigger from steroids. What makes me mad is that both were hall of fame players even before doing the roids. 500 hr and 500 stolen bases wasn’t enough. He had to have the records. Hammerin Hank is the homerun king still in my opinion

Jeff

August 25th, 2010
3:34 pm

uh oh jurrjens in trouble..

The Bravery

August 25th, 2010
3:34 pm

Does anyone know what kK has been doing?

bravofan

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

the bravery: sucking it up at AAA

Darryl Blackberry

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

Katherine

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

Nice….dp for us for once

Nova Scotia Steve

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

Tulo scorched that ball

Venice Jim

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

Good defense (let’s keep that up, please)!

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

Yes! Braves turn a DP on the Rockies for a change!

Jeff

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

5-4-3 screw job great job J.J.

Brava

August 25th, 2010
3:35 pm

Leeeeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:36 pm

We have got to keep these guys off base. Great DP there!

bravesgrl4lifeeeeeeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:36 pm

Nice DP turned for JJ there :) We get out of the inning without giving back one run or more. Gotta like that, even though it wasn’t an easy inning.

Chop Chop

August 25th, 2010
3:37 pm

If Bobby Cox were managing the Rockies, he’d say, “Well, Tuley hit the ball hard in that first inning. Hit the ball awfully hard.”

The Bravery

August 25th, 2010
3:37 pm

bravo: haha thats all I needed to know

Mitchell

August 25th, 2010
3:37 pm

I was picturing a double play there but hoping we wouldn’t flub it the hell up.

Good thing it was hit to Martin and not Gonzo.

Hobo

August 25th, 2010
3:37 pm

Great stories from Wagner, and agree with him here: “That’s the greatest,” he said. “That’s the greatest part about baseball.”

Venice Jim

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

Good job, Newer Guy!

MIBraveeeeesFan

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

Brava

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

Way to go, Ankle!

GT Fan

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

And Jurrjens is out of trouble. The double play – a pitcher’s best friend.

bravesgrl4lifeeeeeeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

Why would Jim Powell want the Rockie’s pitcher to erase his memory of the first inning?

Ankiel with a Double :grin:

Dan-82ndAirborne

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

That’s the first time I’ve ever seen him go the other way with power. Coors field.

Chop Chop

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

Ankiel is officially a beast. No one can stop him.

BoroBall3

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

cmon… simple fundamental baseball here

Mitchell

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

These guys are looking like the Braves in the outfield.

Brian from SC

August 25th, 2010
3:38 pm

A little oppo action…nice.

Leeeeeee

August 25th, 2010
3:39 pm

VJ, don’t you love being able to know when to look, and when to look away? ;)

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