NEW YORK — Billy Wagner will have to wait to become Cooperstown's first left-hander, if it ever happens. In his ninth year of eligibility on the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, Wagner failed to receive 75% of the votes needed to induct, as did every other former Met on the ballot — a large group that included Carlos Beltran and David Wright. .
Wagner, who served as the Mets' closer from 2006 to 2009, received 73.8 percent of the BBWAA votes to fall short of five votes from the agitator. The Class of 2024 is Adrian Beltre, Joe Mauer, and Todd Helton.
Candidates need 75% of the vote in order to be honored through what is generally considered Cooperstown's front door. Wagner, who also played for the Astros, Phillies, Red Sox and Braves during his 16-year career, has one year of eligibility to reach that threshold. He received 68.1% of the vote last January, up from 10.5% in his first year on the ballot in 2016.
Players tend to get a boost in their final year of eligibility, and if that happened to Wagner, he could still become Cooperstown's enshrined ninth starting reliever and first left-handed reliever, joining Hoyt Wilhelm, Gus Gossage, Bruce Sutter, Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley and Lee Smith. Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.
Like many of his contemporaries Hoffmann and Rivera, Wagner was a closer for nearly his entire career. But his style was different. A pure flamethrower, Wagner pitched in the mid-90s and became a model for current relievers, striking out a record 11.9 batters per nine innings during his career.
After nine seasons in Houston and two in Philadelphia, Wagner became part of the Mets' spending spree in the mid-2000s, signing a four-year, $43 million contract after the 2005 season. He had great success in Queens, saving 101 games with 2.40 ERA from 2006-08 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing most of the 2009 season.
The following year, Wagner had one of the best performances of his career with the Braves at the age of 38, but chose to retire after the season to spend more time with his family. The decision to step away from the top of his game made Wagner's Cooperstown borderline issue, leaving him with less WAR than any Hall of Fame reliever. This, coupled with his short and unsuccessful playoff resume, cost Wagner his first nine years on the ballot.
Likewise, Beltran went 0-for-2 in his first two years of eligibility, though he hopes his wait for the draft won't be as long as Wagner's. This year, the longtime Mets center fielder received 57.1 percent of the vote, compared to 46.5 percent last January. One of the most accomplished center fielders of his generation, Beltran hit 435 home runs, stole 312 bases and won three Gold Gloves over the course of his 20-year career. But he struggled to gain early Hall of Fame support in part because of his involvement in the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing scandal, which cost him his job as Mets manager.
Also noteworthy Tuesday was the performance of Wright, who received 6.2 percent of the vote in his first year of eligibility. In a Hall of Fame bracket throughout the first decade of his career, Wright missed significant time with back, neck and shoulder injuries during his 30s. As such, he did not compile the types of counting statistics players need to enter the Hall of Fame.
Other starters with Mets ties, including Jose Reyes and Bartolo Colon, did not get the 5 percent needed to remain on the ballot. Another former Met, Gary Sheffield, did not receive the 75 percent required for induction in his 10th and final year on the BBWAA ballot, despite his 509 career hits. His next opportunity to be inducted into the Hall will be through the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee in December 2025.
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