Originally posted on Fox Sports Houston  |  Last updated 1/9/12
Among the players currently eligible that have not been stained with a steroid implication, only five have hit at least 400 home runs and are not yet enshrined in baseball's Hall of Fame. The other players with at least 400 home runs are either already in or are not yet eligible. This is the list of five: Fred McGriff, Darrell Evans, Andrew Jones, Dave Kingman and Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell has more home runs (449) than any of the five players with the exception of McGriff (493). Bagwell ranks 22nd all-time in OPS (On-Base plus Slugging), ahead of players named Ott, Mays, Aaron and Cobb. That doesn't mean that Bagwell was better than those players but it does mean he is deserving of more than 56 percent of the votes which he received in the latest Hall of Fame balloting. For a much of his career, Bagwell was arguably the best first baseman in the history of the National League. At one time only Willie McCovey and Willie Stargell (both in the Hall) were in the same company. Bagwell has more career RBIs than Johnny Bench, Eddie Mathews and Mickey Mantle. Again, Bagwell may not necessarily belong in that group but the numbers don't say that he was in a completely different league. McCovey is in the Hall although Bagwell has a higher career batting average (.297 v .270); a higher career OBP (.408 v .374) and a higher OPS (.948 v .889). McCovey hit more home runs (521 v 449) and drove in 26 more runs. Bagwell stole 200 bases and won a Gold Glove. McCovey isn't close on either front. Each player won exactly one MVP. So you say Bagwell should be graded among his peers? Fine. From 1991-2005, his 1,529 RBI ranked second in the majors. The 1,517 runs scored ranked third in the Majors during that period. But enough of the number crunching. After all, the numbers aren't the reason Bagwell received just 56 percent of the vote. Bagwell's vote total remains relatively low because many writers are apparently very suspicious. They just don't believe a guy that was not a power hitter in the minor leagues and a player that morphed into a sculpted offensive machine could have done that on his own. I have not taken a poll but I can only presume that's what most writers who did not vote for Bagwell believe. What is the other explanation? Bagwell's stats perhaps were not first-ballot worthy. Understood. But how such a terrific all-around player can fall so far short of Hall status at this point is bewildering. Wanna know how many first basemen are in the 30-30 club? Two: Joe Carter and Jeff Bagwell. Wanna know how many first basemen have done it twice? One: Jeff Bagwell. Bagwell has never been implicated in any steroid scandal. He has not appeared on any list to date. Should he and many others of his era be under a cloud of suspicion? Sure. But what is the standard? If a player that's never been on any list and has never been implicated is still punished, then how does anyone from the 90's make the Hall? Here's another truth: Bagwell's body type makes many feel uncomfortable. Big muscles automatically mean user. Whether Bagwell is a victim of his era or a guy that has somehow been able to hide his past better than any of his contemporaries is unknown. Obviously voters believe the latter.
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