Former Houston Astros reliever Billy Wagner, widely considered by most fans to be the best closer in team history, will have to wait at least one more year. The Baseball Writers' Association of America has spoken, and Wagner, in what might be the narrowest miss in the history of the institution, fell just short of being enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his ninth of 10 years of eligibility on the writers' ballot.
Players need to receive at least 75 percent of the vote in order to join that elusive club in Cooperstown. This year, former Minnesota Twins catcher Joe Mauer, longtime Colorado Rockies slugger Todd Helton, and four-time All-Star third baseman Adrian Beltré all got the call.
Mauer and Beltré were on the ballot for the first time this year, but Helton and Wagner were both holdovers from their previous time on the ballot. Fred McGriff and Scott Rolen were the only players elected to the Hall of Fame last year.
Billy Wagner's 2024 Baseball Hall of Fame vote total
In the end, Wagner fell just FIVE votes short of election. Unbelievable. Next year will be his 10th and final time on the ballot.
Wagner has steadily climbed up the ranks of late, and after eight years on the ballot, was on the cusp of making it to Cooperstown in 2023. Helton was kept out by just 11 votes in 2023, but the five-time All-Star can now add Hall of Famer to his resumé.
Over the past few years, Wagner has made significant gains in the minds of the voters. The former reliever jumped from 186 votes (46.4 percent) in 2021 to 201 votes (51 percent) in 2022. Last year, the number jumped once again to 265 votes (68.1 percent), putting Wagner just 27 votes away from baseball immortality last year.
Wagner said prior to Tuesday's results that he wasn't going to treat the day any differently and planned to spend it coaching coaching his kids. This perfectly calm reaction is a testament to that closer's mentality that Wagner had during his playing days.
Wagner's 16-year major league career saw him log over 900 innings pitched to the tune of a 2.31 ERA. The southpaw struck out 1,196 batters during his time in the big leagues and made seven All-Star appearances.
Wagner's ERA+ of 187 is means that he was 87 percent better than the league-average pitcher during his career. Wagner was one of the best relievers of his era and belongs in the Baseball Hall of Fame.