Baseball for the Thinking Fan

Login | Register | Feedback

btf_logo
You are here > Home > Baseball Newsstand > Baseball Primer Newsblog > Discussion
Baseball Primer Newsblog
— The Best News Links from the Baseball Newsstand

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Jeff Bagwell’s Unfair Burden - GammonsDaily.com

The Baseball Hall of Fame isn’t a court of law. You don’t need to prove something beyond a reasonable doubt, but you should be innocent until proven guilty. Guilt by association is a dangerous game to play. By that logic, isn’t every member of the BBWAA guilty of giving their ballot to Deadspin (a move I support)? Every member is in the association with Le Batard and some members seem less than honorable, so maybe they sold their ballots too. That’s the logic path that convicts Bagwell.

We teach our kids not to judge people based on how they look and we teach them to think critically and independently. Maybe you’ll have trouble explaining Barry Bonds to your kids, but I’m going to be kept up at night wondering how I’m going to explain Jeff Bagwell, who is unquestionably a Hall of Famer, even if he never wins the BBWAA vote.

Jim Furtado Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:13 PM | 19 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: hof, jeff bagwell

Reader Comments and Retorts

Go to end of page

Statements posted here are those of our readers and do not represent the BaseballThinkFactory. Names are provided by the poster and are not verified. We ask that posters follow our submission policy. Please report any inappropriate comments.

   1. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 09, 2014 at 04:40 PM (#4634944)
If people don't think the HOF has been turned into a joke note this the umpteenth article on steroids. It is the overriding issue in the voting now.
   2. villageidiom Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:38 PM (#4635127)
I am going to play devil's advocate. I just want to make it clear that that's what I'm doing here. Pure hypothetical, nothing being alleged, no factual evidence being presented.

Let's say I'm a BBWAA member who covered the Astros during Bagwell's days. Maybe I covered them very closely, as an Astros beat writer. Maybe I was a beat writer for a divisional rival, and was in the Astros' locker room around Bagwell more than a dozen times a year. Whatever. I witnessed Bagwell, his locker, various locker-room conversations, etc. I didn't report the vast majority of these observations, because I don't work for friggin' TMZ.

Let's also say that my observations of Bagwell - pregame rituals, overheard conversations, whatever - were consistent with what I saw of (specifically) Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. They all took the same pills, or rubbed the same cream on the same part of their body N minutes before the game, or whatever. They all used the same code words to describe some medicine, code words they wouldn't explain to me. The other players I observed in that time, no code words, no pills, no cream. These are just examples but my hypothetical I'm trying to set up is this: in my job as a beat writer I have personally observed enough of Bagwell to strongly suspect him of illegal PED use.

If I am a good journalist I try to get a couple people independently to go on the record to confirm the code words, the cream, the pills, have to do with PEDs. I need to get more than "I strongly suspect", something more objective. Until I can, I have nothing to report, if I'm following rules of journalistic ethics.

Now Bagwell is retired and up for HoF election. And I have a HoF vote.

1. Should I report my recollection from his playing days? I'd think journalistic rules still apply, and reporting that I saw him use PEDs - when I don't have a multiple-sourced independent confirmation it was PEDs - is still a very bad thing.

2. Assuming I'm adhering to a "using illegal substances to gain a competitive advantage = poor character" standard for HoF voting*, and that I am actually applying that standard consistently for other candidates, should my suspicion carry any weight in my HoF voting? I'd think it would.

3. Were I not to vote for Bagwell because of my suspicion, should I tell people of my suspicion in order to defend or justify my vote? Again, as a journalist the answer is no. It's tantamount to reporting an accusation of PED use.

My point with this exercise was to suggest that it is possible for a BBWAA writer to have both (a) a level of suspicion from personal observation back in the day, of something far more substantial than "he hit the ball hard, at a time when PED use was prevalent" and (b) nothing I can report. It is possible for us as readers to observe an incongruity between what the writer has (not) reported and how the writer has (not) voted; an incongruity that appears to us as fueled by whispers and hypocrisy, but is actually the byproduct of personal observation and professional ethics. (And possibly bad journalism if they weren't even looking for independent confirmation back in the day.)

I'm interested in how y'all would answer the three questions above as I framed them.

* Not looking for a referendum on whether that's a good standard or not. We have 30 other threads where that has been discussed. Chances are I've already read your opinion on the matter. And since I'm playing devil's advocate here, making a case on behalf of a position I don't support, trying to convince me not to hold a standard I don't actually hold is a waste of my time and yours.
   3. Robert in Manhattan Beach Posted: January 09, 2014 at 06:48 PM (#4635135)
We teach our kids not to judge people based on how they look

That's simply throwing away a lot of valuable information. In absence of other sources, you could do a lot worse.

