Every single year, Major League Baseball enshrines another Hall of Fame class into Cooperstown. And every single year, there seems to be a glaring omission of someone who absolutely, no questions asked, deserved the honor.
First off, congratulations to Barry Larkin, who was undoubtedly deserving of his plaque. And let's qualify the rest of the article by pointing out that it's harder than ever to garner induction in an era plagued by doubt and suspicion over PED's.
But this year, former Houston Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell was completely and utterly snubbed by the Baseball Writer's Association of America, who casts the ballot. Here are the reasons why:
What better place to start discussing a player's case for the Hall of Fame than the very statistics that appear on the resume? There are a few benchmark numbers that guarantee clean players enshrinement these days; 300 wins for a pitcher. Five hundred home runs for a hitter. Multiple MVP or Cy Young awards.
But that only represents a small percentage of Hall-worthy players in Major League Baseball. What to do with the guys who fall 50 home runs short of 500 but have stellar numbers across the board? Take, for example, Bagwell.
In a career that began in 1991 with a National League Rookie of the Year award and ended in 2005 in anticlimactic fashion as a shoulder injury forced him into retirement at the age of 37. In between, Bagwell averaged ridiculous numbers. He was the picture of consistency. Check it out:
He averaged a .297 BA with 34 home runs 115 RBI, 106 walks and a .408 on-base percentage. I don't know how else to stress how good those numbers are, so I'm bringing out the big guns. Mickey Mantle averaged a .298 BA with 36 home runs and 102 RBI. 'Nuff said.
The MLB Hall of Fame is definitely not a sanctuary of choir boys. If a requirement of induction was being an angel, at least half of the current inductees would be locked out. Bagwell was widely considered one of baseball's nice guys when he played, and avoided anything more than baseless speculation from random writers on PED use in an era chock full of cheaters.
He was always a great teammate and was a leader in the clubhouse for the 'Stros. We all know about his participation in "The Killer B's" with Craig Biggio and Derek Bell on the ridiculously talented Houston teams.
But how does a guy play in a notoriously pitcher-friendly park, beef up big time throughout his career, put up huge power numbers and do it cleanly? Well, Bagwell was very respected for his work ethic, especially his love of weight-lifting during his playing career.
Also, he never hit more than 47 home runs in his career, hardly eye-popping numbers for a time when guys like Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire had posted 50 by August. As far as Steroid Era sluggers go, Bagwell was cleaner than anyone out there.
When voting on Hall of Fame players, the Baseball Writers Association of America seems to put higher stock into nominees who played significant roles for their teams. As previously mentioned, Bagwell was the offensive catalyst of an Astros team that made the playoffs six times in a nine-year stretch, including the franchise's first World Series appearance.
In 1994, just three seasons removed from winning Rookie of the Year, Bagwell also took home the National League MVP award. From day one, the four-time All-Star was undoubtedly the most important player to the success of the Houston Astros.
Bagwell was also a complete player. Sure, he mashed opposing pitching, racked up some nice personal accolades and was a good teammate and leader. But he also had a career fielding percentage of .993 and averaged about 15 stolen bases per season.
If that's not a well-rounded Hall of Fame resume, I don't know what is. There's one thing I know for sure — and that is the BBWAA made a big mistake in snubbing Bagwell this year. Here's to hoping the former star will get a better result next year.