Steroid Sanctimony Bleeding on Bagwell

Jeff Bagwell May Have Muscled Way Out of Cooperstown.

I was disappointed that Jeff Bagwell got only 41.7% of the BBWA first ballot vote for the Hall of Fame. After all,  Jeff arrived for eligible voter consideration as the only first baseman in history with over 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases on his career resume. Maybe that’s not good enough for a first try admissions ticket, but he also did a few other things that should have drawn him objectively closer to the 75% that all candidates need for induction into baseball’s temple of highest honor. He also had an adjusted OPS rating of 130 or higher over 12 consecutive seasons. Bagwell and Lou Gehrig are the only first basemen in history to pull that off. Bagwell also stood alone as the only first baseman ever to produce a 30 homer, 30 stolen base season too – and he did that one twice. Thrown in the fact that he also put up six consecutive seasons of at least 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored and, for his career, that he drove in more than 1,500 runs and scored more than 1,500 runs.

Based on his honest, measurable numbers of meaningful baseball accomplishment, Jeff Bagwell deserved more votes than he got on his first HOF ballot. I have tried in the days that have passed to put this result aside as OK and not too ominous an omen for the future. Then I read an online article by Bernie Miklasz, a sports columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. I suggest you read it too:

Miklasz makes some great points about the hypocrisy  of our baseball writer culture. Now, without admission, conviction, or clear evidence, the muscular achievers of the so-called steroid era are being shut out of the HOF for moral reasons (the HOF’s integrity clause) by the same group of people who cheered a few of them (notably McGwire) as the resurrection of baseball back in the late 1990s. Miklasz also duly notes that the HOF apparently was able in past years to overlook offenses of racism, vis-a-vis segregation, and past other drug abuse issues, (amphetamines, for example), to clear the way for induction of players who in other ways “may have” violated the so-called integrity clause.

Now comes Jeff Bagwell, unaccused by the Mitchell Commission or the peer likes of any Jose Canseco types – and what does he get? Here’s what 58.3% of the eligible voters of the Baseball Writers of America gave him: (1) Suspicion. (2) Conviction on Suspicion: The man’s never staged his own trial to clear himself. Plus, he had muscles at a time when having muscles was bad. (3) Inaction to Take: What do we do? How about nothing! Until Bagwell, or somebody, clears his name, let’s just sit back and treat Bagwell and a few others as though they never did anything of note in their baseball careers. Let Jeff Bagwell serve as the poster boy for all the great players to come that shall also be stained by  factors of physical, associative, or cultural inference in the shadows of the steroid era. Treat them as though they never existed.

If that happens, I say, “let there be a pox upon the houses of all voters who handle Jeff Bagwell and others in this manner.”

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5 Responses to “Steroid Sanctimony Bleeding on Bagwell”

  1. David Munger Says:

    When Tom Seaver received more votes than Ted Williams or Stan Musial,
    I knew these guys were IDIOTS. The WRITERS want more attention than
    the athletes they are covering. It’s like the chicken or the egg arguement.

  2. curious Says:

    I think the writers are showing signs of increasing sophistication and awareness. A few years ago it was unthinkable that a pitcher with a record of 13-12 could win a Cy Young Award. Now the writers are showing signs they’re capable of looking more deeply into underlying factors of significance in player performance.

    In truth, Bagwell sealed his own fate with that horrific interview he gave Jerry Crasnick, which I referenced in this blog a few days ago.

    He publicly stated he has no problems with his colleagues who took PEDs; and then he devalued the honor of being elected into the HOF because of an expectation or fear he has that his peers who juiced and didn’t get elected will think poorly of him if he gets elected.

    I expect his vote totals to go down next year as a result of that interview, as McGwire’s did this year after he admitted his PED use.

    Honesty is the way to go. Bagwell isn’t all the way there yet, but he’s getting closer. The users need to come out and admit their use – and speak out against PED use – so that they don’t further trivialize baseball’s greatest honor by getting elected or encouraging others to get elected with their dirty secret.

    In other words, to get right with themselves and the world, they need to acknowledge and accept their mistake and take one for the sport.


    • Bill McCurdy Says:


      I appreciate the purity of your desire to see all steroid-using guilty parties stand up for the sake of baseball and their innocent brethren and take responsibility for their own behaviors. I just don’t think we need to hold our collective breath waiting for this to happen. Even if they did, the silent innocent would still be left with that oldest of philosophical quagmires when it comes to sorting out the naked and the dead from any reputation-wrecking sin by the masses. If one is among the truly innocent, there’s still no way to prove the negative. In that regard, and as one who is willing to believe in Jeff Bagwell, I took his remarks to be more based on his own discomfort of having accomplished what he did during the difficult era of steroids abuse. I agree with you to this extent: Jeff would have been better served not doing the Crasnick interview at all as things turned out. It’s easier to dig holes than it is to climb out of the ones of our own making that we fall into. – As for the more sophisticated media of today, you give them more credit than I do. As far as I’m concerned, the media is just adroit at knowing which side their bread is buttered. Thirteen years ago, it was about praising the sluggers who saved baseball from the 1994 killer season. Now it’s about standing up against those same men who may have acted in ways that have ruined the game by their so-far unadjudicated steroid use.. – And they didn’t even need a series of trials to carry out their executions. It’s “off with their heads” for now. If anybody can later prove their innocence, or establish a believable case for redemption and forgiveness, “we’ll sew the heads back onto the bodies and stick the ones who deserve it in the Hall, I guess.”

  3. Mark Wernick Says:

    Very eloquently put Bill. You’re the real writer here. No, I’m not holding my breath. But I will say what I think. Sometimes that gets me into more hot water than I anticipated. But it’s a feature of my personality that apparently isn’t going to change (because I think it would have by now if it was possible.) At least there now is random drug testing. It took way too long for that to happen, but I credit George W. Bush and congress for their leadership on that issue, because without it, I’m not sure it ever would have happened. We can know the innocents, within a range of error, because of such testing. But more importantly, we have a better shot now at knowing the guilty. I believe that testing and the careful judgments of the writers re: who gets their HOF vote has a chance to make the game better. Certainly I feel better about buying tickets knowing those safety nets are in place.


  4. John Watkins Says:

    So the writers are “showing signs of increasing sophistication and awareness” with respect to player performance? Give me a break. They hardly demonstrate those traits by painting every slugger from the so-called “steroid era” with the same brush.

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