Of course, there's no possible way for me to make an unbiased comment on the subject of Jeff Bagwell. He's my all-time favorite baseball player. But for what it's worth, in my eyes Bagwell's a Hall of Famer, and it's a no-brainer for three reasons:
1. His performance on the field. I don't need to recap the numbers - I'll leave that to Zack Levine and other sabermetricians, who have all shown that -- by the books -- Bagwell's right up there with the denizens of the Hall.
2. His leadership off the field. In his many years playing for the Astros, Bagwell was a clubhouse leader who gained the huge respect of his teammates, team management, Houston sportswriters, and fans. You can still see it at Spring Training when he's mentoring the minor league guys, and when he was filling in as the hitting coach at then end of last season. Players do not get that kind of admiration from their peers just because they're good at their job; they earn it through character, hard work, caring about their colleagues and about how the game is played.
3. His integrity. In an era when there were a lot of cheaters, Bagwell didn't use steroids. Why do I think that? Simply because he says he didn't. I've heard Bagwell called many things -- a role model (except for his batting stance), a strong but quiet leader, a players' player. I've never heard the people who worked with him and around him call him a liar or a cheat. So if Bagwell says he didn't use PEDs, I choose to believe him. If he lied, I'm not sure that I will still believe that baseball's the best game in the world. In an era of liars and cheaters, it takes players like Bagwell to still believe in the game. It's why, even though they had "suspicions" that Bagwell wasn't really going to be able to play in 2006, so many people thought that he should get his chance to try at Spring Training -- out of respect, they gave him the benefit of the doubt.
If the HoF voters don't think that Bagwell's lifetime achievement in baseball warrants a first-year vote, it's their perogative not to vote for him. But weasily claims of "suspicion" are cheap shots from people who work in journalism, people who ought to know the value of sticking to facts and not just making up the so-called news. Writers like Dan Graziano can vote for whoever they please, but if the reason for not voting for a player is based on innuendo and hunches, they should just shut up about it. To brag about voting like this just cheapens their credibility as journalists to me.
I have no doubt that Bagwell's going to be in the HoF, voted in in a future year, if not now. At one time, I had kind of a nostalgic idea that it would be nice if Bagwell and Biggio would go in together, the first players to enter the hall in Astros uniforms. But they aren't the Bobbsey Twins; they are individual players who have each earned places in the Hall of Fame. As emotionally satisfying as it would be to see them standing in Cooperstown together in a couple of years (Biggio's got to be a first rounder!), I'd much rather hear that Bagwell got the vote for 2011. I hope that many of the voters -- rejecting the unfairness of suspicion and innuendo as factors for determining HoF-worthiness -- used their ballots to make that point loud and clear.
That's my 27 cents. There's no ballot for bloggers, other than the feedback they get from their readers. So, other Astros fans out there, what do you think?