I had intended on doing a fun Jeff Bagwell Hall of Fame article, comparing him to Killer B's already in the Hall, but then I saw Barry Bloom's Hall of Fame ballot. At the bottom of this article you'll note that there's a little blurb about why Bagwell was not voted for. This same note appeared in his Hall of Fame article last year as well.
Curiously, this isn't about steroid as both Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro made his ballot. No, this is about Steve Garvey:
And just a note on Jeff Bagwell: Rumors about possible steroid use don’t bother me. I just think he’s a very good player, but not of Hall of Fame caliber. His numbers are very similar to Steve Garvey — Bags .297 batting average to .294 for the Garv, 2,314 hits to 2,599, 449 homers to 272, 1,529 RBIs to 1,308 . But Garvey had two NL Championship Series MVPs, an NL MVP, an All-Star MVP, the longest consecutive game playing streak in NL history (1,207), one of the highest fielding percentages as a first baseman (.996) and an errorless season (1984). Garvey also played on five NL pennant winners and a World Series winner in ’81 with the Dodgers. Bagwell did almost none of this with the Astros. And Garvey didn’t get a sniff from the writers for the HOF.
It's worth noting that Bagwell posted those regular season numbers in 182 less games.
Apparently 200 isn't much of a gap for Mr. Bloom offensively, nor is a .079 difference between Garvey's on base percentage (.329) and Bagwell's (.408). Defensively that's an entirely other story where Garvey's .996 fielding percentage is far superior to Bagwell's .993 at first base. Bagwell didn't have the success in the post season that Garvey did there's no denying that but neither did Mark McGwire, Tim Raines or Rafeal Palmeiro.
Several people have called Bloom out on twitter. One particular response caught my attention.
You'll have to excuse me for my dumbness here, but I thought a "5-fo-5 game-winning homer night" was something tangible. And I wonder if those same intangibles helped Garvey bat .200 in the 1984 World Series. In fact, if you take into account all the World Series Garvey played in he played like a below average first basemen. The scrappy David Eckstein has a World Series MVP award, but Garvey doesn't. Which I'm sure we can all agree trumps 2 NLCS MVP awards. I look forward to Bloom's support of Eckstein when he reaches the ballot in 2016.
While we're on "intangibles" let's talk a little bit about Bagwell's intangibles. You ask any Houston Astro fan and they will tell you Bagwell had loads of it. Heck, ask the players he played with and they'll tell you the same thing. Intangibles are what allowed Bagwell to play through a degenerative arthritic shoulder condition in his shoulder from 2001-2005.
Funny thing about intangibles though, It's not in the BBWAA Election rules:
Voting: Voting shall be based upon the player's record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.
As I'm sure you've noticed I've avoided referring to WAR, OPS+ or any of the other advanced statistics. You know them I know them, Barry Bloom doesn't know them and probably doesn't care about them. Instead I'd like to add a few more of the classic comparisons.
Stolen Bases: Bagwell - 202 Garvey - 83
Intentional Bases on Balls: Bagwell - 155 Garvey - 113
Base on Balls: Bagwell - 1401 Garvey - 479
Double Plays Grounded Into: Bagwell - 221 Garvey - 251
Clearly, very similar players.
Baseball Reference has what's called similarity scores. Garvey's number 1 similar batter is Garret Anderson. Carlos Delgado is Bagwell's number 1 but check out who's number 3...that's right the Crime Dog, Fred McGriff. The same McGriff who made it onto Mr. Blooms ballot is Bagwell's third comp.
It seems to me what this really boils down to is that Bloom is upset with Garvey not getting enough support. In 1993 Garvey got a 41.6% approval rating from the BBWAA for the Hall of Fame, yet another similarity. He would peak two years later at 42.6% and finish his time on the ballot with 21.1% in 2007.
Maybe this is a cry out against the advanced statistics, turning a should of been Hall of Famer into a non-Hall of Famer. Garvey is obviously a favorite of Mr. Bloom, his tweet about the memorable '84 NLCS says as much. And let's not forget Steve Garvey was a very good player. In his peak years from 1974-1980 he posted a 130 OPS+ and a 27.7 bWAR. Statistically though he still falls short of Jeff Bagwell. Uplifting one player over another player because of intangibles in one game is illogical and makes a mockery of the voting process.
What I and many others are confused by is Bloom's thought process. Bagwell's numbers are better across the board, there is no denying that. There is the post season thing but there are others on his ballot that have had just as bad and even weaker postseasons. What we don't get is the Bloom voted FOR Garvey on the 2007 ballot. Maybe it's against the voting process, I don't know.
I'll give Bloom credit, he is defending his stance on twitter, albeit unconvincingly. It's just unfortunate that his frustration is being taken out on Hall of Fame ballot, and more specifically someone worthy of induction.