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Baseball Hall of Fame

Billy Wagner belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame

Ortiz reveals his 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame ballot

As you walk into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, you’re greeted by Character and Courage statues. The statues honor Jackie Robinson, Roberto Clemente and Lou Gehrig. I think of those men each time I fill out my Hall of Fame ballot.

I’ve been voting for the Hall of Fame since the 2007 Class featuring Tony Gwynn and Cal Ripken Jr. I’ve attended five inductions in Cooperstown, N.Y. I also toured the Hall with Craig Biggio and Edgar Martinez during their first visits for orientation after they were elected. I love the Hall of Fame and appreciate its place in American culture and baseball history.

In other words, I take my Hall of Fame vote seriously. I’m grateful the Hall gives this duty to veteran members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

With rare exceptions, I’ve usually voted for 10 players, which is the most we can vote for each year. Players must receive votes on 75 percent of the ballots to be elected into the Hall. Before submitting my ballot, I do my research, read Jay Jaffe’s work, consult with fans over an annual lunch meeting, talk to longtime BBWAA members I respect and even poll Hall of Famers.

Baseball Hall of Fame members see Wagner as worthy of plaque

I’ve done this long enough to know that some fans are extremely knowledgeable. You can rest assured a Hall of Famer knows what a Hall of Famer’s resume should look like. If this task were given to living Hall of Famers instead of BBWAA members with more than 10 consecutive years in the BBWAA, I’m sure there would be fewer members of the Hall.

So I felt even stronger about my longtime support for Billy Wagner after consulting with Hall of Famers Chipper Jones, Tom Glavine, Ted Simmons and Jeff Bagwell about his candidacy over lunch recently. 

I didn’t need to ask Bagwell about Wagner’s candidacy because we’ve discussed it often.

“I believe that Billy should be in the Hall of Fame,” Bagwell told me last year. “He was one of the most dominant pitchers of his era and pretty much all time.”


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Three of those men were Wagner’s teammates. They played with him and against him. They agree that Billy Wagner deserves a plaque in Cooperstown, N.Y. Only one Hall of Famer has been a unanimous selection by the BBWAA, and that is Mariano Rivera.

Wagner’s stats compare favorably with Rivera and every other reliever already in the Hall of Fame. Wagner’s career opponents batting average (.187) and strikeouts per nine innings (11.92) are better than all the relievers in the Hall.

Comparing well with Rivera and the Hall’s other relievers

Rivera is the only Hall of Fame reliever with better WHIP, ERA+, ERA, FIP and opponents’ OPS than Wagner. Billy Wagner is  fourth on baseball’s all-time saves list with 422 saves. He could have climbed higher up that list if he hadn’t retired while still in All-Star form.

Wagner was 7-2 with a 1.42 ERA and 37 saves with the Braves in 2010, his last season in the majors. At only 38 and coming off his seventh and final All-Star nod in 2010, Wagner preferred to retire to help his wife Sarah raise their four children, though.

He chose family over millions, and that says quite a bit about his character. Wagner has devoted his life in retirement to coaching high school baseball and following his children in their activities. 

“He’s a guy that left the game with like a high 1, low 2 ERA with a bunch of saves,” Bagwell said. “He could have played a lot longer. When he played he was dominant. There’s no question in my mind he’s a Hall of Famer.”

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To be clear, I didn’t need help deciding to vote for Wagner again. I’ve voted for him each of his nine years on the ballot. I hope this is the year he is finally elected. It will be close, though.

I also didn’t need help deciding to vote for Adrián Beltré. I’m certain Beltré will cruise in as a first-ballot Hall of Famer.

Carlos Beltran, Bobby Abreu, Andruw Jones and Todd Helton received my vote again this year. After discussions with longtime BBWAA members I respect, I’ve added Jimmy Rollins and Gary Sheffield this year. Joe Mauer and Chase Utley join Beltre as first-timers on my ballot.

I’ve followed Utley longer than any player in baseball. I was a cub reporter at the Long Beach Press-Telegram when I covered a few of his and Milton Bradley’s high school games at Long Beach Poly in the 90s. He was special then.

I said hello to him when he was a rookie with the Phillies, but I don’t think we ever spoke much afterward. He rounds out my ballot.

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