If people don't think the HOF has been turned into a joke

Where as before it was all serious business. I can only be a joke now if you took it too seriously before. It's a sideshow. It's a tourist trap.
   4. GEB4000 Posted: January 09, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4635144)
On a cumulative scale Bagwell's case is not a slam dunk. His overall career totals are not much different than Fred McGriff's. He only played in 4 All-Star games and won an MVP award. No extra credit for playoff performance. In a full season, he never lead the league in any triple crown stats. A typical BBWAA voter might see him as borderline. That might affect the voting more than any PEDs rumors.
   5. bunyon Posted: January 09, 2014 at 07:07 PM (#4635146)
I think your hypothetical is fine. Yes, of course, if I'm a journalist who KNOWS someone is a user but can't get a second source to publish AND I have vote AND I feel steroid users shouldn't be in the hall, then I should not vote for the player.

I think this is where it gets dicey for a journalist to be voting - that is, making the news. I think the no vote in the hypothetical is, essentially, accusing the player. If you can't do that in print (or on TV), then how is it okay to do so in the voting? That is, by becoming a voter, you lose that journalistic detachment.
   6. Publius Publicola Posted: January 09, 2014 at 07:09 PM (#4635149)
Pass.
   7. Walt Davis Posted: January 09, 2014 at 08:06 PM (#4635201)
vi,

the issues with your hypothetical are numerous ...

a) yes, a writer might have sufficient anecdotal, hearsay, vaguely overheard, wink-wink evidence to feel (with, say, at least 51% confidence) that Bagwell used yet was unable to report it at the time because he could not get evidence.

However, point 1:

b) at this point the reporter has to seriously question themselves whether they really know what is going on. What does the lack of corroboration tell them? Presumably such a journalist doing their job would have interviewed Caminiti about the matter. Presumably such a journalist would have interviewed the personal trainer Bagwell got involved with. Presumably such a journalist would have gotten confirmation (from Caminiti, from Canseco, from Grimsley, from the weightlifters at the gym) about the "secret code words."

c) Remember that the "journalistic level of proof" is already way, way, way below 50%. All it takes to publish the smear is a claim that, after months of digging, you have gotten two anonymous sources to verify that something is true (Sosa) -- balanced against who knows how many sources that denied it plus sources who refused to confirm it. You don't need to justify to the public that these sources have any idea what they're talking about ("sources familiar with", "sources who claim to have seen", etc.).

d) In short, if you can't get enough proof to publish, it either doesn't exist or you aren't trying.

point 2:

e) Only a minuscule proportion of the voters ever covered the Astros on a regular basis. Nobody got to view both Bagwell and McGwire on a regular basis. A voter might have legit reasons to suspect Bagwell but will not have that evidence to support their suspicion of Palmeiro or Sosa or Piazza.

f) These voters then take their absence of knowledge about Palmeiro, Sosa, Piazza, decide they were probably users and don't vote for them.

g) Meanwhile these same voters take their lack of knowledge about Thomas and McGriff and Maddux, decide they were most definitely not users and vote for them.

From the Morrissey article linked just above this one: "Mine happen to include whether I have even a sliver of suspicion a player might have used PEDs." A sliver of suspicion that a player might have used PEDs. ... not including greenies for no good reason. That is an impossible standard of evidence and only a fool doesn't have a sliver of suspicion that Maddux (much less Thomas) might have used PEDs.

And Morrissey ... He's worked in Chicago (Sun-Times or Trib) for the last 12 years -- he wasn't even there during Sosa's big peak. He would have been there when Thomas went from a 133 OPS+ from ages 30-34 to post an OPS+ of 146 with 42 HR at age 35. Not that there's anything wrong with that. Meanwhile he'd have observed Sosa follow a more common aging curve going from a 160 to a 133 to a 114 at age 35 with his HRs declining every year. Obviously it was Sosa who was the PED user.

Prior to Chicago he was at the Rocky Mountain News where he might have observed Walker but nobody else on the ballot. Before that he was in Charlotte where he would have observed nobody on a regular basis. Prior to that he was in Fort Wayne and I suppose he might have gotten up to Chicago sometimes.

Here's a quote from a Morrissey article from 2011: "The evidence against Clemens seems overwhelming." What more do you need to know about the standards of Morrissey? Or that's the oddest mis-spelling of "non-existent" I've ever seen. In that article he also cites Sosa's "impossible" rise to 60+ HR (despite having hit 40 in just 125 games 2 years before, ignored because the moron can't read a stat line) and his refusal to speak English in his entirely-in-English testimony.

