Alomar, Bagwell, and PED’s…briefly
Roberto Alomar was elected into the Hall of Fame in 2011, and deservedly so.
Jeff Bagwell was not close to achieving election, undeservedly so.
Jay Jaffe of Baseball Prospectus created the JAWS metric, which uses cross-generational performance and WARP (Wins Above Replacement Player, a metric that measures how many wins a player is worth more than a league-average replacement player) to compare players to those already in the Hall of Fame.
By JAWS, Jeff Bagwell is the fourth most valuable first baseman of all time, ahead of such players as Jimmie Foxx, Ernie Banks, Mark McGwire, Willie McCovey, Rod Carew, Eddie Murray, Jim Thome, and Rafael Palmeiro. By default, he should be a no-brainer first-ballot hall of famer.
Alas, Bagwell has been stigmatized by some mind-boggling assertions that he is somehow connected to the steroids era because he played with Ken Caminiti.
Let’s make a list. I like lists.
- Jeff Bagwell never failed a PED test
- Jeff Bagwell did not appear in the Mitchell Report
- Jeff Bagwell did not appear in the BALCO investigation
- Jeff Bagwell was never named or suggested by Jose Canseco or any other player who has outed steroid users.
- Jeff Bagwell was not one of the names leaked from the 104-player list of players who tested positive a decade ago, while Manny Ramirez, Alex Rodriguez, and David Ortiz among others were.
Did Bagwell take PED’s? Maybe. It’s possible. I could sadly believe it of any player who played during that era.
Does Bagwell deserve to be kept from a deserving enshrinement based on the information available about his career? Heck no.
Here’s the problem: Everybody is entitled to their own opinion about who they think did what. But the media members leaving him off this ballot while voting for Roberto Alomar are hypocrites and are holding a double standard.
There is no clear evidence that PED’s make you hit more home runs. Rather, PEDs increase your endurance, allowing you to train longer and harder. They help with recovery from injury. They increase your durability. They generally improve your ability to play baseball over along season and along career. Home runs are not a good indicator of who are users and who aren’t. Brian Roberts used PED’s. He is not a slugger. Jeremy Giambi used PEDs. He was not a slugger. Jason Grimsley used PED’s, as did Andy Pettitte. They are not flamethrowing strikeout artists.
The fact is, the current case for Bagwell as a PED user is no stronger than is the case for Alomar to be a PED user.
Both player’s career peaks occured between 1995 and 2002, the heyday of PED usage in baseball (MLB started testing for PEDs in 2001). Both enjoyed a long career of unequivocal success. Both players peaked (power wise) in the middle of their careers. But what hitter doesn’t, barring unusual circumstances?
I certainly am not accusing Alomar of PED use. Rather I am decrying the unfair stigma that has been placed on Bagwell and will assuredly be placed on others of his ilk – sluggers from the 90’s. We’ll have this discussion with Thome. And Thomas. And many others. But how does keeping the obvious 90’s power hitters out of the Hall justify allowing in players with different skill sets, if the evidence of PED usage is the same for both?
This is once again a case of media double-standard and hypocrisy. Jaffe put it best in his recap after the vote. Keeping Bagwell out of the Hall of Fame based on the suspicion of PED usage says much more about the character of those voters than it does about Bagwell.