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.

Video: Starling Marte refuses to take first base after being hit by pitch

Tim Warner/Getty Images
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Pirates outfielder Starling Marte was hit on the hand by a Jack Flaherty pitch in the fourth inning of Tuesday night’s game against the Cardinals. Rather than take first base, Marte — who came to the plate with a runner on first base — insisted to home plate umpire Bruce Dreckman that the ball hit the knob of the bat, not his hand. Marte was allowed to continue his at-bat, though manager Clint Hurdle came out to discuss the ruling with Dreckman. Marte eventually grounded into a fielder’s choice. He then got caught attempting to steal second base and the Pirates scored zero runs in the inning.

According to Baseball Prospectus, a team that has runners on first and second with no outs is expected to score 1.55 runs. Having a runner on first base with one out yields 0.56 expected runs. Marte essentially cost his team a run by rejecting first base. Oops.