There's a great line at the beginning of the campy 80s flick Raw Deal starring Arnold Schwarzenegger. When his wife throws a cake at his head and misses, Ah-nuld turns to his wife and says, "You should not drink and bake."
Some of the sports writers who didn't cast a vote for Jeff Bagwell for the Baseball Hall of Fame this past week shouldn't drink and vote. I mean that's the only explanation I can think of why they wouldn't have voted for him. They had to have been severely intoxicated.
For 15 years the first baseman known to his teammates as "Bagpipes" dominated the position like no one since Willie McCovey. While 449 HR is impressive, to me what stands out is his SLG of .540 and a lifetime OBP of .408. Furthermore, Bagwell was an incredibly patient batter at the plate especially as his career progressed, walking a league leading 149 times in 1999. While not particularly speedy on the basepads, Bagwell nonetheless managed to score 1,517 runs in his career with the Astros and accumulate 2,314 hits. And even with 1500+ career RBI, Bagwell demonstrated he could hit for average as well, boasting a .297 lifetime batting average.
Aside from winning the Rookie of the Year in 1991 and the MVP in 1994, Bagwell was a solid defensive first baseman and a three time Silver Slugger Award winner. Bill James (you know the Bill James of the New Historical Baseball Abstract) rated him the fourth best first baseman of all time. Let me state that again in Kanye West terms: THE FOURTH BEST FIRST BASEMAN OF ALL TIME! OF ALL TIME!
Why oh why then does this guy get a measly 41.7% of the votes for the HOF????
The answer is of course, steroids, and it is the worst answer since former President Bill Clinton said he didn't inhale. People who make their living as professional writers in newspapers and magazines have apparently forgotten what Connecticut men's basketball coach Jim Calhoun already knows: get your facts right.
But hey, since when in the last twenty years or so has any writer let the facts get in the way of a good story? Well here are some facts I'd like to lay out for the sports writers of America who didn't vote for Bagwell for the HOF because they suspected him of using steroids:
FACT: Jeff Bagwell has never tested positive for steroids.
FACT: Jeff Bagwell has never been linked to the Mitchell Report.
FACT: Jeff Bagwell never hit 50 HR in a season.
FACT: Jeff Bagwell has never been linked to steroid use either directly or indirectly.
It is fairly obvious that the baseball writers in America are clearly jaded over the use of steroids during the 90s and early 2000s. Though even I don't understand that because so many of them obviously turned a blind eye to the problem for years. Let's face it these are the same writers who voted Barry Bonds MVP four years in a row. And now they are taking the moral high ground and directing their misguided effrontery on Jeff Bagwell?
What a bunch of hypocrites.
The writers have nothing more than a hunch when it comes to Bagwell. They are "outraged" over being "duped" during the 90s and 2000s and now they are making other people pay for it. As New York Times writer Tyler Kepner pointed out the whole thing is just intellectually dishonest. If their attitude is that anyone who played during the steroid era shouldn't be in the HOF, then where was their righteous indignation three years ago when they voted Cal Ripken Jr. and Tony Gwynn into the HOF? They clearly didn't believe either one of them did but what proof do they have? They have nothing more than a "hunch" that Ripken and Gwynn didn't use steroids. For the record I don't think Gwynn or Ripken did steroids but I don't know for sure. Neither do the sports writers, and that is the whole point. This situation cuts both ways. Sportswriters cannot arbitrarily vote someone into the HOF or withhold a vote simply because "they have a feeling." It is disingenuous, illogical, and shows a marked lack of integrity.
You know why I hate the steroid issue so much? It is not because of the players that used them. It is the legacy that the rest of us have to deal with. As a result of their actions, I am forced to write articles like this one defending Jeff Bagwell because too many sportswriters in America are afraid every baseball player is the Boogieman. THAT'S what I hate the most.
The real losers in this whole situation are people like Jeff Bagwell. Unfortunately in this day and age where we have social networking, digital media, and a news station that somehow feels the need to proclaim themselves "fair and balanced," the sordid details of everyone's lives are out there for the world to see. What's worse is that people in the media will spin that information any way they want to. As a consequence the facts get lost in the shuffle and we end up with a ballot like we did on Thursday.
To all the writers who voted for Jeff Bagwell and didn't allow the court of public opinion and various news media outlets to cloud your judgement I say bravo. To the rest of you kangaroo court, morally relativistic, small minded producers of pseudo-intellectual sports pablum I saw good day.
And to "Bagpipes"? Don't sweat it Jeffy-boy, the votes, the votes will be calling you to the glen of Cooperstown someday.