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The Hall of Fame case for Jeff Bagwell

Dec 19, 2011, 10:30 AM EDT

Jeff Bagwell AP

Last week Chris Jaffe of The Hardball Times made the Hall of Fame case for Tim Raines.  He did it in decidedly non-advanced stats terms in order to preempt the “you sabermetricians and your voodoo sorcery!” objections.  If you read it and still can’t call Tim Raines a Hall of Famer there’s no helping you.

Today Chris gives Jeff Bagwell the same treatment. Maybe it’s not as necessary. I get the sense that Bagwell would be in easily if not for the irresponsible steroid speculation surrounding him, so convincing people that his numbers were awesome is sort of beside the point.

But in the event you need convincing, check it out. And if you still don’t think Bagwell is a Hall of Famer after reading it, it’s incumbent upon you to explain why.

  1. Chris Fiorentino - Dec 19, 2011 at 10:40 AM

    So the BBWAA won’t use the advanced stats to put someone in the hall…saying they think this guy or that guy is a HOFer or not based on “what they saw with their eyes”.

    Yet they are not using what their eyes tell them with regards to Bagwell, who is a clear HOFer whether you go by your eyes, the “regular” stats, or the sabremetric stats. They are going by “rumors” of steroid use. Is this the new 4th category?

    1) “normal” stats
    2) “advanced” stats
    3) What my eyes told me while he played
    4) He may have done steroids.

    It’s ridiculous. The Hall of Fame will continue to be the broom closet of fame to me as long as they let this self-righteous idiots do the voting.

    • jkcalhoun - Dec 19, 2011 at 10:57 AM

      In case you missed it, Grant Brisbee has provided an exhaustive and provocative survey of the counterarguments to Bagwell’s Hall of Fame case at SB Nation.

      • mcsnide - Dec 19, 2011 at 8:45 PM

        Very nice. I giggle like a little girl at that one.

      • mcsnide - Dec 19, 2011 at 8:45 PM

        Very nice. I giggled like a little girl at that one.

  2. stex52 - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:11 AM

    When Bagwell was still playing (circa 2003/2004) the common wisdom around Houston was that he needed the 500 home runs to cement his case. I admit to coming to Sabermetrics a little later, so I kind of carried that logic forward. In retrospect, I wasn’t paying enough attention.

    But there is some truth in that simplification. I know this was all said in the article, but I think these are the key points:

    1. He played in a power era. Key competitors are Thome and Thomas. They both have 500 homers.
    2. We tend to forget that the Astrodome warning track was where homers went to die.
    3. Sportswriters can be a simple-minded lot and need a strong narrative to get a story.

    I confess to great relief when the Mitchell report came out and he wasn’t implicated. But in the absence of any evidence whatsoever, it is wrong for the BBWAA to take any action other than to judge him on his merits. And the attached article makes that case powerfully.

  3. pitolove124 - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:16 AM

    As great as some of his numbers are, can’t help to thing steroids in Bags case. Baseball is a numbers driven game & anything that causes those numbers to skew isn’t “good” for the game. The real victims of steroids are those players who put up great numbers who never did steroids. Players who otherwise would have been considered. See: Bernie Williams. See: Paul O’Neil

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:30 AM

      Baseball is a numbers driven game & anything that causes those numbers to skew isn’t “good” for the game

      What skewed? Are you saying that because Bagwell got better around age 26, which is a player’s beginning peak, he took steroids? Or are you saying that because he put up good numbers in an era when pitchers and batters took steroids, he had to have taken them as well?

    • paperlions - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:32 AM

      Neither of those guys would have been considered strongly for the HOF regardless of the era they played in.

    • stex52 - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:36 AM

      Perhaps you had better offer us your evidence that O’Niel and Williams were clean. The road you are going down suggests that any player of the era took steroids, but that certain players you designate were “obviously” clean.

      Bagwell was a gym rat. If anything, the fact that arthritis from overworking his shoulders took him out suggests no steroids. I went down the road of worrying about steroids with no evidence, but that won’t do. If you have nothing other than your own personal prejudices, then the player deserves the benefit of your doubt.

