Mets: A theory why Billy Wagner isn’t getting much love in the Hall of Fame vote
By Tim Boyle
Former New York Mets closer Billy Wagner came up short again in the 2020 Hall of Fame vote. There may be a reason for it.
Hall of Fame voters have only recently started to give love toward some of the greatest closers in the game. Mariano Rivera was the first unanimous vote-getter in 2019 and justifiably so. He was by far the greatest closer to ever hold a baseball. During his reign of terror, there was another man doing some pretty sweet things in the ninth inning: former New York Mets closer Billy Wagner.
Wagner is in a different class than Rivera, but so is everyone else. This doesn’t mean Wagner should be punished with little acknowledgment in the Hall of Fame vote every year.
In 16 big league seasons, Wagner saved 422 games and did so with a 2.31 ERA. He struck out 1,196 batters for a rate of 11.9 per nine frames. For what it’s worth, the ERA is only ten points higher than what Rivera did and Wagner’s total number of strikeouts and the ratio per nine innings is better.
More from Rising Apple
- NY Mets Monday Morning GM: The middle is no place you want to be
- NY Mets News: Marcus Stroman sees “potential fit” with the Angels
- NY Mets were too “seek” and not enough “destroy” last winter
- NY Mets: 1 trade target to consider from each 100-loss team
- NY Mets: Top 12 free agents the team should look to sign this winter
However, those are just numbers. Rivera was a clutch playoff performer and to reiterate it once more, the Babe Ruth of relief pitching.
Statistically, it’s hard to justify why Wagner isn’t deserving of a spot in Cooperstown. He helped define the closer’s role in the late 1990s and into the 2000s.
I do have a theory as to why these numbers don’t hold up. It’s the number of teams Wagner suited up for in his 16 seasons. From the Houston Astros, to the Philadelphia Phillies, to our beloved New York Mets, to a brief pit stop with the Boston Red Sox, and finally with a trip to the Atlanta Braves—Wagner was a wandering man.
This hasn’t stopped others from reaching the Hall of Fame, but I do think it can affect a closer. And although more than half of his career was spent with the Astros, he had some of his most dominant seasons in other uniforms.
For a closer, I think this is important on something like a Hall of Fame ballot. It’s harder for them to get noticed. Trevor Hoffman saved over 600 games and it took him three tries to crack Cooperstown. I think he benefitted greatly from spending almost all of his career with one team, the San Diego Padres.
Wagner doesn’t have this on his resume. I think it’s a major factor keeping those chads on the ballots from getting punched.
After leaving Houston, Wagner made it to four more All-Star Games with three different teams. He went twice as a member of the Mets. He even had the numbers to go a third time when in 2006 he posted numbers worthy of finishing sixth in the Cy Young vote.
One could argue excelling in this many spots gave Wagner a chance to be seen by more. I believe this works the other way. Because he never had a chance to become fully associated with any single franchise, his talents went unnoticed. He’s only pitching maybe once or twice a series. Chances to see him pitch were rare.
Billy the Kid received 31.7% of the votes in the most recent election. It’s far from the required 75% needed for a spot in Cooperstown. However, it is nearly double his previous high set in the 2019 election when he received 16.7% of the vote.
Want your voice heard? Join the Rising Apple team!
Players have trended up and eventually found their way into the Hall of Fame. Wagner’s chances aren’t dead yet. Still, with no permanency in his career and several others who were better during the era he pitched, I wouldn’t count on him ever getting in.