Billy Wagner gained some support in the Hall of Fame balloting this year — but just a little. The former Jackson Generals star was named on 11.1 percent of the ballots, getting 47 votes. He was named on 10.2 percent (45 votes) in 2017. The cutoff for election is 75 percent. It would appear that Wagner, who ranks sixth on the all-time saves list, isn’t going to rise to that benchmark. The little left-hander is among five former Jackson Mets or Generals to rank in the MLB top 20 in career saves. None of the others – Jeff Reardon, Randy Myers, Todd Jones, Rick Aguilera – came close to making the Hall. With 422 saves, a 2.31 career ERA and seven All-Star Game appearances over 16 seasons, Wagner has great credentials. But tickets to Cooperstown are hard to come by, especially for closers. Trevor Hoffman, No. 2 on the all-time saves list, became just the sixth reliever to make the Hall of Fame when he was announced on Wednesday. P.S. There are no former Jackson area Double-A players — JADAPs — in the Hall of Fame, though recently retired ex-Generals outfielders Bobby Abreu and Lance Berkman surely will get strong consideration when they become eligible. And there are a couple of ex-Mississippi Braves still out there building a case, including a closer: Craig Kimbrel, who is still in his prime in Boston and ranks 29th on the saves chart. Catcher Brian McCann, nearing the end of his brilliant career, should get in someday. … Worth noting: Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon, ninth on the saves list and not yet officially retired, could also be a viable Hall candidate down the road.
When he arrived in Jackson in 1995, he was the personification of effectively wild. Texas League hitters didn’t want to get too comfortable against Billy Wagner, who threw in the upper 90s from the left side and might hit a batter, walk another and then strike out the next three. By the time he retired in 2010, Wagner had much better command but was no less scary to face. Wagner is on the National Baseball Hall of Fame ballot for the first time, and he is likely to get strong consideration. He ended his big league career with 422 saves, a 2.31 ERA and 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings. He was a seven-time All-Star and helped Houston reach the postseason in 1997, ’98, ’99 and 2001. His final season, with Atlanta, was one of his best: 1.43 ERA, 37 saves, 7-2 record for another playoff club. A first-round pick in 1993 out of NCAA Division III Ferrum (Va.) College, Wagner was a starter for the ’95 Generals and went 2-2 with a 2.57 ERA in nine games before being promoted. He struck out 77 in 70 innings and walked 36. (He hit four batters and threw four wild pitches.) Wagner, Bobby Abreu and Lance Berkman are three players from the Generals era (1991-99) whose numbers should garner at least some attention from Hall of Fame voters. P.S. Ed Easley, Scott Copeland, Tim Dillard, Phil Irwin, Cody Satterwhite and Julio Borbon are Mississippians on the list of minor league free agents provided today by Baseball America. Easley and Copeland made their MLB debuts this past season before getting sent back to the minors. Several 2015 Mississippi Braves are also in the free agent group, including Kevin Ahrens, Tyler Jones, Greg Ross and Mycal Jones, along with Robby Hefflinger, who didn’t play in 2015 because of health issues.