Bagwell’s Hall of Fame Wait Is Rewarded

Maybe there is something about the number 7 for Jeff Bagwell. For his entire Astros career he was linked with #7 Craig Biggio, providing the foundation for the Killer B’s. In his seventh major league season he played in his first playoff series and Wednesday, on his seventh time on MLB’s Hall of Fame ballot, Bagwell was finally rewarded with his ticket to Cooperstown.

Bagwell received 86.2% of the votes, easily surpassing the necessary 75% threshold after falling just 15 votes shy of election last year. He will be part of a trio enshrined on July 30th, joining Tim Raines and former Rangers and Astros catcher Ivan Pudge Rodriguez.

A debilitating shoulder injury forced Baggy to shut down his career at the age of 37 with 449 home runs and 2314 hits, numbers that have been deemed to be short of some of the automatic totals that almost always guarantee admittance to the Hall.

Bagwell’s baseball card hasn’t changed over the last seven years, but the voters have, slightly and one could argue for the better. Older voters who haven’t covered the sport on a regular basis have been purged as Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, John Smoltz, Biggio, Pedro Martinez, Ken Griffey Jr. and Mike Piazza have earned enshrinement over the last three years, also clearing some space on the busy ballot. The last name on that list, Piazza, also showed that the writers were more willing to consider candidates from a controversial era in the sport’s history. A new group of younger voters also appeared more willing to use Sabermetrics and statistical analysis much to the benefit of Bagwell.

During his 15-year career, Bagwell accumulated a Wins Above Replacement (WAR) of 89.6, which is sixth highest all time among first baseman. Only Astros killer Albert Pujols has produced a higher number since World War II at the position. Greats Lou Gehrig, Jimmie Foxx and Cap Anson were three others who eclipsed Bagwell.

Jay Jaffe, recognized as a Hall of Fame expert, created a formula called JAWS to measure a candidate’s caliber for Cooperstown that factors in base running and fielding, areas that Bagwell excelled. His score (63.9) far exceeds the number for an average Hall of Fame first baseman.

It took seven years and an avalanche of formulas and data to confirm what Astros fans have already known for two decades- that Bagwell and Biggio were among the game’s elite and both are Hall of Famers.

Bagwell had eight seasons with at least 30 homers and 100 RBI’s, third most among Hall of Fame first baseman. He was the only player in HISTORY to record 30 home runs, 100 RBI’s, 100 runs scored and 100 walks in six consecutive seasons (1996-2001). Bagwell is also one of just three players to homer at least 400 times, collect 1,400 walks and 1,500 RBI’s along with Foxx and Gehrig. His steals (202) now rank third among HOF first baseman and his career OPS of 149 ranks seventh among Hall of Fame players whose primary position was first base. He is just one of 25 players in Major League Baseball history to win both the Rookie of the Year (1991) and MVP (1994). Wow.

Jeff has downplayed the snubs in recent years, maybe more than a little disappointed in the assumptions levied against power hitters in his era. He spoke about wanting to be remembered first and foremost as a good teammate. Check. He was a great teammate and a great player. Soon he will also be a Hall of Fame player.

Bagwell was a Boston farmhand when he was traded for veteran pitcher Larry Anderson in 1990. Anderson recently told MLB.com that he was pitching well and wondered how the Astros could only get a Double-A player for his services.

“I joke with Bagwell about this, now he looks at it and he’s going, ‘I got traded for this old veteran pitcher?” Anderson added in the article.

It is also the best trade the organization has ever made.

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