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Trouble in Paradise

Our Esteemed Leader

ESPN has picked up a story first written by the Chronicle's Richard Justice on Tuesday night wherein Justice claims that the Astros have asked Jeff Bagwell to retire so that the club can collect on an insurance policy.

Bagwell, the story says, intends to do no such thing.  "I'm going to try and play baseball at spring training. There's no getting around that. Unless something major happens, I'll be there," the story quotes Bagwell as saying.

At stake for the club is $15.6 million; at stake for Bagwell is at least a shot at 500 home runs, and a greatly enhanced opportunity for induction at Cooperstown.  

My thinking had been that the club would do what they could for Bagwell by trading him to an American League team and picking up much of the 17 mil due for 2006.

Maybe that was naïve of me; in any case, the course of action the team is taking here seems a departure from stances they have taken in the past when Biggio and Bagwell have been involved.  Given McLane's well-known wish that Biggio should strike his 3000th hit while in an Astros uniform, you'd think he'd prefer to give Bagwell every opportunity to achieve the Hall.  

But Bagwell's best chance to make that speech in upstate New York one day seems to be if he finishes with another team, and there's a big difference between Biggio's current contract and the one that Bagwell signed those five years ago.

Those two differences no doubt rankle McLane, and in a winter where he's already getting criticized for not offering arbitration to Roger Clemens, he probably figured there wasn't too much more damage he could do to his reputation with this particular decision.

Though I wonder whether he was right about that.