When one looks at Jeff Bagwell‘s career, his resume is truly impressive. Despite playing his entire major league career in Houston, Bagwell managed to win a Rookie of the Year award, an MVP, a Gold Glove and make the All-Star Game four times. Given some of the years that he was not named as a representative to the Mid-Summer Classic, one could say that those four appearances were definitely not enough.
Bagwell’s statistical accomplishments are similarly impressive. Overall, Bagwell produced a .297/.408/.540 batting line with 449 home runs and 1529 RBI, chipping in another 202 stolen bases. Not only is Bagwell only one of twelve players in the history of Major League Baseball to record 400 homers and 200 steals, but he is the only first baseman on that list.
During his fifteen year career, Jeff Bagwell was one of the best in the game regardless of position. He was second in RBI in that time frame, and ranked third in runs scored, hits and walks. His 969 extra base hits also ranked third, and he was fifth in home runs and games played. During Bagwell’s prime from 1994 through 2003, he led all first basemen in hits, runs, walks, extra base hits, doubles and stolen bases. Bagwell was also second in RBI and third in home runs for first basemen during that time.
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Historically, Bagwell certainly measures up with some of the greats of the game. Based on the Baseball-Reference similarity score, current Hall of Fame members Frank Thomas and Willie Stargell are considered to be among the top ten players most similar to Bagwell. Also on that list are Vladimir Guerrero and David Ortiz, two other potential Hall of Fame inductees. He certainly placed himself amongst great company.
Jeff Bagwell’s historical performance even goes beyond those player comparisons. For six consecutive seasons, from 1996 through 2001, he produced seasons with 30 home runs, 100 RBI and 100 runs scored. The only other first basemen to match those six consecutive seasons were Lou Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx, two of the true immortals of the game.
Quite simply, there is no disputing where Bagwell stands in the pantheon on baseball’s immortals. He certainly deserves to take his place among them, enshrined for future generations to gaze upon his exploits in Cooperstown. Unfortunately, his legacy has been tarnished by the taint of steroid accusations, despite his never having been linked to PEDs during his playing career. Unfounded accusations, levied by scribes such as Murray Chass, have done more to derail Bagwell’s candidacy than anything else.
When evaluating whether or not Jeff Bagwell belongs in the Hall of Fame, all we can base the argument on are those things that we truly know. Those things are the statistics he put up during his career and the way he performed. Both measures certainly withstand the test of time to see if Bagwell should be enshrined.
Jeff Bagwell deserves to be in the Baseball Hall of Fame. It should have happened long before now. Hopefully, in a couple of weeks, this mistake will be rectified.