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Man, what's wrong with Billy Wagner?

As we were watching Daddy Wags stumble through a very ineffective ninth inning last night, Melanie said, "Ugh!  It's just like watching Lidge. . . so close but yet so far."

It was EXACTLY like watching Lidge.

Wagner got to two strikes on four of the six batters he faced, but more often than not couldn't close the guys out, and who does that remind you of?

Wagner has always been lousy in non-save situations, but I think there's something else going on here.  

Whenever Wagner needed to make a pitch, he went to the slider or an offspeed pitch.  And when he DID rear back and fling it, he never got it past 96.  

Maybe this is old news; maybe people have known that Wagner doesn't have the velocity anymore.  But I've seen him hit 100 mph as recently as September of '05, during the game in which Biggio took him deep, and he had the good season.

I was shocked not to hear anybody on the broadcast suggest it, but my guess is that Wagner is hurt somehow.

Perhaps Willie Randolph has been hoping that the reputation gets some outs, as Garner and Hickey did the same as regards an ineffective Lidge, but Astros fans know that such a strategy is going to have only limited effectiveness.

Here are the sequences from the top half of the ninth last night, in miles per hour (x means they didn't show it):

Encarnacion: x, 95, 92, 94, 89 2 - 2 hit

Rolen: 96, x, x, 90, 84 1 - 2 hit

Belliard: 85, 96, 85, 83 1 - 2 ground out

Molina: 95 flyout

Taguchi: 96, 85, 84, 86, 84 1 - 2 RBI hit

Eckstein: 85, 85, 93, 83 2 - 1 ground out

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The Steve Lyons thing has got me bugged.  Lyons is a lightweight analyst with very little to bring to the table as far as insight, and he possesses a schtick that gets old after about ten minutes.

Plus I'm pretty sure he has a major market bias.

So in a sense, it's good riddance.  I should be happy I won't have to listen to his slap-happy ass on any broadcasts in the future.

But like I said, something's got me bugged.  And I think it's that he was fired for making racist remarks without actually having done so.

Sure, Lyons' joke was not particularly funny, but anybody who has ever had to listen to the  guy can probably fill in the context when reading the quotes.  Lyons was trying to do his male bonding "I'll rag on you a little bit" act with Piniella, and it was neither funny, nor was it racist.

Our politically correct society has devolved to the point where even referencing any points of difference is gonna drop your ass in hot water.  Heads up, people:  we now have a climate where you get barbequed for saying that a black politician "slavishly follows the party line," and incorrectly parsing the spanish language while trying to razz a colleague gets you axed from a major network.

It may not seem that big a deal, when a no-account broadcaster and a political hack who are the ones getting ostracized, but let me tell you, and I apologize for going deeper than this blog usually goes:  that same squeaky clean PC effort to absolutely decontextualize differences of gender, race, and religion serves us very ill in some battles much more important than the NLCS or even the upcoming midterm elections.

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Regardless of the outcome of tonight's NLCS Game 7, today is certainly going to be the last day at least for a while where Houston fans can truthfully say that their Astros are National League champions.  

The NL will have a new champ tonight, but let us trust that the 'Stros can take that mantle back, hopefully as soon as this time next year