So your hypothetical is, alas, just kind of meaningless. Even if such a writer with justified suspicions of Bagwell exists, there can't be more than maybe half a dozen of them. Your hypothetical has notihng to do with the much larger class of Morrissey-Chass morons. (Note, Murray has become the "Albert Belle" of writers. :-) Anybody who applies their standard of "evidence" "fairly" has no choice but to join the jackass who actually has refused to vote for anybody who played in the steroid era -- as long as that era is defined to not include Morris.

That said, no I don't think it's just the anti-roid votes keeping Bagwell and Piazza out. (We already have enough documentation that without anti-roid extremism, Biggio would have been over the line this year but that only requires 2 such voters.) Bagwell wasn't likely to be a 1st ballot guy regardless -- deserving of it but it would not be consistent with BBWAA history. Piazza always had a terrible defensive rep in the media, deserved or not. Combine that with the BBWAA's general under-rating of Cs and I didn't expect him to be first ballot. Obviously the Morrisseys of the world hurt their vote totals every year and possibly there are enough that they're responsible for keeping Piazza out this year.



   8. John Northey Posted: January 09, 2014 at 10:40 PM (#4635348)
Right now with the super-crowded ballot it isn't hard to avoid voting for someone if you are a writer who suspects (such as Bagwell, Biggio, Piazza to name a few with nothing more than a handful of rumours). The challenge is what to do whenever the ballot starts to get reasonable. Then things get a bit more dicey for these writers as then it becomes obvious they are avoiding certain players.

I think the 20% (roughly) who are voting for Bonds and Clemens have the right idea - if you are marginal or probably not making it without help (Sosa, Palmeiro, McGwire) then keep them off, but if you clearly were one of the best then put them in. I suspect once the ballot crowding is reduced we'll see a big uptick for Bonds/Clemens as I recall a few ballots saying they would've voted for them if not for the fact it felt useless (not at risk of falling off the ballot, not making it either) and they needed the slots for others who were close to making it (Biggio/Piazza) or close to 5% (Mussina was thought of that way as was Kent, McGriff, Sosa, Palmeiro, McGwire, Mattingly, and Walker - I think most felt Edgar & Trammell & Schilling were safe).
   9. villageidiom Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:07 PM (#4635366)
d) In short, if you can't get enough proof to publish, it either doesn't exist or you aren't trying.
I think many of the BBWAA members have already admitted the entire group did the latter.

   10. Ray K Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:25 PM (#4635374)
Jeff Bagwell freely admitted to taking Andro before it was banned. When given a chance, he denied taking steroids or HGH, but gave a "no comment" on amps.

I'm not saying there's fire there, but I can't totally blame some writers for reacting to the same smoke given off by known PED abusers. He's going to have a more difficult time getting in than Biggio or Piazza because of that.
   11. Bob Tufts Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:42 PM (#4635390)
Jeff Bagwell freely admitted to taking Andro


He took two substances which were legal at the time and sold over the counter (andro and creatine) and that is reason to somehow punish him? He also drove 60 mph on a stretch of highway where the current speed limit is 55. Hang him!

What is the appropriate point of consumption at which to get "justifiably" suspicious - Flintstone multi-vitamins, coQ-10, St John's Wort, extra strength Tylenol, sudafed, smokes pot, ......



   12. valuearbitrageur Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:45 PM (#4635392)
Jeff Bagwell freely admitted to taking Andro before it was banned. When given a chance, he denied taking steroids or HGH, but gave a "no comment" on amps.


Anyone who is a hard core weight lifter is taking supplements. In Bags case, he admitted to taking legal supplements, denied taking illegal PEDs, and said no comment to taking the same amps that powered the Willie Mays express and virtually every MLB player since Willies era.

Where is the smoke again?
   13. Ray (RDP) Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:47 PM (#4635394)
Jeff Bagwell freely admitted to taking Andro before it was banned. When given a chance, he denied taking steroids or HGH, but gave a "no comment" on amps.

I'm not saying there's fire there, but I can't totally blame some writers for reacting to the same smoke given off by known PED abusers. He's going to have a more difficult time getting in than Biggio or Piazza because of that.


Wouldn't the "no comment" on amps but strict denial on steroids and HGH suggest that he took amps but not steroids and HGH?

Not that I'm claiming we can read much from these comments but that's what it suggests to me. You seem to be going out of your way to draw the opposite inference, i.e., against him.
   14. Ray K Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:50 PM (#4635396)
Where is the smoke again?


Here:
In Bags case, he admitted to taking legal supplements, denied taking illegal PEDs, and said no comment to taking the same amps that powered the Willie Mays express and virtually every MLB player since Willies era.


