The Runner Sports

Killer B’s Swarm Hall: Astros’ Jeff Bagwell Joins Biggio In HOF

Having endured the wait of seven years of eligibility, and dozens of sportswriters stricken by the pull of baseless rumors and innuendo, the Houston Astros’ Jeff Bagwell can finally attend his own Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony.

Per Wednesday’s announcement, it was revealed that the members of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) pushed Bagwell through with more than the 75% of the votes necessary for election; 86.2% to be precise. He appeared on 381 of the 442 ballots. He’s one of only 14 players to hit 400 homers and steal 200 bases.

“Baggy,” the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year, received 71.6% of the votes last year, and many fans, pundits, and writers consider it ludicrous that a player with his career stats had to wait this long for enshrinement.

Related: Baseball Writers Whiff on Bagwell Again (from January 2016)

Two years ago, Bagwell’s infield buddy, 20-year Astro Craig Biggio, won his bid for a Cooperstown bronze bust, and Bagwell was there, supporting Bidge with his presence and a speech. Doubtless, that honor will be gladly accepted by Biggio in return, as Bagwell’s bust will become just the second to display a hat with a Houston star.

Related: Biggio, 2015: A Look Back at the First Astro to Gain HOF Entry

Jeff Bagwell had a career line of .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs and 202 stolen bases. He ranks 38th in career WAR (79.6) among position players, which is sixth all-time among first basemen. He compiled those numbers playing two-thirds of his 15-year career in the Astrodome, a building where fly balls, routinely, went to die.

He also displayed that rare combination of power and speed for his position: Bagwell is the owner of the only two 30-homer/30-steal seasons by a first baseman in major league history.

Collateral Homage?

One player who might actually get his name in the HOF (without having earned it the conventional way) is one Larry Andersen, the righty reliever for whom the Boston Red Sox received from Houston for Bagwell toward the end of the 1990 season.

Long considered one of the most lopsided trades in MLB history, one can reasonably imagine the inclusion of Andersen’s name on Bagwell’s HOF plaque to explain how the latter became an Astro (and perhaps caused Red Sox Nation to have forgotten about that Babe Ruth $25,000 trade catastrophe with the Yankees nearly a century ago–at least during Bagwell’s 1994 MVP season).

Related: How Former Yankees Fared in ’17 HOF Vote

In fact, human nature being what it is, it’s likely that had the four-time All-Star Bagwell been a Red Sox or a Yankee, he’d have been a first-ballot shoo-in (second year, tops). But, with the heavy concentration of eligible east coast baseball scribes voting, and the possible existence of just a dab of bitterness about the “one that got away,” one can see how Bagwell’s journey to immortality might have been delayed by half a decade.

And, Then There’s This…

Bagwell’s well-publicized delay in gaining Hall entry circles around what political punditry is now screaming as “fake news.” People have assumed that Bagwell used PEDs…asumptions that are, and never have been, based on fact. Their reasoning, to quote MLB.com’s Mike Bauman, in his December 19, 2016, article, “has been both circumstantial and refutable.”

Continuing, Bauman asserts that “there is not one shred of actual evidence that Bagwell used performance-enhancing substances. But, some people have pretended that this evidence existed.

“The biggest thing the anti-Bagwell people have is that he had four home runs in 481 at-bats while playing for the Red Sox organization at New Britain in the Double-A Eastern League in 1990.

“So to get from there to feared big league slugger, well, he played in the steroid era, didn’t he? Try taking that into a court of law and see how many convictions you get with it.”

True, Bagwell started out as a skinny, 6-foot, 195-pound third baseman on the Sox farm, with a straight-up stance and a penchant for line drives that stayed in the park. As his Houston tenure progressed, he ballooned into a thick-limbed, prodigious home run hitter (20 lbs heavier) with a crouch so unorthodox and severe, his rear could hold a short stack of books.

Related: Revealed: Bagwell and His Use of Performance Enhancing Talent

The Birth of the Bruise

More Bauman: “That (1990) season may have been the outlier in Bagwell’s career. In this regard, the Boston Globe had an instructive story quoting Tom Mooney, who scouted Bagwell while Bagwell was at the University of Hartford. Mooney was working for the Astros at the time.

