Steroid Sanctimony Bleeding On Bagwell

added 1/8/2011 by Dr. Bill McCurdy

(This column is re-posted with permission from Dr. McCurdy's blog, The Pecan Park Eagle.)

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. Throw 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) at 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 other drug abuse (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 voter from 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."