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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Jeff Bagwell


He was a fourth-round pick for the Red Sox in 1989, shipped to the Astros in exchange for Larry Andersen in 1990. Do you think Boston regretted that deal? Jeff Bagwell went on to slug 449 home runs in just 15 years, driving in 1529 and hitting .297. JAWS ranks him as the sixth-best first baseman of all-time; the only non-Hall of Famer ahead of him is the still-active Albert Pujols. Unfounded PED suspicions kept him on the outside looking in until his seventh year on the ballot. Without a failed test or a Canseco-level allegation, I have not problem with Jeff Bagwell in the Hall of Fame.

Cooperstown is calling

Randy Pedro Biggio

Time is fast approaching for the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 to be announced. On Tuesday, January 6, the results of the BBWAA voting will be announced, with at least three players expected to be ushered into Cooperstown. The intimidating Randy Johnson, the dominant Pedro Martinez, and lifetime Astro Craig Biggio should all share the stage this summer. But who else might join them?

Smoltz Piazza Bagwell

Early ballot tracking shows John Smoltz receiving a lot of support, and will likely be the fourth man inducted in July, joining teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox, all who were immortalized in 2014. I’m not going to debate whether Smoltz was better than Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling; regardless of who was better, I believe all three should have plaques in the Hall of Fame. But allowing Smoltz in on his first appearance on the ballot should create more conversation about Mussina and Schilling, whose career statistics are very similar, and hopefully we will see support for them increase next year.

What about Mike Piazza? He was one of the greatest hitting catchers of all-time, but he is now in his third year of eligibility. Suspicions about steroid use create a dark cloud over his candidacy, but there has never been a shred of solid evidence or a Jose Canseco allegation against him. With 109 ballots revealed, Piazza is barely over the 75% threshold, but as Tuesday approaches that number is expected to drop. It would be nice to go ahead and get him in the door to clear room on the ballots of those who like to check off the full ten names allowed.

Same for Jeff Bagwell, who currently has just under 75% support. The steroid suspicions are in the minds of many writers, but Bagwell has vehemently denied using and his numbers merit induction. How fantastic would it be to see six men standing on the stage in Cooperstown on induction day?

The next name on the list is Tim Raines, who has seen a steady increase in votes with the exception of last year, when his percentage dropped from 52.2% to 46.1%. The early numbers show him at 63.3%, still far short of the required 75%, but giving hope to fans of the Rock that he will climb the rest of the way by the time his eligibility ends. 2015 is Raines’ eighth year on the ballot; a new rule allows a player’s name to be listed for ten years instead of fifteen (with the exceptions being those who were already past the ten-year mark when the rule was enacted this year).

After Raines comes Schilling and Mussina, then the PED posterboys Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I don’t expect (or want) those two to ever receive enough support from the writers or the Veterans Committee. Designated hitter extraordinaire Edgar Martinez is next, followed by four guys that I believe should be given more consideration than they have received so far: Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, and Jeff Kent. Sadly, none of them have any shot of election in 2015.

The big names in danger of falling off the ballot after this round include Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with first-timers Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado. Yankee superstar Don Mattingly is on the ballot for his fifteenth and final time.

Retired Numbers: #5

Six (and one likely future) Hall of Famers are among those honored with the retirement uniform #5. We also have our first executive, Carl Barger, whose favorite player was Dimaggio, prompting the Marlins to retire #5 in his honor. There was also one non-Hall of Famer, one of the most tragic stories in sports.

Willard Hershberger, Cincinnati Reds

The backup to Hall of Fame catcher Ernie Lombardi, Hershberger was filling in for the injured “Schnozz” in July 1940. After the Reds lost games to inferior teams, Hershberger blamed himself and either said or implied that he would commit suicide like his father. Manager Bill McKenchie spoke with the catcher, and believed he was better at the end of their conversation. The next day, however, he was found dead in the hotel bathtub from a slashed throat.

Following his death, #5 was temporarily retired until 1942. In 1967 the greatest catcher in big league history wore the number, and it was retired permanently in 1986.

Johnny Bench, Cincinnati Reds

Brooks Robinson, Baltimore Orioles

Carl Barger, Florida Marlins

George Brett, Kansas City Royals

Hank Greenberg, Detroit Tigers

Jeff Bagwell, Hosuton Astros

Joe DiMaggio, New York Yankees

Lou Boudreau, Cleveland Indians

The most Astronomical non-Hall of Famers of Houston

The Angels have already been covered, and the A’s are currently being discussed. Next up is the Blue Jays…but how about them Astros?

My picks:
C: Johnny Edwards
1B: Jeff Bagwell
2B: Bill Doran
SS: Denis Menke
3B: Doug Rader
LF: Jose Cruz
CF: Cesar Cedeno
RF: Jimmy Wynn
sub1: Rusty Staub
sub2: Glenn Davis
LHP: Mike Cuellar
SP: J.R. Richard
SP: Mike Scott
#4 SP: Joe Niekro
#5 SP: Joaquin Andujar

The top picks of the BBF think tank:
C: Johnny Edwards
1B: Jeff Bagwell
2B: Bill Doran
SS: Dickie Thon
3B: Doug Rader
LF: Jose Cruz
CF: Cesar Cedeno
RF: Jimmy Wynn
LHP: Mike Cuellar
P: J.R. Richard
P: Joe Niekro
P: Larry Dierker
P: Mike Scott
RP: Dave Smith
sub1: Bob Watson
sub2: Rusty Staub

Cruz and Cedeno were the only ones selected at their positions on all ballots cast; Wynn was named on all ballots, but not always as RF. Richard received 12 of 13 votes, while Andujar received only mine.

Other players mentioned during the voting included Alan Ashby, Ken Caminiti, Bob Knepper and Bo Belinsky.

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