Jeff Bagwell

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Jeff Bagwell
Jeffrey Bagwell 2.jpg
First baseman
Born: (1968-05-27) May 27, 1968 (age 45)
Boston, Massachusetts
Batted: Right Threw: Right
MLB debut
April 8, 1991 for the Houston Astros
Last MLB appearance
October 2, 2005 for the Houston Astros
Career statistics
Batting average .297
Hits 2,314
Home runs 449
Runs batted in 1,529
Teams
Career highlights and awards

Jeffrey Robert Bagwell (born May 27, 1968) is a former American professional baseball player and coach. He played his entire fifteen-year Major League Baseball career as a first baseman for the Houston Astros and was the 1994 National League Most Valuable Player and a four-time All-Star.

Early life[edit]

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, son of Janice and Robert Bagwell, Bagwell grew up in Killingworth, Connecticut. He graduated from Xavier High School, a private all-male Catholic school located in Middletown, Connecticut where he excelled at soccer as well as baseball. A versatile high school athlete, Bagwell lettered in basketball and set the school goal-scoring mark in soccer. In early 1999, Bagwell was honored by Xavier for his character and generosity. After high school he remained in Connecticut, attending the University of Hartford, where he played college baseball for the Hawks.

Playing career[edit]

Red Sox prospect[edit]

Bagwell was selected in the fourth round of the 1989 draft by the Boston Red Sox. On August 30, 1990 the Red Sox traded him to the Houston Astros for relief pitcher Larry Andersen to gear up for their playoff run.

The trade is now considered one of the most one-sided trades in baseball history; in 2002 ESPN's readers named it the second-worst trade in sports history, behind only the Red Sox trading Babe Ruth to the Yankees.[1] Although Andersen pitched well down the stretch in 1990 (allowing three runs in 22 innings of relief), and helped the Red Sox win the AL East division title on the last day of the season, Boston was swept in the American League Championship Series by Oakland. They then lost Andersen after the season when he was declared a free agent due to the second collusion settlement.

According to the Red Sox' then-general manager, Lou Gorman, the trade made sense at the time. In his 2005 autobiography, One Pitch from Glory, Gorman didn't think Bagwell could play third base– his position during most of his minor-league career. Bagwell had seen some time at first base, but he was blocked from that position by Mo Vaughn. He was also looking to strengthen the Red Sox' bullpen, and had been assured by MLB's player relations committee that Andersen would not be lost to new-look free agency.[2] The Red Sox also had a logjam at third base; Tim Naehring and Scott Cooper were actually ahead of Bagwell on the organization's depth chart at the position.[3]

Houston Astros[edit]

Bagwell blossomed in Houston, becoming one of the best players in Astros franchise history. Bagwell spent his entire fifteen-year career in a Houston uniform and, along with teammate Craig Biggio, was synonymous with the Astros throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s.

Bagwell's batting style was exaggerated and unusual; he stepped back with his front foot as he began his swing. Bagwell had a unique wide-open, crouched stance, which started in a low position with his knees bent, looking somewhat as if he were sitting on an invisible bench. Sliding his front foot backward, he would rise from his stance and swing.

Developed as a third baseman, he was shifted to first base during spring training because the Astros already had established third baseman Ken Caminiti. Debuting on opening day, Bagwell hit .294 with 15 home runs and 82 RBI, and led the 1991 Astros in several offensive categories, and was named the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year.

The best year in Bagwell's professional career was the strike-shortened 1994 season when he was unanimously named National League Most Valuable Player after batting .368 with 39 home runs, 116 runs batted in and 104 runs scored, in 400 at-bats. He set the record for the fewest plate appearances in a season with at least 100 runs and RBIs. Bagwell became the first National Leaguer to finish first or second in batting average, home runs, RBI, and runs scored since Willie Mays in 1955.[4] His .750 slugging percentage in 1994 ranks as the 11th best single-season mark in Major League history and was the highest by a National Leaguer since Rogers Hornsby in 1925. Bagwell's hand was broken by a pitch on August 10, but he became the fourth player in National League history to be unanimously voted the award. Bagwell was also the runner-up for the 1999 MVP, and was third in 1997.

Bagwell's batting stance made him vulnerable to inside pitches. His left hand was broken by pitches in 1993, 1994, and 1995. Rather than change his successful style, he began wearing a heavily-padded protective batting glove. Bagwell's stance also allowed him to shrink his strike zone and walk more often.

