Sunday, January 2, 2011



Written by: Mike in DA
Date posted: 1/2/2011

One of the biggest topics sure to come up on local sports talk this week is Jeff Bagwell’s appearance on the Baseball Hall of Fame ballot and his failure by a large margin to get the required 75% of votes to make it into the Hall.

The voting is over and this coming Wednesday, January 5, the Hall will announce its 2011 inductee(s). The ballot, containing 14 returning players and 19 who are in their first year of eligibility, can be viewed here ( Bert Blyleven and Roberto Alomar are the current clubhouse leaders for the "Class of 2011".

FYI - Players must have played ten years in Major League Baseball in order to be eligible, and appear on the ballot five years after their final MLB game.

This is the first year that "Bags" is eligible for the Hall. He had a very good and consistent career with the Houston Astros, hitting .297/.408/.540 with 449 homers and 1529 RBIs over 14 full seasons and part of 2005. He was one of the most feared hitters in the majors throughout his career.

Recently, accusations of steroid use by Bagwell have been increasing because of his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot. Unfortunately, he has had to face questions about steroid use, and has repeatedly denied using them. Many have noticed his drop-off in production in 2004-05, which was largely due to arthritis in his right shoulder that had been affecting him for several years.

Personally, I've been accusing "Bags" and many of the other "usual suspects" of PED (Peformance Enhancing Drug for the acronym-challenged) use going back to the early 2000's and was criticized for it on sports-talk radio because I had no proof. As the years passed, I was proved more right than wrong, as more information eventually came out, including the revelations in Jose Canseco's book, "Juiced" and the follow-up, "Vindicated".

However, through all these years, I accepted it as a part of the game and thought that players shouldn't be penalized for their past actions, but MLB and Hall of Fame voters didn't agree with me, as shown by the relativlely low percentage of votes Mark McGwire has received from Hall voters in recent years, considering his impact on the game while he played.

As Major League Baseball started testing players for PEDs in 2003, we saw that several top MLB stars saw sharp drops in their numbers since then. Unfortunately for Jeff, assuming that he is innocent of the accusations, his painful shoulder made him unable to play baseball relatively shortly after the testing began, which of course feeds the rumor mill to this day.

The Astros are known to have had several players in the limelight concerning steroids. Roger Clemens and Andy Pettite were guilty of using PEDs. Ken Caminiti, one of the most productive players in the 1990s, told Sports Illustrated that he had struggled with cocaine use throughout and after his career, and also admitted that he used steroids in 1996 and for several years afterward. "Cammy" died in 2004 due to the combined effects of cocaine and opiates, and also suffered from coronary artery disease and an enlarged heart, according to the coroner's report.

One of the big misfortunes that has resulted from the steroid issue is that there may be players who did not used PEDs, but may still be subject to scrutiny about the use of steroids. At this time, we are supposed to presume that those who have not been found to have used PEDs, or have not confessed to having done so, are innocent.

For now, Bagwell falls into the Ken Griffey Jr./Frank Thomas/Jim Thome/Albert Pujols/Larry Walker/etc. category of players who have not been connected with steroids, but who are potential Hall of Famers and that is the ultimate career goal of these MLB players whether they say so or not.

Bags first denied using performance-enhancing drugs back in 2004 in an interview with Richard Justice of the Houston Chronicle. He still claims that he never touched steroids or other illegal performance-enhancers. Although he bulked up considerably during his 15 seasons in Houston, Bagwell gives credit to his more muscular look to a weight-lifting program that he now says was a mistake to follow, as the added bulk contributed greatly to the shoulder problems that forced him to retire in 2005 at the age of 37.

As "Bags" makes his first appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot, he knows that there are media members and fans who will be skeptical of his claims. Currently, almost all sluggers from his era are considered guilty until proven innocent. Bagwell has never been linked to performance-enhancers beyond hearsay and rumors, yet he lives under the same suspicion as players who have failed drug tests, lied before Congress, or actually admitted to steroid use.

Below are Jeff's comments from an interview that he recently gave to in which he defends his stance that he was not a participant of the "steroid era":

"It irritated the crap out of me when I first heard people say it. It still irritates me. But it is what it is. You can't run from it. You can't hide from it, and if somebody wants to believe something, that's fine.

"I never used steroids, and I'll tell you exactly why: If I could hit between 30 and 40 home runs every year and drive in 120 runs, why did I need to do anything else? I was pretty happy with what I was doing, and that's the God's honest truth. All of a sudden guys were starting to hit 60 or 70 home runs and people were like, 'Dude, if you took PEDs, you could do it too.' And I was like, 'I'm good where I'm at. I just want to do what I can do.'

"I wasn't trying to do anything crazy. I hit six homers in the minor leagues. Six home runs. I hit 15, 18 and 21 in Houston, and then I hit 39 in 1994 when I started working with Rudy Jaramillo and he helped me to understand my swing and I actually learned how to hit. And I was like, 'I don't need anything more. I'm good.' When I walked on the field I thought I was the best player on the field, and I didn't need anything more than that. It was never an ego thing with me, and I think at some point, it became ego to some people.

