The only thing worse than not voting for Jeff Bagwell because of baseless suspicions of PED use, is not voting for Bagwell because of baseless suspicion of PED use but say you are doing it because you do not think his numbers are Hall of Fame worthy, with absolutely no argument to back it up.
See that crafty little two-step? Nifty little switch. One such offering:
Will probably submit a blank Hall of Fame ballot. Bagwell and Larkin were good players, but not HOF. Jack Morris a notch below them.
Explanation, yes/ no?
The most significant thing about the no ballots taken as a whole is that in general they offer no explanation for their choices, as if they have given up the fight completely.
Fred Klein does not even deign to mention Bagwell's name, yet says he will vote for Jim Thome. Neither does Barry Lariviere, nor Ron Kroichick, Mike Nadel and others. Some have merely put the names up on Twitter.
This my friends, is complicity.
One heavy amend to a Jeff Jacobs article, who has obviously taken a lot of trouble to give readers his gut feelings on the subject, as he said:
We have seen tens of players like Bagwell break down physically in their late 30s.
Bagwell was 32 when the 2001 season began, when he started to feel the arthritis in his shoulder which almost crippled his baseball career. Insinuating in any way that Bagwell's 'body broke down' because of PED use, is false, as Jacobs does. I can't rule out the fact that he used PEDs during his career, and I can't rule out that if he did use this had some contribution to his arthritic shoulder. That he limped on for four full seasons with an absolutely monstrous hitch in his swing is a near miracle. He could barely throw across the diamond before he was done. These facts seemed to have been ignored by the voting public at large.
Jacobs says that he believes in the 15-year period, but this has always been for marginal cases. Bagwell is not a marginal case. Feel sorry for Jacobs? I don't. He and legions of others are one of the chief architects for the mess we find ourselves in for not doing their jobs properly, namely reporting.
Linking back to Bagwell's bum shoulder, which has been constantly ignored throughout discussion of his candidacy, after the 2000 season, 10 full seasons in the major leagues Bagwell's OPS was .970 (higher than Bonds and Alex Rodriguez over their first 10 full seasons if you were wondering). And he played nine of those ten at the Astrodome. Had he not achieved enough in those 10 years to prove he was one of the best? He had speed, terrific defense, tremendous baserunning skills, great power, far above average on-base skills, and was a silent leader in the clubhouse, leading a franchise from obscurity to the solid mid-market.
Craig Calcaterra talked this week about how a guy like Dale Murphy's candidacy is hurt, compared to a guy like Kirby Puckett, because his career fizzled out rather than being cut short. Surely Bagwell's arthritic shoulder should be acknowledged by any writer before he votes yes or no?
Then there are the last, like poor Jeff Schultz, who can't come up with his argument, but can sure regurgitate, and when I mean regurgitate, I mean directly quote Tom Verducci. The bit I like best about that paragraph is that, while pointing out that Bagwell out-homered all but six, the inclusion of Ken Griffey Jr. must mean he gets suspected too. No? Why not?
Of the 71 who made their no votes to Bagwell public last year, only Mel Antonin (who voted for McGwire last year but not this year), Fred Klein, Barry Bloom, Bob Brookover, Tom Dienhart, Chris Elsberry, Jeff Jacobs, Jon Heyman, Barry Lariviere, Bob Nightengale, Mike Puma, Ken Rosenthal (who voted YES this year) and Tom Singer have made their votes public so far. That's 13 out of 71. We have ten or so days to go, and those numbers may go up.
(Since writing Mark Gonzales, Fred Mitchell, Paul Sullivan and Dave Van Dyk all voted NO for Bagwell, Phil Rogers voted yes, bringing the total to 18).
Rosenthal's position is the one that gives me headaches. Here is his column explaining his position for leaving off, among others Bagwell, although he does not name him. Like Jacobs, he points out the 15 years a player has to make it on the BBWAA vote, assuming he stays on the ballot. Then there is this year's piece. It seems Rosenthal reached an epiphany in the last year or so, and for that I give him great credit, but I still also feel he and many others have done Bagwell a great disservice, and by his original ballot he has unwittingly taken part in character assassination.
And I have not even touched on one of the most baffling articles of the past week from Phil Rogers. You do wonder reading it whether Jeff Bagwell has, through no fault of his own, irretrievably broken the BBWAA and Hall of Fame voting process, a year before the leading lights of the modern era become eligible. At least to give Rogers his due, he stuck to his guns and voted the right way.
Taken again, as a whole, the no votes are a pitiful collection, without a stick to substantiate them. And these are the only ones we know about. Point out to me an in depth defense of a no to Bagwell from this year by a BBWAA voter. Rightly routed last year for baseball's version of McCarthyism, most have kept their mouths firmly shut.
Silence. Silence means those who believe that Bagwell deserves to be in the Hall, and those prosecuting the 'War on Stupidity' are winning. Or so we can hope. It may not be 75% this year, but we can hope it inches closer.
*Much obliged to the curator of this ballot aggregator, and Astros County.