NEW YORK – Billy Wagner's bid to become the first left-handed pitcher in Cooperstown will have to wait, if it ever happens. In his ninth year of eligibility for the Baseball Writers' Association of America ballot, Wagner fell short of the 75 percent of votes required for induction, as did every other former Met on the ballot – a sizable group that included Carlos Beltrán and David Wright belonged.
Wagner, who served as the Mets' closer from 2006 to 2009, received 73.8 percent of the BBWAA vote, falling five votes short of the draft. The class of 2024 consists of Adrián Beltré, Joe Mauer and Todd Helton.
Candidates need 75 percent of the vote to enter the district through what is widely considered the front door to Cooperstown. Wagner, who also played for the Astros, Phillies, Red Sox and Braves during his 16-year career, has one year of eligibility remaining to reach that threshold. He received 68.1 percent of the vote last January, up from 10.5 percent in his first election year in 2016.
Players typically receive a bonus in their final year of eligibility, and if that happens with Wagner, he could still become the ninth primary reliever enshrined in Cooperstown and the starting left-hander, joining Hoyt Wilhelm, Goose Gossage, Bruce Sutter and Rollie Fingers, Dennis Eckersley, Lee Smith, Trevor Hoffman and Mariano Rivera.
Similar to his contemporaries Hoffman and Rivera, Wagner was an outstanding closer for almost his entire career. However, his style was different. A pure flamethrower, Wagner pitched in the mid-1990s and became a role model for today's relievers, striking out a career-high 11.9 batters per nine innings.
After nine seasons in Houston and two in Philadelphia, Wagner joined the Mets' spending spree in the mid-2000s, signing a four-year, $43 million contract after the 2005 season. He was largely successful in Queens, saving 101 games with a 2.40 ERA from 2006 to 2008 before undergoing Tommy John surgery and missing most of the 2009 season.
The next year, at age 38, Wagner delivered one of the best performances of his career for the Braves, but decided to retire after the season to spend more time with his family. The decision to retire as a top player made Wagner's Cooperstown case borderline and left him with a lower WAR than any other Hall of Fame delegator. That, along with a brief and unsuccessful playoff run, cost Wagner his first nine seasons of eligibility.
Beltrán is also 0-2 in his first two years of playing time, although he hopes he doesn't have to wait nearly as long to get started as Wagner. This year, the Mets' longtime center fielder received 57.1 percent of the vote, up from 46.5 percent last January. One of the most accomplished all-around centerfielders of his generation, Beltrán hit 435 home runs, stole 312 bases and won three Gold Gloves in his 20-year career. But he had a hard time getting inducted into the Hall of Fame early, due in part to his involvement in the Astros' 2017 sign-stealing scandal, which cost him his job as Mets manager.
Also notable on Tuesday was the performance of Wright, who received 6.2 percent of the vote in his first year of election. A Hall of Famer in the first decade of his career, Wright missed significant time in his 30s due to back, neck and shoulder injuries. Therefore, he has not achieved the counting stats players need to be inducted into the Hall of Fame.
Other rookies with ties to the Mets, including José Reyes and Bartolo Colón, did not receive the required 5 percent to remain on the ballot. Another former Met, Gary Sheffield, fell short of the 75 percent required for induction in the BBWAA ballot in his tenth and final year, despite hitting 509 career home runs. His next opportunity to enter the Hall will be in December 2025 through the Contemporary Baseball Era Committee.