That's a summation of what Stephen said yesterday in Act Three of this series. It's a shame we have to discuss something that has never been proven nor even hinted at. I mean, even Craig Biggio was accused of using PEDs, but the only people to suspect Bagwell have been Hall of Fame voters.
So, this article won't have a big, overarching theme. It also won't be nearly as long as the HOF comps from Wednesday. Instead, I'm going to bullet-point a few things that I've been considering as pro-Bagwell, but there wasn't really enough there for a full article. Feel free to add anything in the comments that I missed. We've got five more days until finding out whether Bagwell got in or not and you may see another HOF article or two before then.
- Bagwell's defense. Peter Gammons did a great job of talking about what made Bagwell great at his position. Those quotes from Biggio about how no one could start a double play like Bagwell was spot-on. The thing no one mentioned, though, was his kamikaze way of taking out bunters. When Bagwell decided to crash down on a bunt, he'd end up almost on top of the batter's box by the time the ball was laid down. Don't take my word for it. Listen to Phil Garner:
"He intimidated bunters. (When managing the Brewers) we were in the old Astrodome and my pitcher put a bunt down the third-base line. Bagwell fielded the bunt and wheeled and his left leg landed outside the third-base line and he threw the guy out at second. He actually disrupted the game from a defensive standpoint. That's something most people won't consider."
- His leadership. Everyone mentions it, but no one has really emphasized what a plus Bagwell's presence was for those teams. The Astros brought in a ton of veteran players over the years, from Moises Alou to Randy Johnson to Jeff Kent and Carlos Beltran. All of them fit in well, even the curmudgeons like Kent. A big reason for that was Bagwell. Astro Andy linked to the Morgan Ensberg piece in Stephen's story but that isn't half of it. All through the most successful years in Houston, everyone talked about it being an 'easy clubhouse." That's because Bagwell and Craig Biggio kept things loose. They held people to a standard and kept on winning. I'm not sure how much I like using something subjective like "clubhouse presence" as HOF justification, but it'll certainly be used when Derek Jeter is eligible.
- His home runs. No, this one shouldn't get him over the hump for the Hall of Fame, but I just like remember those moon shot home runs. I remember those high, arching home runs falling into the flower beds in center field of the Astrodome and I remember Bagwell falling away across the plate after every one. One of my favorite Minute Maid Park memories came in a game against the Dodgers back in 2001. The Astros rallied to tie the game and did it on a majestic home run by Bagwell. I was sitting up in the top deck along the first base line. The roof had just been opened and the sun had just set. Bagwell's home run flew to left field onto the rail road tracks into the dying sunlight.
Bagwell was a unique player. I don't know about the rest of you, but when I was growing up, I definitely tried my own very dorky Dream Shake in the driveway when I was shooting hoops. I may have tried Bagwell's stance when I was hitting in Little League, but it was so awkward and hard to hold, I never could do anything with it. The fact that it worked for him, that he hit all those home runs assures he'll always be remembered by Astros fans, if not by all those fans who travel to Cooperstown.