Today, the BBWA will elect the Hall of Fame class for 2012 but it will probably not bring good news for Astros’ fans. Jeff Bagwell will be on the ballot but, as most already know, the chances of an election for Baggy is slim to none. While those of us who saw him play since his rookie season in 1991 know he is easily one of the best 1st baseman in history, that opinion is not universally shared. Quite a few national writers have stated their ballots and Bagwell certainly appears on quite a few more of them than last year but not enough. Writers like Jon Heyman and Bob Nightengale have stirred up quite the controversy on twitter with their selections and omission of Bagwell, more will likely come after the announcement today.
Performance enhancing drugs have been a black cloud over baseball for almost 15 years now and players like Bagwell will suffer the brunt of the storm. As most know, and even those who insist Bagwell is dirty can confirm, Bagwell has never tested positive for any PEDs. The problem is not what he might have used but who was around the former MVP. Bagwell’s association to former Astros third Baseman Ken Caminiti is hurting Jeff’s chances immensely. Ken, as great a player as he was during his playing days, was an admitted user of steroids before his sad passing. Most writers who vote against Bagwell because of PED speculation will claim to know a guy who knew a guy who heard from someone who knew Caminiti that Baggy did something not so legal but seem to never be able to confirm it. Most fans find it extremely difficult to accept this type of thinking but sadly, it’s the reality most of these writers live in.
So while some writers insist on Bagwell’s guilt without proof, others have realized that the argument is as silly as one can get. Without proof, a knowledgeable argument has got to be made to justify his exclusion, problem is that so far those arguments are just as silly and maybe more. Arguments like Fred McGriff was more consistent and Don Mattingly’s prime years were greater than Bagwell’s are just two that make no rational sense. A quick peek at baseball-reference.com can contradict any argument against Bagwell when compared to 1st baseman of his era and just before it. So while the effort is appreciated, the baseball arguments against Baggy result in the same baseless claims.
I believe Jeff will receive enough votes eventually and should get in the 60 percent range this season but it might take a while to get to 75 percent. My hope is that he goes in next season with Craig Biggio and do believe he has a legitimate shot but I’m also concerned that if he doesn’t get in next year it might get tough. If writers want to say that his numbers, while great, aren’t hall of fame material then please do so and back it up with valid data and not assumptions. It will be a shame come tomorrow when we don’t see Bagwell’s name on the list because he deserves it but guilty by association and guilty until proven innocent are the reality we live in in today’s baseball.