27 Jan

it don’t come easy

Billy Wagner, the former Jackson Generals standout who ranks sixth on MLB’s all-time saves list, made progress toward the Hall of Fame on Tuesday. Wagner was named on 46.4 percent of the ballots (up from 31.7) in his sixth year on the list. The left-hander, who pitched at Smith-Wills Stadium for the Double-A Gens in 1995 (plus a couple of rehab appearances), has 422 saves, a 2.31 ERA and averaged almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings. As Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci notes: “Wagner ranks among the most difficult pitchers to hit. Ever. Even now, with a proliferation of strikeouts in the game.” He was a seven-time All-Star. Still, it’s a long way from 46.4 to the 75 percent needed for induction. And closers don’t seem to get a lot of love. Other former Jackson Mets/Generals standouts like Jeff Reardon, Randy Myers, Todd Jones and Rick Aguilera never came close to making the Hall. … Ex-Gens outfielder Bobby Abreu, in his second year on the ballot, survived the cut for 2022. Players must appear on at least 5 percent of submitted ballots in order to remain on the list the following year; Abreu hit 8.7 this year. A two-time All-Star, and a strong defensive player, he batted .291 with 288 homers, 400 steals and eight 100-RBI seasons. Only a handful of players all-time have achieved 250-plus homers AND 400-plus steals. Playing in Jackson in 1994, he batted .303 with 16 homers, 73 RBIs and 12 steals. If there were a Mississippi minor league Hall of Fame, Abreu would be in it. … Mississippi State alum Jonathan Papelbon will appear on the ballot for the first time in 2022. He had an outstanding 12-year career, posting 368 saves (ninth all-time) and a 2.44 ERA while making six All-Star Games and winning a ring with the 2007 Boston Red Sox. He might be able to stay on the ballot for a couple of years, but making the Hall seems unlikely. … The only Mississippi-connected players enshrined in Cooperstown are former Negro Leagues stars Cool Papa Bell, a Starkville native, and William Foster, who grew up in Rodney and attended Alcorn State. (Columbus native Red Barber is in the broadcasters wing.) Others you could build a case for include Dave Parker, Frank White, Buddy Myer, Guy Bush and even Roy Oswalt, the former Holmes Community College star from Weir who surprisingly lasted just one year on the ballot (2019).

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