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Wagner speaks up in support of Glavine

ST. LOUIS -- If Tom Glavine had let his emotions take over Tuesday, perhaps he would have said the things teammate Billy Wagner said.

But after the Mets' 4-2 loss to the Cardinals in Game 5 of the National League Championship Series, Glavine was respectful and muted with his feelings -- even though Albert Pujols failed to give the Mets' starter credit after his Game 1 win and then hit a momentum-changing home run off him that barely cleared the left-field fence on this night.

For teammates, that's classic Glavine. The 40-year-old is the ultimate professional and doesn't let his emotions dictate his public discourse.

Meanwhile, Wagner is honest to the core and will openly discusses his feelings -- whether politically correct or not.

"I know if Albert would have said that about me, I wouldn't have been as veteraned, as seasoned about it," said Wagner, the team's 34-year-old closer. "I probably would have said something back. That's me. Tom is classy all the way."

After Glavine's Game 1 performance last Thursday, Pujols -- whether in the spirit of competition or out of frustration over the Cardinals' defeat and his 0-for-4 performance -- said Glavine "wasn't that good. He wasn't good at all."

This was right after Glavine had just pitched 13 consecutive scoreless postseason innings. Even so, the next day at Shea Stadium, Glavine told reporters everyone was entitled to their opinion. He didn't address the controversy thereafter.

Pujols' comments didn't sit well in the Mets' clubhouse, even though Pujols said something similar about Padres starter Chris Young in the first round.

"Tom's done so much. Tom doesn't have to stoop to tell people how good he is," Wagner said. "His numbers speak for themselves. With 290 wins for somebody that has been in the league as long as he has is pretty self-explanatory."

When asked the next day if Pujols meant what he said, he answered he had. But often that's true of fierce competitors; they don't allow the opponent any credit.

The home run Glavine gave up Tuesday night came with one out and the Mets leading 2-0 in the fourth inning. It only brought the Cardinals within one, but the momentum seemed to shift in St. Louis' favor. Perhaps it was significant that Pujols hit the home run off a future Hall of Famer he'd given little credit to days earlier, but not to Glavine.

"That's over and done with," said the veteran left-hander, who made his 35th career postseason start, a new baseball record. "I didn't want to get him out any more than I usually do."

His reaction didn't surprise his teammates.

"Tommy's stature is much bigger than Pujols'. He's [got] a Hall of Fame induction coming. Albert doesn't. Albert's a great player, but you just don't know about tomorrow. In this clubhouse, Tommy is the epitome of class and great leadership. He leads by what he does in the field. He doesn't lead by what he says in the media."
-- Mets closer Billy Wagner

"He's not going to do that because he's the most professional guy I've ever met," catcher Paul Lo Duca said. "It's not in his type of nature to say anything."

Even Glavine said he'd prefer to stay silent.

"I handle it professionally," he said, "and not say anything."

Wagner thought Pujols would heap praise upon Glavine after Tuesday's game, since he'd homered and then was intentionally walked as Glavine's final batter of the game.

But Pujols was diplomatic.

"I just think we made good adjustments and made sure we didn't chase bad pitches," Pujols said. "We just had good quality at-bats. We made him work, I think. And you don't see that with Glavine."

Glavine didn't make it out of the fifth inning. He gave up three runs, and his team lost with its best starting pitcher. With the Cardinals one win away from the World Series, Glavine may have to watch from the dugout if St. Louis clinches. If so, when reporters enter the clubhouse afterward, they'll likely find Glavine giving fair and respectful answers.

"Tommy's stature is much bigger than Pujols'. He's [got] a Hall of Fame induction coming," Wagner said. "Albert doesn't. Albert's a great player, but you just don't know about tomorrow. In this clubhouse, Tommy is the epitome of class and great leadership. He leads by what he does in the field; he doesn't lead by what he says in the media."

And if the reporters need more explained, they know where to find Wagner.

Amy K. Nelson is a writer/reporter for ESPN The Magazine. Click here to subscribe to the magazine.