Bagwell's near miss bodes well for Class of '17

Bagwell's near miss bodes well for Class of '17

HOUSTON -- Former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell fell just short in his bid to join long-time teammate Craig Biggio in getting inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame, coming within 15 votes of enshrinement after ballots cast by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America were revealed on Wednesday.

Bagwell, in his sixth year on the ballot, saw his name appear on 315 of the 440 ballots, putting him at 71.6 percent. Players must appear on 75 percent of the ballots to gain induction, but Bagwell's huge jump in support from the 55.7 percent of the vote he received in 2015 sets up well for him to make it in next year. Sixteen of the 17 players who cleared 70 percent in one year -- while falling short of 75 -- got in the Hall of Fame the next year. Only Jim Bunning, who received 74.2 percent in 1988, didn't make it on his next try.

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Bagwell was awaiting Wednesday's announcement at his home in Houston with his family and agent Barry Axelrod.

"The process has been the hardest part, waiting around all day," he said. "You wake up at 6 for the kids to get to school and you wait around and think about it the entire day.

"I tried not to think about it, but it's pretty hard not to. My standard line right now is Junior [Ken Griffey Jr.] was in a hot tub the entire day not worrying about anything because he knew he was going to get in. It's the other guys that were struggling.

"But it's all good. Things turned out well. We'll see what happens. Nothing is guaranteed, but I'm hopeful that next year will be my time and I'll be prepared for that kind of day, just trying to wait around and see."

Griffey (99.3 percent) and Mike Piazza (83 percent) were the only players elected this year. Griffey, who appeared on all but three ballots, surpassed previous record holder Tom Seaver, who was named on 98.8 percent of BBWAA ballots in 1992.

"Both very well deserving," Bagwell said. "Junior was a special player. He did it all and played defense and scored runs. ... Mike could hit, man. It was no joke. You did not want Mike Piazza up to bat at all when things counted, because he had so much power and could use the entire field. He's well-deserving and I'm happy for him."

Aside from Bagwell, other Astros improve chances

If anyone knows how Bagwell feels, it's Biggio, who fell 39 votes shy in 2013 and two votes shy in '14 before being elected last year in his third year on the ballot.

"I obviously feel his pain a little bit," Biggio said. "I was hoping his name was going to get called, and they said he was 15 votes shy, and obviously we were two votes shy that one year. I feel for him. He's absolutely a Hall of Famer and hopefully next year is the magical year."

Bagwell's substantial increase in support is a good sign. His voting totals had flattened out the previous four years after he appeared on 41.7 percent of the ballots in 2011, his first year of eligibility.

"He's making huge strides, and his total is going up and moving in the right direction, and hopefully next year is the year," said Biggio, who plans to be in Cooperstown in July to watch Griffey and Piazza to be inducted.

Bagwell, a career .297 hitter, was one of the most productive sluggers of his time, tallying 449 homers, 1,529 RBIs and 2,314 hits while recording a .948 OPS in 15 years with the Astros (1991-2005). He played in four All-Star Games, was the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year and 1994 NL Most Valuable Player, as well as being a great baserunner and Gold Glove winner.

Several other players with Astros ties received big bumps in 2016 Hall of Fame voting, including former pitchers Curt Schilling and Roger Clemens, both of whom played a bulk of their careers outside of the Bayou City. Schilling got 52.3 percent of the vote, and Clemens had 45.2 percent.

Jeff Kent, who played second base for the Astros from 2003-04, got 16.6 percent of the vote in his third year on the ballot. In his first year on the ballot, former Astros closer Billy Wagner got only 10.5 percent of the vote.

Former Astros catcher Brad Ausmus and pitcher Mike Hampton didn't receive any votes in their first and only appearances. Players must get at least 5 percent of the vote to remain on the ballot and can remain on the ballot 10 years.

Other players who spent time with the Astros who are in the Hall of Fame are pitchers Don Sutton, Nolan Ryan, Robin Roberts and Randy Johnson, second baseman Joe Morgan and Nellie Fox and third baseman Eddie Mathews.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.