"I know a lot of people are saying, 'His body got bigger.' Well, if you're eating 30 pounds of meat every single day and you're working out and bench pressing, you're going to get bigger. You can go to every single trainer and they'll say, 'He was the first here and last to leave, and that dude worked his ass off.'

"The heavy lifting all started in 1996. I was going through a divorce and I came to spring training, and I thought everything was good. Then I got to spring training and I'll never forget it: Mike Hampton looked at me and said, 'Dude, what's wrong with you? You're so skinny, you look like you're on crack.' I look back at the stats and they weren't bad (21 homers, 87 RBIs and a .290 batting average in 114 games). But I told myself, 'I'm never going to have somebody say that to me again.' I said, 'I'm going to find a trainer and get strong.'

"I found a trainer and I started lifting weights, and he told me, 'You have to stop doing those lifts behind your neck because it's going to hurt your arm. It's not normal.' And I said, "But it feels so good.' And he said, 'Yeah, I get it. I'm a bodybuilder, but you're a baseball player.' It felt so good that I kept doing it. But if you keep doing stuff like that, all it's going to do is hurt you.

"In the long run, that's my regret. If you ask Dave Labossiere, our trainer when I played in Houston, I would come to spring training every year and I couldn't throw the ball three feet. I played 3½ years in the most utter pain you could imagine just trying to throw a baseball.

"The lifting made my shoulders and everything bigger, but I was bodybuilding-lifting instead of lifting for baseball, and that was totally my fault. If I have one regret, that's it, because I think it shortened my career.

"If you played in my era and hit any home runs, you know people are going to sit there and say something. It's just the state of the game now. The one thing I don't understand is how people can talk about the era I played in and make it sound as if there weren't any great players in the 1990s and 2000s. That doesn't make any sense. Are you telling me that there were great players in the '30s, '40s and '50s, but there weren't any great players in the '90s and 2000s? I mean, come on. That's crazy.

"You know how I feel about it, truthfully? If a guy is making the minimum salary and he looks across the field and thinks he has to take something to stay in the big leagues, I have no problem with that. You're trying to do the best you can. As baseball players, we don't have an earning power for years to come. If you have to do something for your family, I have no problem with that.

"Now, if you're the best player in the game and you start taking stuff? I still don't have that big a problem with it. I know you took it, but it doesn't matter.

"People can say anything they want about Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, but it was fun to watch. Barry Bonds is the best player I've ever seen. He would stand on first base and say, 'If they throw that pitch again, I'm taking them deep.' Then guess what? The next at-bat, he would take them deep. He could steal a base anytime he wanted to steal a base, and he was always safe. I've only seen three or four people who could ever do that.

"No matter what anybody says about Barry or Mark, who I love to death, they were great players and they were fun to watch. When you get older and stuff happens, maybe you think, 'I have to do something now to compete.'

"I look at Andy Pettitte, and I can say this because it's documented. Andy came out and said, 'Listen, my elbow was killing me. I was making $12-13 million a year, and they told me it was going to help me and all I wanted to do was pitch.' I mean, how can you even argue that? That's not a performance enhancer. That's just a guy who wanted to get healthy. How do you separate 'I want to get healthy' from 'I'm trying to get better because I don't feel like I'm the same player I used to be'?

"I'll never forget the time that Andy was pitching in New York and he was throwing about 79 mph, and he went six innings and allowed one run, and he was basically crying coming off the field because his arm hurt so bad. I'll play on the same team with that dude every single day of the week, because all he wanted to do was compete. I have no problems with Andy Pettitte doing what he did.

"Here's my whole thing when people ask me about the Hall of Fame: Would I be honored to death to be in the Hall of Fame? Of course I would. But it doesn't consume me at all. I loved every single part of what I did as a baseball player. But I've got my kids, I've got my family, and getting in the Hall of Fame isn't going to affect my life one way or the other. And it won't make me feel any better about my career.

"I'm so sick and tired of all the steroids crap, it's messed up my whole thinking on the subject. I hate to even use this word, but it's become almost like a 'buzz kill' for me.

"So much has gone on in the last eight or nine years, it's kind of taken some of the valor off it for me. If I ever do get to the Hall of Fame and there are 40 guys sitting behind me thinking, 'He took steroids,' then it's not even worth it to me. I don't know if that sounds stupid. But it's how I feel in a nutshell.'' END.

What do you think? Your comments are appreciated.



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1 comment:

Earlis said...

I hope Bagwell makes it eventuall... Has s helluva lot of
walks in career also..he certainly had the opportunity to use be a homer... I think he deserved
the benefit of the doubt...I would think that if nothing
comes up negative over the next two to fives his luck could change.
Right now all the great players of that era get painted with the same brush....the court of public opinion does not operate on
the rule of law....stupidity and hypocrisy often dominate the train of thought of the court of public opinion...I just hope 
fairness and common sense prevail in that decision someday...Jeff has earned that much from the sportswriter's
just by the way he played the game.