HOUSTON -- When the 2016 Hall of Fame voting results were announced last January, former Astros slugger Jeff Bagwell admitted he had a hard time waiting to see if his name would be called because of the uncertainty of it all.
Bagwell, who's on the ballot for a seventh time this year, should be a little more at ease when the results of the 2017 Hall of Fame balloting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America are announced on Jan. 18. He appeared on 71.6 percent of the ballots last year, putting him on the cusp of being elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.
Sixteen of the 17 players that cleared 70 percent in one year -- while falling short of the 75 percent needed -- got in the Hall of Fame the next year, setting Bagwell up to join longtime teammate and 2015 inductee Craig Biggio as the only players in Cooperstown to play their whole careers in Houston. Only pitcher Jim Bunning, who received 74.2 percent in 1988, didn't make it on his next try.
Last year, Bagwell saw his name appear on 315 of the 440 ballots (71.6 percent). His support in 2016 jumped from 55.7 percent in 2015, which was the fifth straight year he was between 50 and 60 percent after getting 41.7 percent his first year on the ballot in 2011.
"Nothing is guaranteed, but I'm hopeful that next year will be my time and I'll be prepared for that kind of day," Bagwell said last January.
As far as 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.
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 received 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. 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 Roger Clemens, the Astros made it to the World Series for the first time in franchise history in 2005.
Brian McTaggart has covered the Astros since 2004, and for MLB.com since 2009. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter and listen to his podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.