Look, I'm not saying that Bags took PEDs. But what I am saying is that, to a sportswriter who is trying to weed out the cheaters from the non-cheaters, Bagwell is in more of a gray area than someone like Biggio or Piazza -- and it's reflected in his vote totals.
   15. Ray K Posted: January 09, 2014 at 11:53 PM (#4635397)
Wouldn't the "no comment" on amps but strict denial on steroids and HGH suggest that he took amps but not steroids and HGH?


Yes, that is correct.

Not that I'm claiming we can read much from these comments but that's what it suggests to me. You seem to be going out of your way to draw the opposite inference, i.e., against him.


No, but I'm saying that it's a much smaller step for writers to take that step than for other presumably clean players.
   16. Bob Tufts Posted: January 10, 2014 at 12:01 AM (#4635402)
But what about all of the stories about bowls of amps and hi-test coffee in every MLB clubhouse.....for everyone...that has been reported (which I never saw in numerous locker rooms)?

The numerous press stories about supposed widespread (almost universal) use and access to amps don't help substantiate any additional press stories that use of amps was a sign that players may have "moved on" and used illegal or banned PED's.
   17. MelOtt4 Posted: January 10, 2014 at 01:55 AM (#4635446)
In terms of PED suspicions what is the difference between Piazza and Bagwell? Bagwell dropped by nearly 5% this year and Piazza saw a voting increase.
   18. SoSH U at work Posted: January 10, 2014 at 02:04 AM (#4635447)
In terms of PED suspicions what is the difference between Piazza and Bagwell? Bagwell dropped by nearly 5% this year and Piazza saw a voting increase.


I doubt it had anything to do with PED suspicions. Bagwell dropped because most of the backlog dropped with the crowded ballot, other than the two perceived strongest backloggers, the guys with the strongest showings in their first year eligible.
   19. Oscar Geronimo Posted: January 10, 2014 at 04:08 AM (#4635460)
Man, these Bagwell threads remind me way too much of Lance Armstrong and Barry Bonds threads from 5 and 10 years ago.

You must be Registered and Logged In to post comments.

 

 

<< Back to main

BBTF Partner

Support BBTF

donate

Thanks to
Martin Hemner
for his generous support.

Bookmarks

You must be logged in to view your Bookmarks.

Hot Topics

NewsblogOTP Politics November 2014: Mets Deny Bias in Ticket Official’s Firing
(4242 - 3:05am, Nov 24)
Last: The Yankee Clapper

NewsblogOT: Monthly NBA Thread - November 2014
(1008 - 2:52am, Nov 24)
Last: Maxwn

NewsblogRed Sox trying for mega-free agent double play: Panda and Hanley - CBSSports.com
(78 - 2:48am, Nov 24)
Last: Jose Is The Most Absurd Thing on the Site

NewsblogKemp drawing interest, raising chance he's the Dodgers OF dealt - CBSSports.com
(30 - 1:16am, Nov 24)
Last: akrasian

NewsblogOT: Wrestling Thread November 2014
(57 - 12:31am, Nov 24)
Last: Rowland Office Supplies

NewsblogOT: NFL/NHL thread
(8650 - 11:54pm, Nov 23)
Last: Random Transaction Generator

NewsblogAstros interested in Robertson: source | New York Post
(18 - 11:31pm, Nov 23)
Last: RMc is a fine piece of cheese

NewsblogBraves shopping Justin Upton at a steep price | New York Post
(36 - 11:16pm, Nov 23)
Last: spike

NewsblogMatthews: Cashman sleeps on the street, says all is quiet on the free-agent front
(24 - 10:50pm, Nov 23)
Last: JE (Jason)

NewsblogPirates DFA Ike Davis, clear path for Pedro Alvarez - Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
(21 - 10:13pm, Nov 23)
Last: zonk

Hall of MeritMost Meritorious Player: 2014 Ballot
(10 - 9:09pm, Nov 23)
Last: MrC

NewsblogPablo Sandoval leaning toward Red Sox, to decide next week — Padres have highest offer, all offers on table (including SF Giants’) - John Shea
(32 - 9:04pm, Nov 23)
Last: the Hugh Jorgan returns

NewsblogMike Schmidt: Marlins' Stanton too rich too early? | www.palmbeachpost.com
(31 - 6:53pm, Nov 23)
Last: cardsfanboy

NewsblogOT:  Soccer (the Round, True Football), November 2014
(451 - 6:43pm, Nov 23)
Last: JuanGone..except1game

NewsblogCashman in wait-and-see mode on retooling Yanks | yankees.com
(22 - 6:14pm, Nov 23)
Last: ReggieThomasLives

Page rendered in 0.3994 seconds
52 querie(s) executed