Just Put Jeff Bagwell in the Hall of Fame Already, You Self-Righteous F@#kwits
It’s not exactly news that the people who vote on who gets to be enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame are a gaggle of hypocritical, self-righteous butt-munchers, who use the vote as a way to pass judgement on the character of former players who they did or didn’t like. Recently, this band of ignoramuses has decided that after years of ignoring steroid use in the major leagues, they are the arbiters of the morals of the game and as such, must keep the Hall of Fame free of potential “cheaters”. Never mind that steroids weren’t banned by baseball during much of what is now referred to as the “steroid era,” that we have no real idea of how much steroids help baseball players because we can’t isolate their effects on offense from other factors such as shrinking ballparks and the commonly held knowledge that the ball has been juiced itself, or that past forms of “cheating” such as amphetamine use have been largely ignored or in some cases glorified by these same writers. What we, the public, are told by our betters in the sportswriting community (many of whom are fully incapable of forming coherent sentences) is that the Hall of Fame must, at all cost be kept steroid-free, and totally forget about the fact that we have little idea exactly who used steroids.
The greatest victim of this self-righteous demagoguery has been former Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell. On the basis of his play alone, factoring in things like defense and baserunning, Bagwell was one of the two best first baseman of the last 20 years (the other being Albert Pujols who is still playing) and easily one of the ten greatest to ever play the position. His career WAR of 83.9 compares favorably to players like Hank Greenberg, and places him in the same stratosphere with Lou Gehrig, Pujols, and Jimmy Foxx (all better than Bagwell FWIW). On the merits of his career, Bagwell is an absolute no-brainer as a Hall of Fame candidate. Additionally, Bagwell has never been linked to steroids, even circumstantially. He never tested positive and he was never even mentioned in baseball’s infamous Mitchell Report. Yet, Bagwell only appeared on 56% of ballots in his second year of eligibility (after appearing on 42% his first year), well short of the necessary 75% to achieve Hall of Fame status. This is an absolute travesty.
There are two pieces of information generally used to tie Bagwell to steroids. One is that he had big muscles and the other is that his major league numbers far surpassed his minor league totals. Both issues have been addressed by numerous other writers so I won’t go into them here except to point you towards the excellent work done by ESPN’s David Schoenfield and the whole crew at Fangraphs on the subject. The minor league numbers can be explained by the fact that Bagwell was generally young for his level and that many of the parks he played in as a Red Sox farmhand were black holes. Other players who performed comparably to Bagwell in the same parks include Mo Vaughn and Jon Valentin, neither of whom were as good as Bagwell, but did hit for power once they reached Fenway.
As for Bagwell’s muscles, any tenth grader can tell you that correlation does not imply causation. Absent some kind of proof that Bagwell absolutely did use steroids (like a positive test) comparing what he looked like in his 30s to his minor league rookie card is a fool’s argument. There is no doubt that the major league Bagwell was a much more muscular man than the 19 year old minor league Bagwell. That said, taking that to mean that Bagwell used steroids is not only idiotic, it’s borderline slanderous. Was Bagwell muscular? Yes. Could he have obtained that type of musculature through a rigorous workout regimen and a specialized diet absent the use of steroids? Absolutely.
Voters who leave Jeff Bagwell off their ballots in the name of keeping the Hall of Fame “clean” — conveniently ignoring the racists, drug addicts and all around terrible human beings already enshrined or the fact that someone who may have used steroids may already be in — are either dumber than high school students or the worst kind of self-righteous twats imaginable. Are these really the type of people we want deciding who we celebrate? So, why not make Jeff Bagwell a Hall of Fame voter litmus test? If you’re either too dumb or too douchey to vote Bagwell into the Hall of Fame, you really shouldn’t be voting at all.