Mitch Williams is one of the most colorful, controversial, and popular athletes in Philadelphia sports history. “The Wild Thing” who heroically shut down the Braves to clinch the 1993 National League Pennant, then became a publicly vilified goat on yielding Joe Carter‘s World Series-winning homerun just 10 days later.
Williams rose from the ashes of that emotional ’93 devastation to eventually be forgiven and embraced again by Phillies fans, and ultimately beloved by them. He did it by never shirking responsibility, and by always displaying openness and candor in handling the situation.
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I was fortunate enough to be able to interview the former Phillies closer this week. In our conversation, Mitch showed that he is as feisty, frank, and competitive as ever.
We covered a wide range of topics, from his current internet talk show “Unleashed with Mitch Williams“, to last year’s incident that resulted in his being fired by the MLB Network, to his opinion on the current Phillies bullpen of Jonathan Papelbon, Ken Giles, Jake Diekman, and Justin De Fratus.
Along the way there were detours to Curt Schilling‘s Hall of Fame worthiness, his relationship with Lenny Dykstra, and even a more recent run-in with former Phils pitching coach Rich Dubee involving both Diekman and Phillies pitching great Roy Halladay.
THE MITCH WILLIAMS INTERVIEW
MV: How did the Wildfire radio gig come about?
W: Twitter. They tweeted me about it and we started it.
MV: Nice, power of social media. What are your biggest payoffs with it? What do you enjoy most, get out of it?
W: Right now it’s the only way to keep my voice being heard until my lawsuits are settled. No one in network TV will hire me after MLB Network fired me over lies told about me on a rumor blog! I can’t talk about the cases because they are in the hands of the court. But go to Law360.com article on Mitch Williams. Just Google that. It will tell you the facts.
: link in that quote from Mitch will take you to the article he referenced
MV: Any idea of a time frame on that resolution – at least in your hopes?
W: It could last 2 years. Don’t know.
MV: Sure. Legal situations can sure drag out.
MV: Are you still at all, or plan on, coaching kids ball again? Where are your kids, as far as their interest/participation in baseball?
W: My youngest is a monster at 10 years old. He is heavy into baseball, and I am looking at doing some clinics. Will have more info on those soon.
NOTE: Mitch’s daughter, Nikola, is a HS basketball player in South Jersey. She is currently one of 10 girls, including former Philadelphia Eagles star Jon Runyan’s daughter Alyssa, nominated in a poll being run by NJ.com under the question: “Who do you want taking the final shot in Burlington County?“
MV: Started tossing Nikola a bunch of votes – good luck!
W: Thanks Matt!
MV: Glad to hear you’re staying involved teaching the game.
MV: Can you answer a couple on the old days? Curt Schilling, a Hall of Famer? Dykstra, still feuding?
W: First, Schilling is not a Hall of Fame pitcher. The HOF is for a body of work over a career. 216 wins in 22 years. Jack Morris had 254 in 18 years, all 18 in AL facing 9 hitters a night. Schilling spent 12 of his years facing 8 hitters a night in NL. Morris had 175 complete games. CS had 81.
NOTE: Schilling actually had 83 complete games
W: If Morris ain’t a HOFer, Schilling definitely isn’t. Everyone thinks Schilling is an HOFer because of his postseason stats. That isn’t what the Hall is for. If they build a wing on the HOF for postseason performance, CS is a first ballot HOFer. I actually think they should build a wing on the HOF for that.
“I bet as the guards were knocking every tooth out of his head in prison, the World Series loss didn’t seem all that big a deal.” ~ Mitch on Lenny
W: As for feud with Lenny, I never cared enough about him to feud with him. He spent 20 years ripping me for the World Series. I know I lost it for our team. Never claimed I didn’t lose it. I didn’t need a convicted criminal to remind me every time someone stuck a camera in his face. I bet as the guards were knocking every tooth out of his head in prison, the World Series loss didn’t seem all that big a deal. So I’ve had no feud with him.
W: Ain’t gonna shake his hand and give him a hug, which he tried to do when I saw him. I am not a guy that hugs someone that has said really nasty stuff about me that my kids had to hear. I ain’t phony. I don’t have to like someone to acknowledge their ability. If I had a big game to win, I would want Schilling to start it. And Lenny was the smartest baseball player I ever played with. He knew the game inside out. But he was literally the dumbest human I’ve ever met off the field. I told both of them the same thing when they were ripping me.
“I am not perfect. But I have never been sent to prison, and I don’t owe the state of Rhode Island $75 million dollars” ~ Mitch on Lenny and Curt
W: When our baseball careers are over, we will just have to be men. And neither of them would make a pimple on a man’s ass! I am not perfect. But I have never been sent to prison, and I don’t owe the state of Rhode Island $75 million dollars. I am involved in 2 law suits that I can’t talk about, that I was forced to file. But when those are over, people will all hear the actual truth about all that BS! And the people that have always stood by me will find out they were right to do so.
W: I wouldn’t let the people of Philly down by doing what I was accused of, the people of Philly are great. That is why I can’t wait for this to all be over so they know that I didn’t betray them and let them down! I care too much about representing the Phillies fans in a positive way. Because they always stood by me. I never took that lightly.
MV: Any comments on the current Phils pen? Paps, Giles, Diekman, De Fratus?
W: The Phils got a very good and young bullpen. If the team can stay close for 6 innings, they could do better than expected in ’15 because of the bullpen!
MV: The Papelbon stuff, crotch-grab and all – overblown? Bad move? Any insights on him at all? Diekman a hard throwing lefty like you – similar?
“Dubee wouldn’t listen to someone that saw something he couldn’t begin to understand. So he got fired, and Roy’s career ended 5 years before it should have” ~ Mitch on Dubee and Doc
W: Pap was out of line! As for Diekman, I asked Charlie Manuel 3 years ago if he minded me calling Jake to work with him. That I could spend 30 minutes with him and he would be able to repeat his mechanics, and he would be throwing as hard as Aroldis Chapman. Charlie wanted me to work with him. So I called Jake and offered to pay for his flight to come here to New Jersey, and I could show him a couple of things that would simplify his mechanics and he would throw even harder.
Mitch believed, and still believes, he could help Diekman
(Photo Credit: Howard Smith-USA TODAY Sports)
NOTE: Rich Dubee was the Phillies pitching coach at the time Mitch offered to help with Diekman
W: But Rich Dubee got offended and wouldn’t let Jake come. I saw Dubee that spring and he yelled at me in the clubhouse in front of the team, that he knew what he was doing, and I should never talk to his pitchers again. So I looked at him and just said “Okay Rich.” Then I went into Charlie’s office and told Charlie to tell Dubee if he ever yelled at me in front of anyone again, I would knock him out in front of those same people.
W: Then I did a breakdown on Roy Halladay on MLB Network, on why he was struggling. It was so simple to see on film, and he would be throwin’ 100. But Dubee and his sub .500 record in AA ball chose his ego over Halladay’s health. He went from winning the Cy Young in ’10 and 2nd in ’11 to his career being over in ’13 because Dubee wouldn’t listen to someone that saw something he couldn’t begin to understand. So he got fired, and Roy’s career ended 5 years before it should have.
MV: Appreciate everything, Mitch. Thank you for the interview.