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By Chris Ruddick
Philadelphia, PA (Sports Network) - Well, the 2006 Major League Baseball season is off and running and the biggest news of the young campaign has been the attention paid to the entrance music of New York Mets' closer Billy Wagner.
First of all, it is dumb to have a theme song when you enter a game. What is this, professional wrestling? But Wagner has the same song -- Metallica's "Enter Sandman" -- as Yankees closer Mariano Rivera. Big news if you live in New York, where this topic has dominated the airwaves all week.
Apparently Wagner has been using the song since 1996, while Rivera started using theme music in 1999 after the Yankees saw how the fans reacted to San Diego's Trevor Hoffman, who excites himself and the crowd with AC/DC's Hells Bells.
Since I have already mentioned pro wrestling, let me put it like this. If S.D. "Special Delivery" Jones entered the ring to a song, then Hulk Hogan decided to enter to the same music a few years later, guess who would be looking for a new theme? That's right, good old S.D. By the way, since I am in a wrestling mood, can anyone tell me what Jones is most famous for in the sport of wrestling?
Anyway, back to baseball.
Both Wagner and Rivera laughed off all the talk in spring training when the topic was first brought up. You could tell, though, that Wagner was getting more and more ticked off that he even had to discuss the subject, chalking it up as something drummed up by the New York media.
Wagner went out and saved his first game as a Met on Monday. Then on Wednesday with the flap in full gear, Wagner raced to the hill in the ninth inning trying to protect a lead, with "Enter Sandman" blaring. The Shea faithful were all standing, proud that their team and closer stood their ground to the big bad Yankees. And Wagner promptly gave up a monster home run to Washington Nationals third baseman Ryan Zimmerman that tied the game, one the Mets would eventually lose.
Of course Wagner could not leave well enough alone after the game. Only this time he mentioned Rivera by name and added more fuel to the fire in the rivalry between the two teams.
"I'm thinking about giving the song back now, since Mariano (Rivera) has never blown a save." Wagner said after the game.
Nice move, Wags. Put yourself in the same category as Rivera, probably the best closer that has ever played the game. Rivera, by the way, could care less about the whole issue. He pointed out he doesn't even listen to Metallica, preferring Christian music.
Like I said earlier, this is a dumb thing to even be debating, but the fact of the matter is Rivera's entrance has become a part of the Yankee Stadium experience. Outside of Houston and Philadelphia, who the heck even knew Wagner came out to a song before now?
When I hear "Enter Sandman" I think of Rivera. When I see a ball flying out of the ballpark late in the game in a big spot, I think of Wagner. I have a feeling Mets fans are going to have to get used to what happened on Wednesday night. Oh wait, they are Mets fans. They are already used to seeing failure.
I understand the Mets wanting to do something with the theme music. As dumb as it may be, it does fire the crowd up, and for the first time in a while they do have a legitimate closer. It just doesn't look good to have the same song as the Yankees closer, when the Mets are already viewed in New York and around the country as the lesser product.
Maybe fans in Shea can start doing a first-inning roll call next, or perhaps the Mets can take the names off the back of their jerseys. That would be unique.
NOTES FROM THE FIRST WEEK
How about those Tigers? Maybe Jim Leyland will make a difference sooner rather than later. Entering Saturday's action, Detroit is unbeaten through four games and leads the majors with 16 home runs. Chris Shelton has accounted for five of those blasts - almost a third of the way to his career-high total of 18 a season ago.
Jimmy Rollins' hitting streak is a thing of the past. He managed a hit in his first two games this season before going hitless in game three, ending his streak at 38. I am kind of glad it ended. Not that I would not like to see someone eventually break Joe DiMaggio's mark, but doing it over two seasons seemed pretty lame. Rollins, though, may be on the verge of jumping into the upper-echelon of shortstops in the game.
Bad news in Los Angeles concerning closer Eric Gagne, who will miss at least the next two months due to even more surgery on his elbow. According to Dr. Frank Jobe, a sensory (medial antibrachial cutaneous) nerve just below the skin had developed a neuroma, which is a benign tumor constituting nerve membranes. It had pinched off the nerve, causing pain with every pitch. By removing the nerve, Gagne will no longer feel pain when he pitches, but will experience numbness on the skin along the anterior side of his forearm.
How about Carlos Beltran's reaction to the fans at Shea Stadium on Thursday after belting a big home run? The fans had booed their star centerfielder, who not had a hit up until that blast, then begged him for a curtain call. He could be seen in the dugout saying he wasn't going out. Then Julio Franco got in his face and Beltran finally acknowledged the cheers. Beltran had better grow a thicker skin if he wants to enjoy the rest of his time in the Big Apple.
So much for the Pittsburgh Pirates finally starting to turn the corner. At 0-5, the Buccos are off to their worst start since opening the 1974 campaign with six straight losses.
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