My totally unscientific sense of things is that Jeff Bagwell is going to fall well short of the Hall of Fame in this his first year on the ballot. Peter Gammons suspects as much. And, after making the case of just how clear a Hall of Famer Bagwell is, has some pointed words for the wait-and-see-on-Bagwell crowd:
We have media members who believe in a black-and-white one-and-done code when it comes to Cooperstown. We have those who believe their eyes are enough when it comes to making judgment, bifocals or no bifocals. Two springs ago, Mike Piazza asked, “How can someone write that I was a steroid user because of acne? When did I fail any test?” Thankfully, Piazza pushes that issue, as one of the greatest offensive catchers and a surefire Hall of Fame performer. Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens are going to be fascinating votes in future years, all very different case studies that will dictate prolonged, complex debates.
Meanwhile, Bagwell never failed any test, to our knowledge. Did he lose body mass later in his career? Yes; so did the indefatigable gym rat Carlton Fisk after he stopped lifting for hours every day.
I have seen no one make a purely merit-based case against Bagwell. It’s all either vague “let’s wait and see” stuff or vague references to the inflated offensive numbers of the 1990s. A few have specifically mentioned PEDs, but only a few. In reality, I think that just about everyone not voting for Bagwell is doing so because they think he did steroids.
And I suppose I see why a big power hitter of the 90s is under suspicion, but where does it all end? If you suspect Bagwell, why don’t you suspect Frank Thomas? Because he said he didn’t do steroids? Hell, so did Palmeiro. Do you suspect Piazza? Biggio? Randy Johnson? All of them did quite amazing things too. Given that big players, small players, fast players, slow players, pitchers, hitters, stars and scrubs have all been connected to PEDs, why isn’t everyone a suspect? And if they are, why isn’t everyone getting the Jeff Bagwell treatment?
The level of subjectivity being applied in this arena is doing more harm to the Hall of Fame than letting in one person who was later found to have done steroids would ever do.