Jeff Bagwell Misses Hall of Fame By 15 Votes, Which Is Still A Win

Last summer, Astros fans finally got a taste of what it's like to have one of "your own" go into the Baseball Hall of Fame. No, I'm not counting Nolan Ryan, who the Astros share with the Mets, Angels, and Rangers. By "your own" I mean a player who went wire to wire in his career wearing the same uniform, who fans around baseball identify with that team. Indeed, watching Craig Biggio go in the Hall was a glorious thing for Astros fans. Rightfully, they want more. 

Unfortunately, in last season's vote, as Biggio crept over the threshold of 75 percent approval from the voting constituency, first baseman Jeff Bagwell backslid, dropping to around 54 percent. Usually, when a player begins descending in that approval range, it's a one way trip to annual heartbreak.

However, the Hall tightened things up a little bit with the voting process this year. Thanks to a purge of over 100 voters who haven't covered the game in ten years (and a rule that will make the 10 year threshold permanent), there was renewed hope for some of the candidates who've been linked, rightly or wrongly, to the steroid era of the late 90's. Bagwell is one of those players, even though no proof of his taking performance enhancing drugs has ever surfaced. 

The thinking is that the removal of the old guard (many of whom are staunch anti-steroid voters) along with the younger voters being more in tune with the age of analytical stats (which benefit Bagwell greatly) would both hopefully reboot Bagwell's push. And, to a degree, it did.

Bagwell did not get enough votes for induction into the Hall on Wednesday, pulling 315 votes, 15 short of the necessary 330. However, the massive 180 degree turn of his trajectory itself was a huge win for Bagwell. With 71.6 percent approval, Bagwell would appear to be a virtual lock to get into the Hall as soon as next year. No player has ever hovered between 70 and 75 percent and not eventually gotten into the Hall of Fame. So while Bagwell didn't get the phone call he was likely hoping for today, it was still a great day for the big picture of his candidacy. 

The only two inductees next summer will be outfielder Ken Griffey, Jr., whose best years were spent in the 90's in Seattle, and catcher Mike Piazza, whose best seasons were spent as a Los Angeles Dodger in the early and mid 90's. The voting went like this:

1 Ken Griffey Jr.             1st                     437            99.3% 
2 Mike Piazza                 4th                     365            83.0% 

3 Jeff Bagwell                 6th                      315            71.6% 
4 Tim Raines                  9th                      307            69.8% 
5 Trevor Hoffman           1st                      296             67.3% 
6 Curt Schilling               4th                      230            52.3% 
7 Roger Clemens           4th                      199            45.2% 
8 Barry Bonds                4th                      195            44.3% 
9 Edgar Martinez           7th                      191            43.4% 
10 Mike Mussina            3rd                     189            43.0% 
11 X-Alan Trammell       15th                    180            40.9% 
12 Lee Smith                 14th                    150            34.1% 
13 Fred McGriff               7th                       92           20.9% 
14 Jeff Kent                     3rd                       73           16.6% 
15 Larry Walker               6th                       68           15.5% 
16 Mark McGwire           10th                      54           12.3% 
17 Gary Sheffield            2nd                      51            11.6% 
18 Billy Wagner               1st                       46            10.5% 
19 Sammy Sosa              4th                      31              7.0% 
20 X-Jim Edmonds          1st                      11               2.5% 
21 X-Nomar Garciaparra 2nd                       8              1.8% 
22 X-Mike Sweeney         1st                       3               0.7% 
23 X-David Eckstein         1st                       2               0.5% 
24 X-Jason Kendall          1st                       2               0.5% 
25 X-Garret Anderson      1st                       1               0.2% 
26 X-Luis Castillo             1st                       0               0.0% 
27 X-Mike Lowell              1st                       0               0.0% 
28 X-Troy Glaus               1st                       0               0.0% 
29 X-Randy Winn             1st                       0               0.0% 
30 X-Mark Grudzielanek  1st                       0               0.0% 
31 X-Brad Ausmus           1st                       0              0.0% 
32 X-Mike Hampton         1st                       0              0.0% 
X: Off ballot 

A few other observations: 

1. We are still without a unanimous Hall of Fame selection, as Griffey missed out on three ballots, getting 437 of the possible 440 votes. His 99.32 percent attainment was still the highest in Hall of Fame voting history, surpassing Tom Seaver's previous high of 98.8 percent. 

2. In addition to Bagwell, other candidacies that picked up serious steam were those of outfielder Tim Raines (69.8 percent, up 23.7 percent), Curt Schilling (52.3 percent, up 23.1 percent), Edgar Martinez (43.4 percent, up 18.2 percent), and Mike Mussina (43.0 percent, up 22.7 percent). Renewed hope for some greats who've been on the ballot a few years. 

3. Other first time ballot entries who will be back up for election next year are closers Trevor Hoffman (67.3 percent) and Billy Wagner (a surprisingly low 10.5 percent). All other first year nominees, including former Astros Brad Ausmus and Mike Hampton, fell off of the ballot with under five percent of the vote. 

4. Roger Clemens and Barry Bonds, two players with clear cut first ballot Hall of Fame numbers but also with the unfortunate stink of PED's, both picked up votes this year, climbing from around 35 percent to 45.2 percent for Clemens and 44.3 percent for Bonds. They'll both need a similar jump next year to keep hope alive for eventual induction, a ceremony that would be easily the most watched Hall of Fame induction ceremony of all time. 

5. Next year's ballot will pick up several new first time nominees, including catcher Ivan Rodriguez, outfielder Manny Ramirez, and outfielder Vladimir Guerrero. 

Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 7 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.    

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