Is This the Year for Jeff Bagwell? Probably Not
There will likely once again be no Hall of Fame induction for Jeff Bagel
The Hall of Fame ballot was mailed out to voters last week, and it's a crowded ballot. There are 34 names on it, with 17 of those names (including Biggio and Bagwell) being players who were also on last year's ballot. Voters can only vote for a maximum of 10 players, and a player must receive 75-percent of the votes cast to be inducted -- Biggio missed by two votes last year. There were 571 ballots cast last year, and 50-percent of those ballots contained the maximum 10 names.
It's not yet known how many eligible voters will actually vote this year, but it's safe to say that 75-percent of those who vote won't be voting for Bagwell, who is in his fifth year on the ballot. There's been much speculation in years past about why Bagwell can't get the required number, most of that speculation centered on steroid rumors.
The truth is more likely tied into two matters not solely related to steroids. The ballot is crowded with guys like Bagwell who didn't get the magic numbers like 500 homers, 3000 hits, 300 wins, or 3000 strikeouts. And then there's the fact that there are a lot of voters who haven't covered baseball in years, haven't spent time around the game, and who didn't watch Bagwell play. All that they see is the lack of the flashy stats, and they refuse to look at any of those newfangled stats that have come into prominence since they stopped covering the sport.
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There are four players who are pretty much guaranteed induction: Pedro Martinez, Randy Johnson, John Smoltz, and Biggio -- unless there's a voter backlash to the fan backlash that arose over Biggio missing by two votes last year. Then there's the next tier, and that's where Bagwell falls. That's the tier of players like Mike Piazza and Tim Raines, players who get around 50-73-percent of the vote every year, but who for some reason just can't make it above the 75 percent mark. Piazza holds the all-time MLB record for homers from a catcher with 427, and he spent a majority of his career with two of baseball's glory teams, the Dodgers and Mets. Yet he, like Bagwell, has had to battle the steroid rumors -- like Bagwell, he never tested positive for PED use, nor was he ever implicated or named in the Mitchell Report or any leak of PED users. Raines meanwhile, was an on-base machine who is fifth all-time in career stolen bases with 808. But he's likely suffering from the fact that he was a contemporary of Rickey Henderson, the all-time stolen base king.
The best thing that could happen to better Bagwell's chances is for either Piazza or Raines to get inducted. Since half of the voters fail to make the maximum number of selections, it's probable that there are Raines or Piazza voters who'd vote for Bagwell with their guy off of the ballot. (It would also be helpful if the likes of Jeff Pearlman would either produce all of the evidence he's supposedly collected on Bagwell and Piazza, or just finally stop with the smear campaigns).
But the likes of Piazza and Raines aside, what Bagwell needs is a different voting body. The electors are members of the Baseball Writers Association of America who have covered baseball for at least 10 years. Once you're a voter, you're a voter for life, even if you now run a golf website or even if you're retired. Many of these guys never saw Bagwell; they see only that he didn't get 500 homers like Frank Thomas, and they look no further. So it's past time for the votes to be stripped from those who no longer cover baseball.
The Houston Chronicle's Jose de Jesus Ortiz is the current president of the BBWAA. Maybe he'll be able to talk some sense into his colleagues this year and get Bagwell the needed votes, but that's not likely, not as long as cranks like Murray Chass still have a vote. So here's hoping Ortiz gets the membership to make necessary changes to the voting process and start stripping away votes from those guys who cover golf and have no idea of what's really going on with the sport.
But until something changes, it's doubtful that Jeff Bagwell's getting anywhere near close to the Hall of Fame. He doesn't have the magic-number stats that the older voters look for, and he's still dodging PED rumors. Which means that come this time next year, expect more posts like this one, decrying the stupidity of the Baseball Hall of Fame voting process.
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