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If Frank Thomas Is A Hall Of Famer Jeff Bagwell Should Be Too

Author: Adam Spolane

I don’t get.

It makes no sense.

I was resigned to the fact that Jeff Bagwell would not be voted into Baseball’s Hall of Fame this year. He needed close to 100 more votes than what he got last year to reach the magical 75 percent plateau, and I don’t think that has ever happened. He got 59.6 percent of the vote in 2013, so my hope was that he’d get to 65 percent, setting him up for next year. That didn’t happen.

He got fewer votes. Just 54.6 percent of voters had Bagwell on their ballots, so it’s unlikely he gets in a year from now too. That is a problem. He was too good to not be in the Hall of Fame, the best first baseman of his time, better than Frank Thomas, who on Wednesday was elected in.

Don’t get me wrong; Frank Thomas deserves to be in the Hall of Fame. He was a great hitter, one of the best I’ve ever seen, but he wasn’t a better player than Jeff Bagwell.

Thomas has the better career offensive totals, but he played longer. His career spanned from 1990-2008; Bagwell’s was from 1991-2005. Here are their 162 game averages:

Hits: 174-172 Bagwell

Doubles: 37-35 Bagwell

Home runs: 36-34 Thomas

Runs scored: 114-104 Bagwell

RBI: 119-115 Thomas

Stolen bases: 15-2 Bagwell

Career Splits (Batting average/On Base/Slugging)

Bagwell: .297/.408/.540

Thomas: .301/.419/.551

These are just the offensive numbers, and don’t forget, Bagwell played most of his career in the Astrodome, the worst hitter’s park of the era, and since he was in the National League his whole career, he had to play in the field, where he was a gold glove first baseman. Thomas was a designated hitter for more than half the games he played, and wasn’t good in the field when he was out there. Simply put, Bagwell was the better overall player. In 15 seasons he posted a career WAR (wins above replacement) of 79.5, while in 19 seasons Thomas had a 73.6 WAR.

Why is Thomas in with 83 percent, and Bagwell is on the outside looking in with 54.6 percent? Easy: Steroids. There is zero evidence that Thomas ever touched them. Wait, a second though, there is also zero evidence Bagwell ever touched them. Hmmmm

“But he was teammates with Ken Caminiti, and he admitted using steroids.”

So, what does that mean? Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine played with Caminiti also, so did Tony Gwynn. Frank Thomas played with Sammy Sosa, does that mean they used? Of course not.

“But he got bigger during his career”

Well, so did Gwynn, sorry, couldn’t resist. Guys lift weights. When they lift weights, they tend to get bigger. It can happen naturally, trust me.

“But he never hit home runs in the minors”

I never saw Jeff Bagwell play a game in the minors, and I’m guessing you didn’t either. I don’t know why Bagwell only hit six home runs in two minor league seasons. That doesn’t mean that he couldn’t hit for power back then. Sometimes all it takes is a slight adjustment to a guy’s swing. I’ll give you an example:

I’ve spent the last five years as a broadcaster in the Rockies organization. In 2011 an outfielder named Julian Yan hit 3 home runs for us in 201 at bats. The next season, he hit 18 bombs in 270 at bats. The big difference according the Rockies player development staff? He went from a crouch to being more upright in his stance, and he added a toe-tap. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

It’s frustrating that Bagwell is being kept out based on the gut feeling of a couple of hundred writers. Unless you have hard, documented, stand up in court evidence, steroids shouldn’t play a factor in your vote.

For me, it’s disappointing that once again Bagwell and Craig Biggio were denied entrance into baseball’s Hall of Fame, but I’m not worried about Biggio. He’ll get in next year, and I always dreamt that he’d go into the Hall with a former teammate, I just never could’ve imagined that teammate would be Randy Johnson.

Follow @AdamSpolane


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