Wagner gains HOF steam; Clemens denied

January 26th, 2022

HOUSTON -- Billy Wagner, the hard-throwing lefty who saved a club-record 225 games for the Astros and amassed 422 for his career, moved a step closer to perhaps being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in coming years by receiving 51% of the votes in the 2022 election balloting unveiled Tuesday.

Wagner, appearing on the ballot for the seventh time, increased his support from the Baseball Writers’ Association of America from 46.4% in 2021, 31.7% in ’20 and 16.7% in ’19. He has three years remaining on the ballot. Players need to appear on 75% of the ballots to get elected to the Hall of Fame.

A pair of other former Astros pitchers -- Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling -- fell short in their 10th and final years on the ballot, with Clemens finishing at 65.2% and Schilling at 58.6%. Former Astros second baseman Jeff Kent received 32.7% in his ninth year on the ballot and former Houston lefty Andy Pettitte got 10.7% in his fourth year. Former outfielder Bobby Abreu, who played the first 74 games of his career with the Astros, checked in at 8.6%.

“My family and I put the HOF in the rear view mirror ten years ago,” Clemens tweeted. “I didn’t play baseball to get into the HOF. I played to make a generational difference in the lives of my family. Then focus on winning championships while giving back to my community and the fans as well.

“It was my passion. I gave it all I had, the right way, for my family and for the fans who supported me. I am grateful for that support. I would like to thank those who took the time to look at the facts and vote for me. Hopefully everyone can now close this book and keep their eyes forward focusing on what is really important in life. All love!”

Suspicions about Clemens’ use of performance-enhancing drugs have clouded his candidacy, but he could still find his way to the Hall of Fame via the Today’s Game Committee, which will meet this December.

The only player elected by the BBWAA on Tuesday was former Red Sox designated hitter David Ortiz, who made it on his first ballot. He will be inducted July 24 in Cooperstown, N.Y., with six former players elected in December by two Eras Committees: Bud Fowler, Gil Hodges, Jim Kaat, Minnie Miñoso, Tony Oliva and Buck O’Neil.

Here’s a closer look at key Astros who were on this year’s Hall of Fame ballot:

Wagner was one of the most dominant closer of his generation, with an explosive 100 mph fastball generated from a 5-foot-10 frame. His 422 saves rank sixth-most all time, and he posted a career 2.31 ERA while being named to seven All-Star teams. His 11.92 strikeouts per nine innings and .187 opponents’ batting average are the best career totals of any pitcher in AL/NL history with at least 900 innings

A first-round Draft pick out of Ferrum College in 1993, Wagner came up through the Astros’ system as a starting pitcher before making the transition to reliever after getting called up to Houston in 1995. He made three All-Star teams in his nine years with the Astros (1995-03) and finished fourth in the 1999 NL Cy Young Award voting.

Wagner went on to save another 197 games for the Phillies, Mets, Red Sox and Braves and became an All-Star four more times. He finished two saves shy of John Franco’s record for saves by a lefty.

Clemens won 354 games – ninth-most all time – in his 24-year career, which included a brief but memorable stop with his hometown Astros (2004-06). Clemens won a record seven Cy Young Awards, seven ERA titles and the 1986 AL Most Valuable Player Award. His 4,672 career strikeouts rank third behind Nolan Ryan and Randy Johnson.

Clemens went 18-4 with a 2.98 ERA and won his seventh and final Cy Young in 2004 for Houston and returned in ’05 to go 13-8 and win the NL ERA title (1.87). He went 7-6 with a 2.30 ERA in 19 starts in his final year in Houston before returning to New York.

Kent, the 2000 NL MVP with the Giants, retired with 377 career homers, setting a Major League record most career homers by a second baseman. A career .290 hitter, he was a five-time All-Star and four-time Silver Slugger winner while playing 17 years with the Giants, Mets, Dodgers, Astros, Indians and Blue Jays.

Kent came to the Astros on a two-year deal to play second base, pushing Hall of Famer Craig Biggio to the outfield temporarily. The hard-nosed Kent produced in his two years in Houston, hitting .297 with 22 homers and 93 RBIs in 2003 and .289 with 27 homers and 107 RBIs in ‘04, making the All-Star Game that year in Houston. Kent helped the Astros to the first playoff series win in franchise history, when they beat the Braves in five games in the NL Division Series in ’04.

The lefty played 15 of his 18 years with the Yankees, winning 256 games in the regular season and a Major League-record 19 more in the postseason while winning five World Series championships (1996, ’98-2000, ’09). He joined the Astros prior to the 2004 season and suffered an injury that year. Pettitte then went 17-9 with a 2.39 ERA in ’05 while helping Houston reach the World Series for the first time. He went 37-26 with a 3.38 ERA in three years with the Astros before playing his final six years back with the Yankees.