FEB 9th, 2012-OK, I know this is old news now, but I've been thinking about it lately and it's kind of getting under my skin.
The irritant in question: current rationale regarding the (possible) PED use by retired HOF candidate and former Houston Astro Jeff Bagwell.
You hear it everywhere: "Well, everyone else is doing it, so why wouldn't he?", "He's way too big not to be using PED", "He played with users, so of course he did it, too", et cetera, et cetera, ad infinitum, ad nauseum.
Nowadays, it seems like all it takes is a little suspicion or rumor and suddenly not only is a player on steroids, he also murders kittens, steals his granny's social security checks and was the mastermind behind 9/11. And it's understandable that most fans would take that point of view; after all, the Mitchell Report saw to it that what faith and trust we had in professional baseball and the players in it was quite nearly destroyed completely. But the logic behind the whole "he's a big guy, so he shoots up" argument is beyond laughable.
Here's the thing, and it's pretty simple: either prove it, or vote him in. In my mind, he's a HOF first baseman, and I can't imagine that I'm alone in this.
Not a lot of awards, here. Four All-Star appearances, 1991 NL ROY, 1994 NL MVP and TSN Major League Player of the Year. Not bad, but not outstanding. However, his 162 game average certainly helps his case, as does the .408 career OBP. Not too shabby. In terms of career numbers, he's most definitely worthy of serious HOF consideration. It's a simple equation: he was one of the best at his position from 1994-2003. Off the top of my head, and minus the BA and defense, the first comparable player to come to mind is Johnny Mize.
Despite the decided lack of evidence, it seems that the "We can't prove he didn't use PED" argument has won out among HOF voters. The thing is, anyone can take that stance and it would be near impossible to prove them wrong.
The evidence suggests that Bagwell did not use PED, simply because he's never been officially named in any investigation. In fact, if there is anything going against him now it's basically limited to personal opinion. Well, that and the impression he makes in terms of his physical appearance. But we have to have more than just innuendo and personal bias to go on if we're going to shut him out of the Hall, don't we?
For my part, I say if they can't find any dirt on him, he's a HOFer. No doubt, in my mind. But the voters have no right (from an ethical standpoint) to simply wait for evidence to surface, especially when said evidence might not even exist in the first place.
Despite my humble point of view, there's nothing I can say that would even begin to top Ken Rosenthal's statement on Bagwell's chances:
"When voting, one should only consider the facts at hand. If Bagwell is later revealed to have been a user, maybe I will stop voting for him, if he isn’t already in the Hall. There is little doubt that he is deserving otherwise, unless you’re somehow unimpressed by his .408 on-base percentage and .540 slugging mark, not to mention his baserunning, defense at first base and leadership of the Astros during his 15-year career … For now, all I know is one thing: I’m not withholding votes based on hearsay and innuendo."
Well said, Mr. Rosenthal. And absolutely right. Until and/or unless the voters find proof of Bagwell's malfeasance, I sincerely hope that he receives the respect for his career he so richly deserves.
So to all those who would suggest that Jeff Bagwell has somehow cheated the game and its fans, I have only this to say: