The Baseball Writers’ Association of America selected three new members to baseball’s Hall of Fame on Wednesday. This was a slight increase from the pathetic number of zero that the senior members of the committee selected a year ago. Among the exclusions this year, and last year as well, were Houston Astros greats Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell.
The Biggio exclusion was a travesty, as he missed being selected by a paltry two votes. He appeared on 427 ballots, 74.8% of the 571 ballots, just short of the 75% required for enshrinement. His vote tally did increase after he received 388 ballots in his first year of eligibility a year ago. Bagwell on the other hand, saw his voting numbers decline this year.
He received 310 votes, or 54.3% after garnering 59.6% of the vote last year. It was interesting to see Bagwell’s votes decline in the same year where a fellow slugging first baseman with similar career numbers, Frank Thomas, was selected to the Hall of Fame. The best conclusion that I can come up with is the selection committee is skeptical of Bagwell’s numbers due to the dark cloud of the steroid era.
While there has not been any direct link or smoke that could lead to a fire with Bagwell and steroids or performing enhancing drugs, the BWAA is going to punish him for being a slugger in a tainted era. Unlike with other players during his time, such as Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Barry Bonds, it has not been proven that Bagwell was juiced up. Bagwell had none of the red flags they had. No BALCO trail, no testifying to Congress, no mention in the infamous Mitchell Report.
Yet Bagwell’s vote total declined and he will have an uphill climb to be selected into the Hall next year. Some may refute my view that Bagwell is a victim of the steroid era, and that his numbers just weren’t good enough to get him selected this time. Let’s take a look at that argument shall we. As I mentioned earlier, Frank Thomas was selected this year, his first year on the ballot. This was Bagwell’s fourth year of Hall of Fame eligibility.
In 19 MLB seasons, Thomas compliled a .301 batting average, 521 HRs and and 1,704 RBIs. In 15 MLB seasons, Bagwell put together a .297 batting average, 449 HRs, and 1,529 RBIs. Those numbers are very comparable, especially considering that Bagwell played four less seasons than Thomas and also played in the National League, whereas Thomas played his entire career in the American League and was able to DH as well as play first base.
Bagwell was not only a power hitting first baseman, his all around game was phenomenal for the Astros. In addition to the above numbers, he also finished with 488 doubles, 32 triples, and 202 steals and a .408 OBP. Thomas compiled 495 doubles, 12 triples, 32 steals, and a .419 OBP. Once again, Bagwell’s numbers are very comparable in all areas.
Now don’t get me wrong, I am in no way discrediting Thomas or saying that he shouldn’t belong in the Hall of Fame because he does. The point that I am making is that if he was worthy of being selected as a first ballot Hall of Famer, then there is no reason that Bagwell shouldn’t be in after four years on the ballot.
The best explanation that I can convey is that the BBWA is holding him under suspicion due to the cloud of the steroid era created by many of his peers. This is the same era that Thomas played in as well, but Bagwell is getting punished for playing in it for some reason. What that particular reason is, your guess is as good as mine.