The next candidate for the Hall of Fame I will be taking a look at is a first year candidate, Jeff Bagwell.
1994 National League MVP
1991 National League Rookie of the Year
449 Home runs
4 All Star Appearances
3 Silver Sluggers
.297/.408/.540 career slash line
OPS+ of 149
8 100+ RBI seasons
9 100+ runs seasons
6 seasons of .300+ batting average
9 30+ HR seasons (8 in a row from 1996-2003)
The Case for Bagwell
Bagwell was an elite level hitter who provided top level power production. He had 10 straight season of 5 or great wins above replacement (WAR), according to Baseball Reference (1994-2003). He had 8 straight seasons of 30+ home runs (1996-2003) and 9 overall. He had 10 seasons of 100+ runs batted in, including 6 straight (1996-2001). He also had 8 straight seasons with double digit stolen bases, including 2 40 home run/30 stolen base seasons (1997, 1999).
The Case Against Bagwell
The majority of Bagwell’s career was played during the steroid era, and it remains to be seen whether or not home run totals were inflated overall during that time. His career ended rather quickly, going from a solid defender to being unable to make the throw from first base to second base. A lot of his career total numbers (2314 hits, 449 home runs, 1529 runs batted in) don’t necessarily lead one to believe his career was long enough.
Bagwell really seems like a case of a player who has clearly had a very good career. But the question here is whether or not he has had a Hall of Fame career. Looking at the numbers, he was clearly an elite level offensive talent for between 8 and 10 seasons (1994-2003). The numbers that continue to stand out to me for Bagwell were obviously the home runs (449 career), but also the number of runs he scored overall (1517), which was good for 62nd all time. He also led the National League in runs scored 3 times, and finished 37th on the all time list for Adjusted OPS+. While all players who played during the steroid era are taken with a grain (or 15) of salt, I don’t recall there being any specific allegations with regard to Bagwell. Even still, for me, I have to view Bagwell as clearly one of the top players in his era, and any for that matter.
MY VOTE: YES