- Baseball legend Billy Wagner says he feels honored that opponents took performance-enhancing drugs to try to beat him
- The former All-Star reliever also said those who served PED-related suspensions, including Alex Rodriguez, shouldn’t enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame
- Unlike Rodriguez, Wagner’s Hall of Fame candidacy is trending upwards at the right time
Baseball fans and writers have spent the last two decades endlessly debating whether or not those who used performance-enhancing drugs should enter the National Baseball Hall of Fame. Those conversations still haven’t ended, as Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens will not-so-happily confirm.
Former All-Star reliever Billy Wagner, who just concluded his seventh year on the ballot, knows where he stands, and it’s not good news for the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Manny Ramirez.
Billy Wagner takes pride in the fact that opponents needed performance-enhancing drugs to beat him
As someone who debuted in 1995 and retired following the 2010 season, Wagner spent almost his entire career pitching in the steroid era. Those who used needles or applied cream still couldn’t hit the All-Star reliever, who totaled 422 saves and limited opponents to a career .187 average against him in 903 regular-season innings.
Although he theoretically could have chosen to cheat, especially before the league modernized its testing rules in 2004, Wagner chose to play and pitch clean. Over a decade after throwing his final pitch, he still takes pride in his approach and clearly has no regrets.
In a recent interview with the New York Post, Wagner explained his opinion on those who cheated when he played. Although he doesn’t agree with those who used performance-enhancing drugs, he’s at least trying to look on the bright side.
“I feel like it’s a compliment to me that somebody had to go and do this; they had to go and get supplements to be able to compete with somebody like me. I do feel that is a credit to what I brought, and to play in that era they had to do that because they weren’t having much success against me.”Billy Wagner
According to Stathead, Wagner limited Bonds, perhaps the most infamous player tied to PED use, to a .214 average and one home run in 14 at-bats. He also struck out the seven-time National League MVP three times and only walked him once.
Wagner made it clear he doesn’t believe Alex Rodriguez should be in the Hall of Fame
Although Wagner doesn’t think highly of PED users, he made it clear he has at least drawn a line in the sand. He feels there is a distinction between the likes of Bonds and Clemens, who he feels were never proven to have used PEDs despite widespread allegations and testimony, and those who served suspensions.
Rodriguez, who semi-regularly faced Wagner when both played in New York in the late 2000s, falls into the latter group. The three-time AL MVP admitted to steroid use in 2009 and was suspended for the entire 2014 season because of his ties to the Biogenesis scandal.
Wagner admitted he doesn’t believe Rodriguez, and any other players who were suspended for PEDs, should even be eligible for the Hall of Fame.
“I understand that A-Rod was one of the greatest players I ever played against, and when all that stuff changes, you just have a hard time. You go, ‘Why? You were already great.’ For whatever reason, I just don’t think it’s fair that [illegal PED users] get to enjoy what guys who did it the correct way are forced to deal with.”Billy Wagner
Wagner limited Rodriguez to one hit in nine at-bats and struck him out three times.
Unlike Rodriguez, Wagner is well on track to earn a place in the Hall of Fame
Over 30% of voters — 34.3%, to be exact — checked off Rodriguez’s name in his first year on the ballot. Ramirez, who was suspended twice for PED use from 2009-11, saw 28.9% of voters vote for him this cycle, his highest total yet.
Unlike those two, Wagner continues to earn more votes and is on track to obtain a bronze plaque in the coming years. After only receiving 11.1% of the vote in 2018, Wagner leaped to 16.7% in 2019, his fourth year on the ballot.
From there, he improved to 31.7% in 2020 and 46.4% in 2021, in large part because of analytics and more voters using nine or 10 spots instead of checking off only two or three names. The big-hall philosophy, as it’s called, has worked significantly to Wagner’s advantage.
A clean resume and no ties to performance-enhancing drugs have also worked out for Wagner, but that goes without saying. Fair or not, there’s a reason why he has a far better chance of taking the stage in Cooperstown, N.Y., than Rodriguez or Ramirez.