“Mooney told the Globe that he graded Bagwell at 7 in power on the scouts’ scale in which eight is the highest possible score.

“‘[A seven grade represents] the ability to get the ball out of any ballpark,’ Mooney said. ‘He generated that kind of bat speed, that kind of explosiveness, when he squared the ball up. This was going to be impact-type power. It wasn’t going to be six, seven, eight in the lineup. It was going to be middle of the order. Nobody gets eights. I don’t think I ever gave [Ken] Griffey [Jr.] an eight in anything. Seven was about as high as I’d go. That meant that I thought (Bagwell) would be an elite power guy.’

“So Bagwell’s power was evident before that four-homer season in Double-A just as it was later.”

And, Finally, For Writers Who Still Didn’t Vote for Baggy

In his December 2, 2010, “Bagwell Right For Hall” article, Patrick Hajovsky put forth Baseball-Reference.com‘s four categories that effectively (and definitively) aggregated Bagwell’s career numbers that go far beyond his individual numbers:

“Hall of Fame Standards, Hall of Fame Monitor, Gray Ink Test and Black Ink Test. Most of these tests are Bill James’ creations, with a tweak from Baseball-Reference.com here and there.

“The HOF Standards test is designed to measure the player’s quality over an entire career, as opposed to one or two seasons, by awarding a single point for certain statistical accomplishments.

“For example, one point for each 100 runs over 900 (limit 8), one point for each 100 RBI over 800 (again, limit 8) and so on. It should be noted here that first basemen get a small defensive value bonus in the point total when compared to other positions (i.e., catcher gets 20 points while a first baseman gets 1 point). Here, Bagwell scores a 59, while the average Hall-of-Famer merits only a 50. Advantage Bagwell.

“The HOF Monitor test is similar, but it measures a player’s likelihood of making the Hall of Fame. This test awards more points and adds other ‘likelihood’ categories, such as points for playing on a division or league championship team. An average Hall of Famer would garner 100 points using this measure, while a virtual lock is 130 points. Jeffrey Robert Bagwell’s total? 150 points. Huge advantage Bagwell.

“The Gray Ink and Black Ink tests are merely accumulators of every time a player finished in the top 10 in a statistical category and first in that category, respectively. Average Hall-of-Famers clock in at 144 and 27 on these tests. Bagwell shows up with 157 and 24.

“The Black Ink test is the only category where Baggy falls below the average Hall-of-Famer, which is not surprising given that he played in the Astrodome for the first two-thirds of his career, and battled the arthritic shoulder in the last third once he moved into a more normative ballpark (Minute Maid Park). So again, advantage Bagwell.”

“How special will that be, Houston, to have another celebration in Cooperstown.”–Craig Biggio on Bagwell’s election

Video: Watch Bagwell Career Tribute

Brad Kyle

Brad Kyle

Brad Ramone with (L-R) Dee Dee, Johnny, and Joey Ramone, backstage at Houston's Liberty Hall, July, 1977.

Johnny, the Ramones' influential guitarist, who passed away in 2004 at 55, was an avid baseball and New York Yankees fan since childhood. He even once ranked baseball above rock'n'roll in a personal Top 10 List!

Like Johnny, my love for rock is only equaled by my love for baseball and my hometown Houston Astros, present and past!

At TRS, you'll get full Astros coverage, minor league peeks, player profiles, interviews, MLB historical perspective, and maybe a little rock'n'roll!
Brad Kyle
  • Griffin Fuller

    Great article Brad! I was watching MLB Network on the build up to the announcement and Peter Gammons said that the league where Bagwell only hit 4 HR, the team leader only had 5. Once again, this was a great read about Bagwell

    • Brad Kyle

      Thanks so much, Griffin! I dig your Yankees on the Ballot (How/Fare) piece, too! I’d use your format for an Astro piece, but there never are that many Astros, in any given year, on the ballot! Must be nice!

      It was fun to follow (and I did, back in the day) the transformation of this erstwhile “Bruce Banner” into the Incredible Astro-Hulk (sans green skin)!

      Jeff was always a quiet leader; never a rah-rah guy, but teammates always knew he was the man, and treated him, always, with the utmost respect. Had the pleasure of meeting Jeff in the ’90s, and just a tremendously nice guy! Absolutely fitting Bidge’n’Bags are, finally, in together!