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Billy Wagner Was Awesome

Recently, the players eligible for the Baseball Hall of Fame were announced. On that list is former Met, Billy Wagner, who is eligible for the first time. 

The question that naturally follows is if he’s a Hall of Famer. Unfortunately, what happens next is some idiot starts minimizing what each player had accomplished, and/or questioning why the player appears on the ballot. There’s no need for that. To be eligible, a player has to be in the big leagues for 10 years, which is no small feat considering most of us never made it out of Little League. These players have earned the right to have their name there. Instead of telling us why they’re not Hall of Famers, their stories should be shared. 

Personally, I always marvel at Billy Wagner. Did you know he’s not even a lefty?  He’s a natural righty, but as a kid he learned to throw lefty because he broke his right arm twice. It’s a good thing too because inside that left arm was a fastball that could occasionally hit triple digits. He would make it to the Astros to become an elite All Star closer. 

For his career, Wagner amassed 422 saves. That ranks as sixth all time and second amongst left handed closers trailing only fellow former Met (and Astro) John Franco. He had a 2.31 ERA with a 0.998 WHIP and a 11.9 K/9. He was what you wanted with a closer. He came in and struck people out en route to wrapping up the game. He made it an eight inning game for his team. You can make a case for him going into the Hall of Fame with those numbers. 

As a Mets fan, I’m more interested in two things about Billy Wagner: 2006 and 2009. In 2006, Wagner came to the Mets and became part of an incredible bullpen. He saved 40 games. His year was so good he finished sixth in the Cy Young voting. He was a vital member of a team that won 97 games and won the NL East for the first time in 28 years. Unfortunately, it was his only fully healthy year with the Mets. He was unavailable due to injury in 2007 and 2008. We watched as a damaged bullpen and flawed team collapsed in those seasons. 

The worst of Wagner’s injuries would come in 2008. He would need Tommy John surgery. Most, myself included, thought this was the end of his Mets career. Instead, Wagner come back astonishingly fast from the surgery. After 11 months, he came back to a Mets team going nowhere. No one would’ve blamed him for easing off the throttle a bit. There wasn’t a need to rush back. However, it wasn’t the way Billy Wagner is wired. He came back to a well deserved standing ovation and recorded a 1-2-3 inning. 

He would be traded to Boston to finish out 2009. He would play one more year with the Braves before hanging them up. He left behind a career in which he was dominant. He can honestly say he gave it all on the field. He was a fierce competitor that brought integrity to the game. 

I’m not sure if he’s a Hall of Famer. What I do know is that he was a great player, and I’m glad he was a Met. Instead of taking time to denigrate his career, people should be writing his story. It’s a remarkable story about resiliency and competitiveness. He should be shown as an inspiration to children that you can overcome anything to be a big leaguer . . . even twice breaking your throwing arm. 

For all that, congratulations on a terrific career Billy Wagner. 

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