ONE HALL-WORTHY GUY
The Baseball Hall of Fame ballot is out. This one is more intriguing than most, primarily because no one earned entry on last year’s ballot and this year’s runs the gamut from legitimate first time hopefuls to the carry over poster boys of the steroid era.
Starting with the most intriguing of the hold overs, pitcher Jack Morris is in the last of his 15 years of eligibility on the writers ballot and he came within eight percent of the necessary 75 percent last year, second among the class that came up empty. He’s a toss up this year. While he was a legitimate number one starter throughout his career, he doesn’t have the eyepopping stats the voters like, with an ERA just south of four. Tops among the most likely to finally break through is former Astros second baseman Craig Biggio, who led last year’s ballotting with over 69 percent.
Among the newcomers is one with legitimate first round credentials, Greg Maddux, a four time Cy Young winner, while two time Cy-guy Tom Glavine and two time American League MVP Frank Thomas deserve first round consideration but are likely to fall short of the necessary percentage. Likely to be passed over again, for their relationship with the steroid era, are Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, who’s considered the steroid poster boy and has yet to see even 25 percent of the votes.
That brings me to my annual crusade, former University of Hartford, New Britain Red Sox and Houston Astros star Jeff Bagwell. He has the credentials. Over 2300 hits, over 1500 runs batted in and 449 home runs, stats that could have been much greater had his career not been cut short by a degenerative shoulder ailment. In 15 seasons he compiled statistics most players considered hall of fame candidates need 18 to 20 years to put up.
Last year Bagwell was third in the unsuccessful balloting, falling 15 percent short of the necessary 75. It was his third year on the ballot and the knock on him has been a suspicion that he was juicing. The only body development he demonstrated during his career was the kind easily explained by dedicated time in the weight room, for which he was notorious, and during his career he was the most consistent player in Major League Baseball, with statistics that remarkably mirrored themselves from season to season. One of the most obvious indications of steroid use is spikes in those numbers. No self respecting member of the fourth estate will allow something suspected to go uninvestigated, many have even taken turns at devoting entire books to subjects suspected of using steroids with no more evidence than an occasional askance glance. It should be generally accepted on Bagwell’s fourth go ’round that if there were any evidence to be used against him someone would have uncovered it by now.
It could work against Bagwell that his own teammate, Biggio, finished ahead of him in last year’s balloting, but to refute that argument it should be pointed out that Bagwell, who was the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year, also won an MVP award, the only one in Astros history.
You’re going to get tired of hearing this but if Jeff Bagwell isn’t voted in this time, I’ll be back with the same argument a year from now. Jeff Bagwell should be in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
With my two cents worth from the sports world, I’m Scott Gray.