<
>

Biggio: Jeff Bagwell a Hall of Famer

KISSIMMEE, Fla. -- A week after Jeff Bagwell arrived in the Houston Astros' spring training camp and said he doesn't expect to get elected to the Hall of Fame, his longtime teammate, newly elected Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, stood in almost the same spot and said he disagrees.

"He's a Hall of Famer to me," Biggio said Monday of Bagwell, his teammate with Houston from 1991 through 2005. "I played next to that guy for 14, 15 years. He's a good friend. And you just look at what his numbers were offensively and defensively, the way that he played the game. He's a Hall of Famer to me.

"Just look at it," Biggio said. "As far as first basemen in the Hall of Fame, he's the only guy that has ever done 30 [homers]-30 [steals], not once, but he did it twice. And that's pretty impressive."

Biggio was elected to the Hall of Fame in January, in his third year on the ballot. However, Bagwell hasn't come close to election in his five years of eligibility. He has received more than 50 percent of the vote in four consecutive elections, including 55.7 percent this year, but remains more than 100 votes short of the 75 percent necessary for election.

"I don't expect to get in," Bagwell said last week, during a stint as a guest spring training instructor. "I'm just glad that Craig got in. It's about time. Three thousand hits, man. The only problem with that is I've got to go and watch four guys get into the Hall of Fame, and listen to them all talk in July."

It doesn't appear to be numbers that are keeping Bagwell out of the Hall. He's the only first baseman in history with 400 home runs and 200 stolen bases. He and Lou Gehrig are the only first basemen in modern history with 13 straight seasons with an OPS-Plus of 130 or better. And Bagwell, Gehrig and Jimmie Foxx are the only first basemen ever to run off six or more seasons in a row with at least 30 homers, 100 RBIs and 100 runs scored.

However, enough voters have said they suspect Bagwell of PED use, despite his consistent denials and no concrete evidence, that he has never received 60 percent of the vote. On Monday, Biggio defended Bagwell against those suspicions.

"He worked hard," said Biggio, who is at spring training as a special assistant to Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow. "He played hard. And he was never accused of anything. So he's a Hall of Famer to me."

Commissioner Rob Manfred last month told a group of ESPN.com reporters that he does not believe that Hall voters should withhold votes from players who are suspected of PED use despite a lack of definitive proof.

Asked what he would tell the Hall of Fame about how it should handle the PED era, Manfred said: "The only piece of advice that I'm comfortable giving is that I think that everyone should keep in mind the difference between players who tested positive and were disciplined on the one hand, and players where somebody has surmised that they did something on the other. And I think, based on what you read in the media, sometimes those lines get blurred. And I think it gets really important to keep that distinction in mind.

"I think it's unfair," Manfred then said, in answer to a follow-up question, "for people to surmise that Player A did X, Y or Z, absent a positive test, or proof that we produced in an investigation, or whatever. I just think it runs contrary to a very fundamental notion in our society, that you're innocent until somebody proves you're guilty."