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Starting Nine: Bagwell and the Hall of Fame

The Crawfish Boxes writers discuss Jeff Bagwell and the fact he wasn't elected as part of the 2016 class.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

Jeff Bagwell has to wait one more year to get his named called for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Bagwell needed 15 votes to make this go around after receiving 71.6% of the vote. Now its time for the TCB writers to voice their opinion on the matter:


Bagwell doesn't deserve the Hall of Fame because he didn't hit 500 home runs.

Haha! Just kidding!

Two years ago I started calling this the Annual Screw Over Jeff Bagwell For No Good Reason Day. It's my least favorite day of the year. It's the one day of the year when it's fully guaranteed I'll be crotchety all day (rather than my usual four or five hours.) It's the one day of the year I am guaranteed to feel as old as I am. It's the day I google things like 'How to make your own sandwich board' and 'Are hermits on to something?'.

But this year is different. This year my crotchetiness was eased by Bagwell's big jump. He just missed it, which makes it a near certainty that he'll get in next year.


My indignation over the BBWAA's hypocrisy has reached levels that may be measurable on the Richter scale.  I would be less annoyed if I thought Bagwell has not reached the Hall of Fame because voters believed him undeserving for statistical reasons.  But it still feels like he's being dogged by unfounded innuendo.  This has aggravated me in the past, but this year it has reached a state of incomprehensibility.  
As far as we know, Mike Piazza never used any Performance Enhancing Drug that was banned by MLB any more than Jeff Bagwell did.  But Piazza has admitted to using a steroid that was banned in international competition and other places at the time of his use.  Regardless of the drug's ban status at the time, athletes were well aware that it was a performance-enhancer that gave an unfair edge over those athletes unwilling to subject their bodies to chemical modification beyond caffeine and alcohol.
I do not believe that PED usage in the 1990's should rule out a candidate from the Hall of Fame.  But to deny arguably the greatest batter of all time (Barry Bonds) and greatest pitcher of all time (Roger Clemens) entry into the Hall of Fame over unproven allegations of PED usage, and to allow in an admitted user in Piazza -- that burns me up.  If we dumped everybody out of Hall and performed a re-draft based on performance and records alone, Bonds and Clemens would probably be among the first ballot of ten players selected!

And now we come to Bagwell.  Not only have the voters allowed in Piazza, an admitted PED user, and denied accused PED users Bonds and Clemens, but they are now apparently denying worthy candidates like Bagwell who have only barely been suspected due to association with known users.  Bagwell and his like have never been accused either publicly or by former players of any chemical performance enhancement, and yet...

The Hall voting has annoyed me for the last several years, but this year's inclusion of Piazza while other worthier candidates remain on the ballot due to unfounded 'character clause' violations has exposed beyond any doubt how agenda-driven and clueless the collective body of BBWAA voters is.  Even the nearly-unanimous selection of Griffey, who is deserving of the honor, ignores the argument I've made every year when another player is elected: There is as much evidence and credible suspicion that Griffey used PED's as there is for Bagwell...none, beyond the era that they played in.

Give me a break, BBWAA.  Nobody is fooled by your righteousness.  You contain too many self-congratulatory hypocrites who are just as culpable, fallible, and unjust as the group of suspected PED users that you incorrectly presume you are qualified to levy moral judgment upon.



What (CRPerry13) said.

Seriously, it's like he read my playbook for a response on this topic. I agree completely.


The good news: Over 70% of the voters realize the obvious fact that Jeff Bagwell belongs in the Hall of Fame. He's getting in next year.

It's still ridiculous that he's had to wait this long. I keep coming back to Frank Thomas, who sailed in on the first ballot. Thomas hit .300 for his career and had 500 home runs, so he's in without question even though he played over half his career games as a DH. Bagwell didn't hang on and pad his stats at the end of his career, so the writers ignore his outstanding defense and over 200 career stolen bases.

Then there's the steroid issue which continues to boggle my mind. Ken Griffey Jr., Frank Thomas and Jeff Bagwell have the same amount of failed drug tests: zero. There was no testing. Yet certain writers are convinced that Griffey Jr. and Thomas are clean and Bagwell isn't. If you couldn't write about it while they were playing because there was no proof, you can't hold it against a player now.

I'm not trying to degrade Griffey Jr., Thomas or even Piazza. They are all deserving Hall of Famers. I just can't believe they are once again leaving Bagwell out.


Giving credit where it's deserved, may I add that Bagwell's big jump this year likely occurred because the BBWAA purged a lot of inactive members. (Correct me if I'm wrong here on that count, those of you more familiar with this.) So 1.5 cheers for the BBWAA.

David Coleman

The purge helped Bagwell tremendously. He garnered 306 votes last year and 315 this year. If there had been 549 ballots cast, as in 2014, he would have gotten 57 percent of the vote and increased his percentage by just two points. Yet, by stripping 100 or more voters of their votes, his percentage jumped considerably. Just nine more votes, but a pool of just 440 voters, accounted for his dramatic swing in the polls. It will also mean Bagwell likely gets in next year.

Brian Stevenson

(CRPerry13) nicely summed up my feelings, mostly. Let me say that, if I were voting, I think I would still not vote for anyone solidly connected to PEDs. That would mean Bonds, Clemens, and Piazza would not have my votes. That seems to not be a popular opinion anymore, but numbers are what we vote on, numbers are what we care for, and if we know you used PEDs, we can no longer be certain how real your numbers are. So I still draw a line there.

As (CRPerry13) said, what is so irksome is that Piazza did admit to some usage and got in, but Bagwell, who never has nor has ever been even remotely tied in any real way to PEDs, still has not. Yeah, he'll probably get in next year. That only drops me from rage to irked.

And it wasn't part of the question, but let me just briefly point out that Billy Wagner might be the best modern one-inning closer in history aside from Marino Rivera. He's certainly as good as Hoffman, despite not having the total number of saves that he does (a stat of highly-questionable value, of course). But looking at the numbers that really measure how good, how dominant he was, it's clear that if you vote for Hoffman, you have to vote for Wagner. And with just 10.5% in his favor, it looks like he might never get in while Hoffman certainly will, which is ludicrous.


Oh, I'll take a more positive spin at the Hall of Fame results this year. Bagwell is very close to getting into the Hall of Fame, and I view that as progress. Last year I began to wonder whether Bagwell's vote percentage might begin to slide back; in short, it seemed like a legitimate worry that he might not ever get into the Hall. After the vote this season, I feel fairly confident that Bagwell will reach the HOF within the next couple of years. I have pretty much lost the bitter taste I had from the first season of Bags' eligibility. My reaction was partly due to the large number of silly and irrational explanations by some of the voters who left Bagwell off their ballot that first time. (Do you remember the articles by Jeff Pearlman in 2013?) I haven't seen the same degree of drivel this time around. And many of the bigger names among the baseball writer traditionalists have included Bagwell on their ballots. As I say, progress.
Beyond that, my support for Bagwell's candidacy is no reason to knock the players who did get in the Hall of Fame. Piazza is one of the elite catchers of our generation, and deserves to be in the Hall. He is 6th all time among catchers in WAR; and WAR doesn't capture pitch framing. Recent analyses indicate that Piazza was very good at that skill, which offsets the perceived defensive weakness.
I would put Billy Wagner in the Hall of Fame, but I expected that he would have a tough road. There will be voters who resist voting relief pitchers into the Hall unless they meet the Rivera standard (which no one does). In a way, it's the "small vs. large Hall" debate.