No room for Bagwell in the Coop?

December, 22, 2010
12/22/10
10:25
AM ET
Pete Abraham's submitted his first Hall of Fame ballot yesterday, and is voting for Roberto Alomar, Bert Blyleven, Barry Larkin, Alan Trammell, and Tim Raines.

Worthy choices, all.

But there's one prominent name that's gone missing, and Abraham knows it ...
    The numbers show Jeff Bagwell to be one of the most productive first basemen ever. But he played in an era where offensive numbers have to be weighed differently. If every Steroid Era slugger gains entry to the Hall, they're going to need a new wing.

    His on-base percentage of .408 was incredible, but I can't help but think the 449 homers and 1,529 RBIs were a product of a time in baseball history where such statistics were cheap to come by.

    I'd be open to voting for Bagwell down the road as more research is done into that time period of baseball.

I've written many times about the huge number of Steroid Era first basemen (or DH's) with Hall of Fame-style numbers: Bagwell, Rafael Palmeiro, Edgar Martinez, Fred McGriff, Frank Thomas, Jim Thome, Mark McGwire, Todd Helton, even John Olerud, and, of course, Albert Pujols.

Should all of those guys be in the Hall of Fame? No.

Should some of them be in the Hall of Fame, though? I don't think Abraham is advocating that every slugging first baseman who played in that era be disqualified.

And you can make a pretty good argument that Bagwell was actually the best of that group. Well, not including Pujols. Bagwell wasn't the hitter that Thomas was, but he was a lot better in the field and on the bases. And nobody else is really comparable.

My guess is that Abraham suspects Bagwell of steroids use, but just doesn't want to say that because he's more polite than some of his colleagues. Maybe he suspects Martinez, too. We do know that Abraham takes a hard line against the drugs:
    Sorry, Mark McGwire, Rafael Palmeiro and Juan Gonzalez. Your ties to drug use exclude you. Baseball banned non-prescription drugs in the early 1970s, period. That steroids weren't specifically banned is meaningless. Players broke laws to obtain these drugs and that's cheating. That many players did it doesn't make it right.

I'm not sure it's so cut and dried, but if you're worried about electing too many sluggers, drawing the line at involvement with drugs does make that easier. Again, though, duty compels me to point out that hundreds of players in the 1970s and '80s and '90s and '00s broke laws to obtain amphetamines, and it's not been held against a single one of them.

I applaud Abraham's ballot. Exclusiveness is preferable to inclusiveness, and all five of Abraham's choices would make my cut, too. I just think we're still working on what the Steroid Era really means. And I'm glad Abraham is keeping an open mind, at least about Bagwell, the most productive first baseman between Jimmie Foxx and Albert Pujols.

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