    • thefalcon123 - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:53 AM

      “See: Paul O’Neil”

      A’hem…I’m glad you brought this up!
      Through the age of 29, Paul O’Neill posted a career .767 OPS. Kind of poor for an outfielder. In 1994, that OPS went up to a whopping 1.064. From 1994 to 1998, when he should have been declining, he instead posted a .934 OPS, a 22% increase. Seems suspicious to me!

      Do I think O’neill did steroids? Not really. But if you want to claim that someone’s numbers proves they did steroids, there is just as much proof in Paul O’neill than anybody else.

    • JBerardi - Dec 19, 2011 at 6:36 PM

      ” The real victims of steroids are those players who put up great numbers who never did steroids. Players who otherwise would have been considered. See: Bernie Williams. See: Paul O’Neil”

      See: Jeff Bagwell

  4. mojosmagic - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:34 AM

    I watched him his entire career and his body completely changed due to roids.

    • stex52 - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:37 AM


    • paperlions - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:38 AM

      Cause-effect fail.

      Nearly everyone’s body changes significantly from age 23 to 37.

      Bagwell was also considered one of the most avid fitness/workout guys while he played. Surely, you don’t mean to suggest that only guys that took steroids worked out.

      • alang3131982 - Dec 19, 2011 at 12:53 PM

        Body type is a very poor indicator of steroid use.

        Alex Sanchez.

        How many relievers and others didnt get huge like Bagwell, yet also took steroids. Or did they take fake steroids? Over the past five years, i’ve lost 15 lbs and added a significant amount of muscle. I dont take steroids. I didnt work out before 5 years ago, now i do…so, in your opinion, i clearly take roids because i can now bench press 70 lbs more than 5 yrs ago?

    • strosfan85 - Dec 19, 2011 at 8:40 PM

      I watched him his entire career also and his body didnt change that much at all..

  5. 78mu - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:36 AM

    I haven’t looked at the article yet but then again I watched him play and I know his stats and what he did. But this issue with PEDs and Bagwell is ridiculous.

    At least at the end of The Music Man when the mayor asked ‘where’s the band?’ the band showed up. With Bagwell when sportswriters whisper about steroids, no one can find any.

    The failure of Raines and Bagwell to get in makes me think there are a lot of voters still typing their stories on their trusty Olivetti manual typewriter with their press pass stuck into the band of their fedoras while cursing the advent of night baseball.

    • Ari Collins - Dec 19, 2011 at 11:57 AM

      +1 for the Music Man reference.

      +1 for the last sentence’s mental image.

      Also +1 for generally making sense.

  6. lionsplayoffs - Dec 19, 2011 at 12:57 PM

    I’m perfectly fine with writers passing on anyone that was questionable in the steroids era. Because those guys, plus many, many more, all did it. Sure they’ll deny it, but there’s no denying players deflating and hitting a lot less homers after the testing started. It’s better to screw guys like Bagwell over (it is remotely possible he didn’t juice) than to let one cheater in.

    • nategearhart - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:04 PM

      It’s actually the exact opposite – it would be a terrible offense to keep Bagwell out because of steroids if he never did them. And there are already cheaters in.
      Your stance implies that NO ONE who played during the steroid era should be allowed in – no Larkin, no Griffey, no Maddux, no Randy Johnson….am I correct? Why should anyone be above questioning, if we’re going to question Bagwell?

    • alang3131982 - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:08 PM

      I dont want to be mean, but you’re an idiot.

      If all did it, should no one from 1993-20… be allowed in the hall of fame? What about those in the hall of fame who are admitted cheaters and users of amphetamines?

      At no point is it better to screw over innocent people for a witch hunt.

      in addition, you ignore several factors that could have contributed to the homerun binge: amphetamines, ball parks, expansion (dilution of pitching), a juiced ball — why are none of these mentioned? They have humidors in place now to cut down on the flight of the ball.

      Just like pitchers got a little extra credit during the dead ball era, hitters will get a litte bump from the juiced ball error and steroids are a very small portion of that.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:21 PM

      It’s better to screw guys like Bagwell over (it is remotely possible he didn’t juice) than to let one cheater in.

