Why would voters want to “wait” on Jeff Bagwell?

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I promise: this is my last Hall of Fame post for the day. If there is other big news I’m neglecting, please let me know. In the meantime:

I’ve seen a few references to voters wanting to “wait and see” on Jeff Bagwell’s Hall of Fame case. Or to give it more time. Or to think it over more or what have you.  While I’d normally applaud such thorough consideration, Bagwell strikes me as not a particularly close case for election. He should be in on the first try.  The same went for Roberto Alomar last year too. We get one like this every once in a while and when we do, I ask myself why people think we need to wait to pull the lever in the guy’s favor when, by almost any objective standard, the guy is far above typical Hall of Fame standards. With any given voter, I’m guessing it usually comes down to one of two explanations (or a combination of them):

  • People don’t want  to elect the guy on the first ballot because they consider that to be an extra-special honor and they see the guy as a less-than-inner-circle Hall of Famer; or
  • There was something about the guy, be it an incident in his career, or this manner with the media or something in his personal life that rubs the voter the wrong way.

In the past voters have explicitly said that they didn’t think someone was a first-ballot Hall of Famer and have deferred their vote for another year.  I find this totally unacceptable because the rules that accompany a voter’s ballot explicitly say that there is no distinction between first and later-ballot inductees.  I think some people will always withhold “the honor” of a first-ballot election, however, because the voting pool is huge and unwieldy and some of them don’t have a lick of sense.

The second category can be anything.  I think Alomar fell into it with some because of the spitting incident. I wonder if Jeff Bagwell falls into that category because people want to wait and see if his name comes up in association with steroids.

No one has accused Bagwell of juicing that I know of. He certainly hasn’t come up as part of any of the official steroids investigations or reports. No Hall of Fame voter has said that they won’t vote for him because they suspect he took PEDs. But at the same time, he was an elite power hitter in the 1990s with big-ass arms.  Unless you’re Frank Thomas and you’ve been highly vocal about the matter, at some point someone is going to suspect you of something if you fit that description. I wonder if any Hall voters suspect Bagwell, even if they’re too polite to admit their suspicion.

I take an innocent-until-proven guilty approach to such matters. And as I said before, I don’t think PED associations should disqualify someone from the Hall of Fame even if they are proven guilty. But I’ve been accused of being a steroid apologist in the past, probably with some good reason.  Others aren’t as forgiving as I am, however, and I wonder if they aren’t (silently) holding Bagwell’s candidacy in abeyance to see if history catches up to their intuition.

Report: Diamondbacks acquire Steven Souza from Rays; Yankees land Brandon Drury

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Update (6:35 PM ET): This is a three-team deal also involving the Diamondbacks, per Nick Piecoro of the Arizona Republic. The Diamondbacks will receive outfielder Steven Souza from the Rays and second baseman Brandon Drury will head to the Yankees. Lefty reliever Anthony Banda will go to the Rays, Piecoro adds. The Diamondbacks will also receive prospect Taylor Widener from the Yankees, per Joel Sherman of the New York Post. MLB.com’s Steve Gilbert adds that the Rays will get two players to be named later from the D-Backs.

Souza, 28, is earning $3.55 million in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility, so the Rays are presumably saving money in moving him. Last season, Souza hit a productive .239/.351/.459 with 30 home runs, 78 RBI, 78 runs scored, and 16 stolen bases in 617 plate appearances. Souza’s arrival almost certainly pushes Yasmany Tomas out of a starting gig.

Drury, 25, has played a handful of positions in his brief major league career. Last year, he played second base in Arizona, batting .267/.317/.447 with 13 home runs and 63 RBI in 480 PA.

Banda, 24, made his major league debut last season, posting an ugly 5.96 ERA with a 25/10 K/BB ratio in 25 2/3 innings. The peripherals suggest he pitched better than his ERA indicated.

Widener, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the 12th round of the 2016 draft. This past season with High-A Tampa, he pitched 119 1/3 innings and posted a 3.39 ERA with a 129/50 K/BB ratio. MLB Pipeline rated Widener as the 14th-best prospect in the Yankees’ system.

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Robert Murray of FanRag Sports reports that the Rays will acquire second base prospect Nick Solak from the Yankees. The Yankees’ return is presently not known.

Solak, 23, was selected by the Yankees in the second round of the 2016 draft. He spent last season between High-A Tampa and Double-A Trenton, hitting a combined .297/.384/.452 with 12 home runs, 53 RBI, 72 runs scored, and 14 stolen bases.

MLB Pipeline ranked Solak as the eighth-best prospect in the Yankees’ system and the fifth-best second base prospect in baseball, praising him for his ability to hit line drives as well as his speed.