Bagwell had nine seasons with over 30 home runs, eight seasons with 100 or more RBI, and nine seasons with over 100 runs scored. In six consecutive years, from 1996 through 2001, he reached all three marks in every season. He drew at least 100 walks for seven straight seasons, and had six seasons with a .300 batting average.

Bagwell won a Gold Glove award in 1994 and compiled a career .993 fielding percentage. He also exhibited above-average speed and baserunning skills for a first baseman, stealing 202 bases over his career, including two seasons (1997, 1999) in which he stole at least 30 bases, and five seasons (1994, 1996–99) in which he stole at least 15. In 1997, he became the first full-time first baseman to steal 30 bases while hitting 30 home runs.[4] The only other infielders in major league history who had had multiple 30–30 seasons as of 2011 were Ian Kinsler, Alfonso Soriano, and Howard Johnson.[5]

Bagwell was a teammate of Craig Biggio for the entirety of his Major League career. While Derek Bell was on the team from 1995 to 1999, the trio was sometimes called "The Killer B's." The nickname also sometimes referred to Sean Berry and was later to include Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran.

In 2001, Bagwell signed a five-year extension with Houston. By 2005, Bagwell was the seventh highest-paid player in the sport, receiving $18 million in the fourth year of the deal.

Before a game against the Padres on August 27, 2002, Jeff met with an 11-year-old, bone cancer patient who asked Jeff to hit a home run for him. Bagwell told him, "I'm going to try, but I'm not Babe Ruth." In the fifth inning, he hit a pitch from Mike Bynum over the left field wall and pointed to the child in the stands as he rounded third base. Bagwell said, "I hit the home run, and he felt it was for him. I'm glad for that. It made it special."[6]

Health issues[edit]

Bagwell at bat for the Astros.

Shortly after the 2005 season began, a persistent arthritic condition in his shoulder sidelined him for what turned out to be three-quarters of the season. This same condition, which began to affect him in 2001, turned the former Gold Glove winner into a defensive liability at first base, forcing him to "push" the ball instead of throwing it. Teams began taking advantage of Bagwell's defensive weakness caused by the arthritic condition. As the condition worsened, Bagwell's offensive production suffered as well, and pressure mounted on the Astros' managers to bench the perennial All-Star. Although unable to throw, Bagwell was reactivated in September 2005 as a pinch hitter and played a symbolic role in the Astros' successful drive to capture the National League pennant. Bagwell was the Astros' designated hitter in the first two games of the World Series versus the Chicago White Sox, and a pinch hitter in the two games played in Houston.

On January 23, 2006, the Astros indicated that they would file a claim on an insurance policy on Bagwell's health, to collect approximately $15.6 million of the $17 million in salary Bagwell was owed for the 2006 season. Because of the language of the policy, the Astros could not release Bagwell without losing their settlement, nor could Bagwell take the field. The decision effectively eliminated Bagwell's chances of playing again in the Major Leagues.

Nonetheless, Bagwell still reported to spring training hoping he could contribute in some way during the upcoming 2006 campaign, and to test his own injured shoulder. Bagwell played several games with the Astros in spring training, batting .219 with two RBI. He never had to make any throws that were difficult enough to put notable stress on his shoulder, since the other infielders shifted toward him when they were playing. As expected, the Astros put him on the 15-day disabled list in late March. Bagwell said that he was only in good enough condition to play every several days, rather than every day.[7] Bagwell was paid the full amount of his contract, and that was never an issue. The Astros and the insurance company settled the claim the same day Bagwell announced his retirement.[8]

Retirement[edit]

AstrosRetired 5.PNG
Jeff Bagwell's number 5 was retired by the Houston Astros in 2007.
Bagwell poses with fans

The Astros declined to pick up the $18 million club option for 2007, instead buying Bagwell out for $7 million. Bagwell filed for free agency in November 2006 but announced his retirement one month later. Astros owner Drayton McLane and general manager Tim Purpura announced that Bagwell would remain in the Astros organization, in the player development department, as one of the assistants to the general manager.[9]

Bagwell made his first public appearance at Minute Maid Park since the end of his career on June 28, 2007, when he was pulled out of the Astros' dugout after the seventh inning by his former teammate and long-time friend Craig Biggio, who had just logged his 3000th career hit. Biggio wanted Bagwell to be with him "between the lines one more time" and to share the achievement and appreciation from the hometown Houston fans.

