Dear members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America — or those of you members who vote for the Baseball Hall of Fame — I realize that many of you have already cast your ballots as to who will be inducted into the next class. But to those of you still agonizing over which ten players you should vote for, let me please make a few suggestions.
I’m from Houston. In fact, I’m exactly as old as the Houston Astros — the team was named the Astros the same year that I was born. So I’ve seen a lot of Astros baseball. I even worked on the Astrodome/Minute Maid Park scoreboard/video crew for many years. So trust me on this, I know of what I speak. And what I’m speaking is this: Jeff Bagwell is the greatest player in the history of the Astros. Not Craig Biggio. Not Nolan Ryan. Not Cesar Cedeño. Not Jose Cruz. Jeff Bagwell.
Many of you have no doubt been inundated with Bagwell’s stats over the many years that he’s been eligible for induction, and in which many of you have refused to vote for him. But here’s a quick recap: 15 seasons, 1,517 runs, 2,314 hits, 449 home runs (many hit in the Astrodome), 1,529 RBI, 1,401 walks, a .297/.408/.540 slash line, a Rookie of the Year award, a MVP award, a 79.6 career WAR. That WAR is sixth all-time among MLB first basemen, behind only guys like Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Fox, Cap Anson and Albert Pujols. His WAR is better than those of 15 of the 19 first basemen who have already been enshrined in the Hall.
Sure, some of you have questions about Bagwell and steroids and PEDs. But you know what? Bagwell never failed any tests. He was never implicated in the Mitchell Report. So what grounds are there to keep punishing him? Especially after Mike Piazza overcame the same such suspicions last year, and especially seeing as how Bud Selig, the commissioner who chose to look the other way for most of the so-called Steroid Era, is being inducted this year.
Last year, you guys failed by 15 votes to induct Bagwell as he received 72 percent of the vote. No Hall of Fame candidate who has ever reached this voting percentage has failed to get in, but why wait another year? Let’s make it happen this year.
Your next vote should go to Tim Raines. Raines is one of the most dynamic leadoff men ever to play baseball. But, most important, this is Raines’s last year on the ballot. This is your last chance to make up for keeping Raines out as long as you have.
Here’s a quick primer on Raines. He’s fifth all-time in career stolen bases with 808. He played 23 years, and missed a season toward the end of his career with a severe health issue, which undoubtedly affected his numbers. He collected 2,605 career hits, scored 1,571 runs, and hit 170 homers while usually batting leadoff and spending a large part of his career in Montreal. He also collected 980 RBI and 1,330 walks while slashing .294/.385/.425. And did I mention his amazing ability to run the bases?
Jonah Keri makes the ultimate case for Raines’s induction, but this is perhaps the most amazing thing about Raines: He came up to the majors while the sport was suffering though a bit of a cocaine problem. Since he didn’t want to risk his cocaine being seized from his locker, he learned to slide head first into second so that he wouldn’t break the vial that he had in his back pocket.
For my final request, I implore you to vote for Mike Mussina. Now, I’ve had many discussions with former Houston Chronicle reporter Jose de Jesus Ortiz hoping to advance my Mussina campaign, but I should probably expand this to everybody.
Mussina pitched in the majors for 18 seasons, and he spent all of those seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and the New York Yankees, pitching in the home-run-friendly ballparks in those cities while playing in the American League East, home to home-run-heavy hitting squads in Boston and Toronto, and all of this during the height of baseball’s PED era. Yet Mussina finished with a 270-153 record and a 3.68 ERA. He finished with 2,813 career strikeouts. His career WAR is 82.7, and his 270 career wins ranks as 33rd all-time, ahead of Hall of Famers Jim Palmer, Bob Feller, Bob Gibson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz.
Mussina’s final year saw him go 20-9 with a 3.37 ERA in 200.1 innings with 150 strikeouts. If he had desired to pitch another year, he would have undoubtedly hit the 3,000-strikeout mark, and if he had hung on several more years, he would have hit the 300-wins mark. Yet he chose to go out on top. And he should not be punished for going out while pitching his best instead of hanging on for a few more years.
Oh, and if you have time, how about voting for Roger Clemens, Barry Bonds, Billy Wagner, Trevor Hoffman, Ivan Rodriguez, Manny Ramirez and Larry Walker.