      There are multiple cheaters already in the HoF, who’ve admitted cheating and yet no one seems to care. So why prevent these guys, who may be innocent, from getting in?

    • stex52 - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:58 PM

      How do you define questionable? Having played baseball in the 90’S? Scarcely any other criterion will do. Otherwise, as I said before, you need to tell someone what your reasoning is for the accusation.

      Questionable to whom??????????????

    • JBerardi - Dec 19, 2011 at 6:47 PM

      “It’s better to screw guys like Bagwell over (it is remotely possible he didn’t juice) than to let one cheater in.”

      I mean, Goode Proctor could have been a witch. Better safe than sorry.

  7. Matt - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:06 PM

    I’m sure this has been said elsewhere already…but I feel compelled to say it again here for some reason. While keeping players like Bagwell out of the HOF based on zero actual evidence is horrendous, I think the worst part about all of the baby-boomer aged BBWAA members keeping the steroid guys out is that every vote that does so is slowly killing Cooperstown. I’ve never been there myself, but since I was 10 I knew that some day I would go, and I would take my kids there so that I can share with them the baseball that I grew up with and loved. Unfortunately, there is a ridiculous effort to keep out the vast majority of players whose cards I collected, autographs I coveted, and baseball games I longed to attend. I know, without a doubt, that I will never take my kids to a Cooperstown that doesn’t include guys like Frank Thomas, Ken Griffey, Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Mark McGwire, etc. and that fact both angers and depresses me. I wish that I could address all of those self-righteous writers who are all too quick to ignore the faults of their childhood heroes while using all of their power to destroy the history of mine what they are doing, and how their senseless grandstanding is ruining my ability to do with my kids what they were able to do with theirs.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:22 PM

      Pretty much this. I have about 10x the desire to go to KC and see the Negro Leagues Museum than I do to go back to Cooperstown and see the MLB HoF.

    • The Dangerous Mabry - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:38 PM

      The “Hall of Fame” has never been the reason to go to that building. Now, the Museum part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum is fantastic. That’s where you find the stories, and the relics, and everything exciting and wonderful about the game. The museum covers everything, including scandals and players who are “banned from the hall”. I hear the library is pretty fantastic as well, though I haven’t made it.

      The “Hall of Fame” is just a big room with a bunch of plaques in it. Any time I’ve been to Cooperstown I’ve spent hours and hours in the Museum and felt like I haven’t seen it all. The Hall of Fame? Maybe 15 minutes, and then I’m done.

      So no matter what voters may do with who is in and who is out, remember that the Hall of Fame isn’t the part of that wonderful building that you want to go see, anyway.

  8. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:36 PM

    I’m going to add another reason why Jeff should be in; he looks like James Hetfield, who is excellent and is in the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. Therefore, his baseball counterpart is equally deserving.

    Oh yeah, and he was a hell of a ballplayer, an upstanding guy, an elite player among his kind, and has never been caught doing anything wrong in baseball.

    • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 19, 2011 at 4:42 PM

      Haha, love the thumbs down. I’m just being silly, guys.

      Well about the first part, anyway. Tough crowd.

      • cur68 - Dec 19, 2011 at 6:10 PM

        I simply cannot believe that there are that many Hetfield haters out there. I prefer to think this is more about Matt Stairs dislike. With that in mind I do believe Johnathon Broxton and his family read HBT.

        Get over it, Brox. He pwned you and you pitched around him later for it.

      • WhenMattStairsIsKing - Dec 20, 2011 at 11:36 AM

        Me Matt Stairs? Or the actual player?

  9. PanchoHerreraFanClub - Dec 19, 2011 at 1:39 PM

    According to those who actually vote, Bagwell isn’t a HOFer because he LOOKED like he used PEDs. So get over it.

  10. strosfan85 - Dec 19, 2011 at 8:43 PM

    The man is a HOFer regardless of the stats.. He played his entire career in 1 city and was a cornerstone of the Houston Astros for 15 years.. If not for an arthritic shoulder couldve played 1-2 more years and wouldve made it to 500 HR’s

    • stex52 - Dec 20, 2011 at 8:34 AM

      Absolutely. Maybe when Biggio comes up we’ll get them as a pair.

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