Tuesday, April 2, 2013

1993 TOPPS FINEST: #11 JEFF BAGWELL


BY THE NUMBERS, A NO-DOUBT HOFer.




BUT THERE'S A SHADOW CAST BY THOSE TITANIC NUMBERS.


DEFINING THE PLAYER

  • Jeff Bagwell, a top Red Sox prospect in 1990, was a New Englander from Connecticut whose lack of power in the minors and shortsightedness by the GM paved the way to one of the worst trades in major-league history. On Aug. 30, 1990, Bagwell -- then with Double-A New Britain where he hit only four homers -- was dealt at the deadline to the Astros for reliever Larry Andersen. The reliever did help the Sox win the AL East, but Bagwell went on to play 15 seasons, all with the Astros. He hit 449 homers, drove in 1,529 runs and posted a .948 OPS. The Red Sox were swept by the A's in the ALCS and Andersen took the loss in Game 1. He left the Red Sox in the off-season and signed with the Padres.

DEFINING MOMENT

  • On June 24, 1994, Bagwell became the fourth different Astro to homer three times in a game during a 16-4 victory over L.A. at Dodger Stadium. That would be his signature mark in an NL MVP season in which he slugged 39 homers drove home 116 in 110 games. Then the strike began on Aug. 12.

DEFINING SEASON

  • In 2000, baseball fans got to see what kind of numbers a locked-in Bagwell could put up over a full season: .310 average, 47 homers, 132 RBI, 1.039 OPS and a league-leading 152 runs. Because the game was in the throes of the PED virus, all that earned Bagwell was a seventh-place finish in MVP voting. Come again, seventh place?

FIVE FINAL FACTS

  1. Red Sox GM Lou Gorman, who pulled the trigger for Andersen, said Bagwell was expendable because Wade Boggs was blocking his path at third and converting Bagwell to first wasn't an option because Mo Vaughn was there. OK, why not slide Vaughn to DH and put Bagwell at first? Anyway, it was whispered he wouldn't develop enough power to play a corner infield position. 
  2. Speaking of whispers, many were convinced Bagwell's sudden development into a premier power threat was chemically created. While denying he juiced, he did admit to Andro use, a steroid precursor, and said he was OK with other players using. Hmm.
  3. That indifferent attitude toward PEDs and suspicious stats hurt him in his first two years on the Hall of Fame ballot. He received 41.7 percent of the vote in his first year and 56 percent this past year. He failed the eye test but was never directly implicated nor listed in the Mitchell Report.
  4. He had one helluva strange batting stance: On top of the plate, legs spread wide, deep crouch. He looked like a pair of channel-lock pliers pulled wide.
  5. That stance enabled him to walk often (seven consecutive years with 100-plus) and have maximum plate coverage but also led to him getting his left hand broken by pitches in '93, '94 and '95. He missed 120 games combined before wearing a protective pad on the hand.

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