WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Could former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell soon join longtime teammate Craig Biggio in the National Baseball Hall of Fame?
Bagwell is back on the ballot for a sixth time after appearing on 55.7 percent of the ballots released earlier this year in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America, falling shy of the 75 percent needed to be elected. Former Mets catcher Mike Piazza (69.9 percent), Bagwell and former Expos outfielder Tim Raines (55 percent) are the only players back on the ballot who were named on more than half the ballots for the 2015 class.
Outfielder Ken Griffey Jr.; right-hander Trevor Hoffman and infielders David Eckstein, Troy Glaus and Mike Lowell join 17 holdovers from the 2015 balloting in which Biggio, pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz were elected to the Hall of Fame -- the first time in 60 years that as many as four players were elected in the same year.
Bagwell is one of seven former Astros on the ballot, joining Brad Ausmus, Roger Clemens, Mike Hampton, Jeff Kent, Curt Schilling and Billy Wagner.
Results of the election will be announced Jan. 6, 2016.
As far as the numbers go, Bagwell is among the best first basemen ever to play the game. He hit .297 in his 15-year career in Houston (1991-2005) with 2,314 hits, 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs, 1,517 runs scored and a .408 on-base percentage. He was the 1991 National League Rookie the Year, 1994 Most Valuable Player, and his 79.6 WAR ranks seventh among first basemen all time.
The good news for Bagwell is every player who received at least 50 percent of the vote has eventually been elected except for Jack Morris and Gil Hodges. But Bagwell will have only four years remaining on the ballot after a recent rule change dropped the amount of years a player can remain on the ballot to 10 from 15 years.
After getting 41.7 percent of the vote his first time on the ballot in 2011, Bagwell's numbers have fluctuated -- 56.0 percent in '12, 59.6 percent in '13, 54.3 percent in '14 and 55.7 percent in '15.
Bagwell, who retired following the 2005 season because of a degenerative shoulder condition, last appeared in an Astros uniform during the 2005 World Series, the crowning achievement in a career in which he helped the Astros reach the postseason six times. The early end to his career kept him from hitting 500 home runs, which almost certainly would have punched his ticket to the Hall.
Bagwell's case for Hall of Fame consideration goes beyond numbers and awards. He was one of the smartest players in the game and a tremendous baserunner, as well as a good defensive player. He won a Gold Glove Award in '94.
The Astros acquired Bagwell in 1990 in what will forever be remembered as one of the most lopsided trades in history. Houston got Bagwell, a skinny Minor League third baseman, from the Red Sox in exchange for relief pitcher Larry Andersen.
Bagwell drove in at least 100 runs in all but one season from 1996-2003, and he slipped to 27 homers and 89 RBIs in '04, though Bagwell hit .286 with two homers and eight RBIs in the postseason. Led by Bagwell, Biggio, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Clemens, the Astros made it to the World Series for the first time in franchise history in 2005.