The Astros' rebuilding effort hinges heavily on the development of Jonathan Singleton and George Springer.
Most of our writers didn't enter the world sporting an @baseballprospectus.com address; with a few exceptions, they started out somewhere else. In an effort to up your reading pleasure while tipping our caps to some of the most illuminating work being done elsewhere on the internet, we'll be yielding the stage once a week to the best and brightest baseball writers, researchers and thinkers from outside of the BP umbrella. If you'd like to nominate a guest contributor (including yourself), please drop us a line.
Andrew Pentis spent the past four years covering baseball in some manner for MLB.com: as an associate reporter with the Giants in 2009 (a year before they won the World Series) and the D-backs in 2010 (a year before they were any good again) then becoming an editorial producer on the prospects beat in 2011. He is now a free agent living in New York. Search for him on Twitter @AndrewPentis, or drop him a line at email@example.com.
Character assassination, speculation, a commitment to process... ah, it has to be Hall of Fame season.
While looking toward the future with our comprehensive slate of current content, we'd also like to recognize our rich past by drawing upon our extensive (and mostly free) online archive of work dating back to 1997. In an effort to highlight the best of what's gone before, we'll be bringing you a weekly blast from BP's past, introducing or re-introducing you to some of the most informative and entertaining authors who have passed through our virtual halls. If you have fond recollections of a BP piece that you'd like to nominate for re-exposure to a wider audience, send us your suggestion.
Before Jeff Bagwell's first year on the Hall of Fame ballot, Christina summed up her attitude toward steroids in the piece reprinted below, which was originally published as a "Prospectus Perspective" column on December 31st, 2010.
Writers didn't want to induct anybody into the Hall of Fame this year, a decision with no small consequences.
The writers struck out looking. They were lobbed a fat pitch over the heart of the plate and they failed to even take a swing at it. Defenders will note, correctly, that it isn’t the ninth inning. But it was the last at-bat of the eighth, and they face an exceedingly difficult challenge in coming back to win this thing.
The biggest takeaway is that there is a sizable contingent of voters who will refuse to vote for any player, no matter how qualified, if there’s the barest taint of steroids on him, up to and including “playing the majority of his career after 1993.” Many will cast this as a referendum on Bonds and Clemens, two of the sports’ greatest stars who ended up in legal hot water over the use of performance-enhancing drugs. But a litany of deserving players, including Biggio, Bagwell, Piazza, and others, have been punished too, with little more than hearsay to incriminate them. This was a well stocked ballot, filled with newcomers with impressive resumes and a handful of players (like Raines and Trammell) who have been sadly overlooked. It’s easy for even a seasoned analyst to find himself having to trim his list to meet the 10-player limit established by the voting process.
Contemporary accounts of the Houston first baseman's early career.
With the Hall of Fame announcement scheduled for this week, now is a good time to look back at the early careers of some of this year's most talked-about nominees.(And with the early exit polls looking as they do, it might be nice to remember just how great some of these players were.)
The way you hear people talk about it today, it'd seem as if Houston's superstar first baseman Jeff Bagwell came from as deep a pit of obscurity as Mike Piazza, the Los Angeles catcher drafted in a round so low that it doesn't even exist today. Bagwell, after all, came to the Astros in a trade for the less-than-thrilling Larry Andersen. But Bagwell was the Red Sox fourth-round draft pick in 1989 and the Boston Globe had this to say the day after the trade:
The new JAWS runs up against players from the Steroid Era to determine their Hall worthiness.
As with comedy, timing is everything in baseball. "Hitting is timing," Hall of Famer Warren Spahn said famously, finishing the thought with the complementary observation, "Pitching is upsetting timing." A good chunk of both the game's traditional and advanced statistics, the ones that we spurn and those that we celebrate, owe plenty to being the right man in the right place at the right time—wins, saves, and RBI from the former camp, leverage, run expectancy, and win expectancy from the latter. ERA owes everything to the sequence of events. For better or worse, MVP votes are won and lost on the timing of a player's productivity, or at least the perception of it that comes with being labeled "clutch." Timing is a major part of how we measure the game, so it should matter when we look over the course of a player's career in evaluating his fitness for the Hall of Fame.
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With Jeff Bagwell's career potentially coming to an end, Jay looks at his Hall of Fame chances, plus the chances of some other players who may call 2005 their last year.
For all of the drama and closure that late-season cameo may have provided to Bagwell's career, its price tag may prove astronomical. Earlier this week, Connecticut General Life Insurance denied a total disability claim which would have allowed the Astros to recoup $15.6 million of Bagwell's $17 million salary for the year. Despite Bagwell's unsuccessful attempt to prove himself healthy enough to start the season as the team's first baseman and his subsequent placement on the disabled list, "The company determined that there had been no adverse change in Mr. Bagwell's condition or ability to play baseball between the end of last season, when he was an active member of the roster, and Jan. 31, 2006, the date the policy expired." [emphasis added]
Upon being placed on the DL, Bagwell conceded, "I may never play again," but the denial of the claim--which the Astros will contest--paradoxically opens the door for the 37-year-old's career to continue. Had the claim been accepted, no amount of progress in rehabilitation would have justified Bagwell's return to the team later in the year. If owner Drayton McLane and his legal hounds are unable to gain some relief, AND if Bagwell undergoes surgery for bone spurs AND still has the desire to play AND makes progress in the training room, he may yet step up to the plate in Minute Maid Park once again. Still, as MLB.com's Alyson Footer noted the other day, Bagwell's day of reckoning makes it appropriate to reflect on on Number 5's stellar 15-year career.
Regarding saving $160 million (or more) through prudent contract management, MS (and many others) writes:
How on earth is Jeff Bagwell at $6.5 million a waste of a roster spot, time, money, etc.? Sure, his power numbers are way off, but he's got an 872 OPS, and baseball can't work that with the first signs of your best player ever showing a little decline, you release or trade him.... He's still an above-average offensive player, and bound to turn it around in the next couple of months.
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