The Houston Astros retired his jersey on August 26, 2007, prior to the start of a game versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bagwell was the eighth player in Astros history to have his number retired.[10]

Jeff Bagwell became eligible for induction into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 2011. He received 242 votes, or 41.7 percent of total ballots cast; the threshold for entry is 75 percent.[11] In his second year on the ballot, Jeff Bagwell received 321 votes, or 56.0 percent of the ballots cast.[12] There is speculation that some baseball writers have refrained from voting for Bagwell on the unfounded assumption that he used performance-enhancing drugs, based on the era in which he played.[13]

Coaching career[edit]

On July 11, 2010, the Astros hired Bagwell to be their hitting coach, replacing Sean Berry. At the time of the switch the Astros had an NL-worst OBP (.295) and SLG (.348). At the end of the season, the Astros marginally improved but were still last in the league in OBP (.303) and SLG (.362).[14] Bagwell announced he would not return as hitting coach.[15]

Highlights[edit]

  • NL MVP: 1994
  • NL Rookie of the Year: 1991
  • NL All-Star: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999
  • Gold Glove Award (1B): 1994
  • ESPY – 1995, Best Baseball Player[16]
  • Silver Slugger Awards (1B): 1994, 1997, 1999
  • Hit for the cycle on June 18, 2001.
  • Houston Astros Career Leader in Home Runs (449), RBI (1,529), Walks (1,401), Runs Created (1,715), Sacrifice Flies (102) and Intentional Walks (155).
  • Holds Houston Astros single season records for Batting Average (.368 in 1994), On-base percentage (.454 in 1999), Slugging Percentage (.750 in 1994), OPS (1.201 in 1994), Runs (152 in 2000), Total Bases (363 in 2000), Home Runs (47 in 2000), Walks (149 in 1999), Times on Base (331 in 1999), Intentional Walks (27 in 1997) and At Bats per Home Run (10.3 in 1994)
  • Bagwell's best seasons took place in the pitcher-friendly Astrodome.
  • Baseball statistician Bill James, in his New Historical Baseball Abstract, listed Bagwell as the fourth best first baseman of all time.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "ESPN.com – Page2 – The List: Readers Pick Most Lopsided Trades". Espn.go.com. July 30, 2001. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  2. ^ Gorman, Lou (2005). One Pitch from Glory: A Decade of Running the Red Sox. Champaign, Illinois: Sports Publishing. ISBN 159670067X. 
  3. ^ http://proxy.espn.go.com/espn/page2/story?page=simmons/051122
  4. ^ a b "The Ballplayers – Jeff Bagwell". BaseballLibrary.com. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  5. ^ Wednesday (September 28, 2011). "Baseball Time in Arlington: The Penultimate Killing Of The Year". Bbtia.com. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  6. ^ Murphy, Michael (August 29, 2002). "A homer for Stephen". The Houston Chronicle. 
  7. ^ ESPN.com news services (March 26, 2006). "Bagwell acknowledges he might 'never play again'". ESPN.com. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  8. ^ Footer, Alyson (December 15, 2006). "Report: Astros settle insurance claim Team had been seeking relief over Bagwell's contract". MLB.com. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  9. ^ Footer, Alyson (November 11, 2006). "Bagwell files for free agency Astros set to keep former first baseman in some capacity". MLB.com. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  10. ^ Footer, Alyson (April 7, 2007). "Astros to retire Bagwell's No. 5 Legend surprised with news during pregame ceremony". MLB.com. Retrieved November 27, 2008. 
  11. ^ Bloom, Barry (January 5, 2010). "Cooperstown calls for Alomar, Blyleven". MLB.com. Retrieved January 5, 2011. 
  12. ^ Bloom, Barry (January 9, 2012). "Red Letter Day: Larkin elected to Hall of Fame". MLB.com. Retrieved January 9, 2012. 
  13. ^ Keri, Jonah (December 12, 2011). "What Do We Really Know About Ryan Braun?". grantland.com. Retrieved December 13, 2011. 
  14. ^ "2010 Houston Astros batting, pitching & fielding statistics". Baseball-reference.com. Retrieved September 21, 2013. 
  15. ^ "Jeff Bagwell not returning to Houston Astros as hitting coach". Sports.espn.go.com. October 23, 2010. Retrieved November 8, 2011. 
  16. ^ The 2007 ESPN Sports Almanac. ESPN Books. 2008. p. 529. ISBN 1-933060-38-7. 

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