Home News Billy Wagner holding out Hall of Fame hope before final year on ballot

Billy Wagner holding out Hall of Fame hope before final year on ballot

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Just in case, Billy Wagner joked, he throws a bullpen session every few weeks.

“We’re trying not to blow any saves between now and January,” the former Mets closer said Tuesday before his old team hosted the Nationals to kick off a six-game homestand leading into the All-Star break. “See how that works for the next five votes.”

Wagner, at Citi Field for a Mets alumni visit organized by Jay Horwitz, did his best to keep it light when it comes to his Hall of Fame chances.

Billy Wagner, who has one more year on the ballot, is still holding out hope that he will qualify for the Hall of Fame. Jeff Zelevansky

Almost his entire 16-minute press conference was focused on his chances of breaking through in his 10th and final year on the ballot.

In January, Wagner nearly got in, finishing just five votes shy in his journey to become the eighth career reliever inducted.

But he still doesn’t second-guess his decision to hang it up in 2010 at the age of 39, despite notching a 1.43 ERA and making the All-Star Game with the Braves that season.

“I did have gas left. The reason I stopped was my kids,” said the 52-year-old Wagner, who notched 422 career saves and a 2.31 ERA in 16 major league seasons with the Astros, Mets, Phillies, Red Sox and Braves. “If I don’t make the Hall of Fame because I went and played with my kids, that’s not the real Hall of Fame. I was plenty good, number-wise. I had other responsibilities.”

He’s trying not to let it consume him.

Wagner stays busy by coaching high school baseball at The Miller School (Va.) and helping out at Ferrum College (Va.), his alma mater.

He prefers to think of how fortunate he is to be this close, not about missing out on being part of the exclusive club.

Billy Wagner played nine seasons for the Astros.
Billy Wagner played nine seasons for the Astros. Reuters

“It’s very humbling,” Wagner, a fire-balling left-hander in his day, said. “Everybody goes, well, shoot, you’re five votes away. Nobody has ever not gotten in [while being that close]. My life tells me — it hasn’t been a sure thing when I walked in anywhere. So you know what? You take it as it comes. Blessed to have this opportunity.”

He added: “I’m not here to say that I should be a Hall of Famer, but it is one of those things where you sit there and you get humbled very quickly. I can’t get any more saves. I can’t lower my ERA. I can’t get anymore strikeouts so I have to really teach the kids to be humble and sometimes, that sucks.”

Wagner was noncommittal when it comes to which hat he would like to go into the Hall of Fame with, if he does get selected.

He played with the Mets from 2006-09, but is most remembered as an Astro, the team he broke into the big leagues with and played with from 1995-2003.

“I haven’t gotten that far,” the seven-time All-Star said. “I’m waiting on five votes.”

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