Bagwell makes solid progress on Hall ballot

Bagwell makes solid progress on Hall ballot

HOUSTON -- Jeff Bagwell's date with the National Baseball Hall of Fame will have to wait.

Bagwell, the Astros' all-time leader in homers and RBIs, fell short of being elected to the Hall of Fame on Monday, garnering 56 percent of the vote on his second time on the ballot in voting by the Baseball Writers' Association of America.

Bagwell, who appeared on 41.7 percent of the ballots in his first year of eligibility last year, will need to reach 75 percent to get elected. Players can stay on the ballot for 15 years as long as they receive at least five percent of the vote.

Former Cincinnati Reds shortstop Barry Larkin (86 percent) was the only player elected by the BBWAA in 2012.

By not making the Hall of Fame this year, Bagwell possibly sets himself up to get inducted next year alongside long-time teammate Craig Biggio, who is among a star-studded group of players eligible to be elected for the first time in 2013. That list also includes Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling, Sammy Sosa and Mike Piazza.

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Six former Astros have reached the Hall of Fame, but none has worn an Astros cap: Nellie Fox, Eddie Mathews, Joe Morgan, Robin Roberts, Don Sutton and Nolan Ryan. The Astros will have to wait on a Hall of Famer they can call their own.

Bagwell, 43, last appeared in an Astros uniform during the 2005 World Series, the crowning achievement in a career that included the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1991 and the club's only NL Most Valuable Player Award three years later.

Bagwell paired up with Biggio for 15 seasons as charter members of the Killer B's and led the franchise from cellar-dwellers to multiple division championships, from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park. He helped rejuvenate baseball in Houston.

Bagwell made four All-Star Game appearances, had 2,314 hits, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs and six trips to the playoffs. He was forced to retire after a degenerative shoulder condition made it impossible for him to throw a baseball and nearly impossible to swing a bat.

He has remained close to the organization, serving as a special assistant to the general manager following his retirement, as well as interim hitting coach for the second half of 2010. He also provides occasional color analysis for the team's television broadcasts.

The trade that brought Bagwell to Houston more than 20 years ago is still considered one of the most lopsided in baseball history. The Astros acquired him as a Minor League third baseman from the Boston Red Sox in exchange for relief pitcher Larry Andersen at the non-waiver Trade Deadline in 1990.

With Ken Caminiti established at third base, the Astros shifted Bagwell across the diamond to first base. He was in the Opening Day lineup in 1991 and would be for 15 consecutive seasons. He hit .294 with 15 homers and 82 RBIs in 156 games in his rookie season, giving the Astros a sign of things to come.

He had blossomed into one of the most feared sluggers in the league by 1994, hitting .368 with 39 homers and 116 RBIs in only 110 games and winning his only Gold Glove en route to unanimously being named MVP in a strike-shortened season. Not that the work stoppage mattered to Bagwell, because his season ended Aug. 10, when he was hit by a pitch and broke his hand two days before the players went on strike.

Bagwell, who also missed the final 20 games of the 1993 season after being hit by a pitch on the hand and was on the disabled list for a month in '95 with his third such hand break, averaged 34 homers and 115 RBIs in his career and hit .297. He stole 202 career bases and was known for his terrific baserunning.

Bagwell drove in at least 100 runs in all but one season from 1996-2003 and slipped to 27 homers and 89 RBIs in '04, though he hit .286 with two homers and eight RBIs in the playoffs. Led by Bagwell, Biggio, Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Clemens, the star-studded Astros came within a game of the World Series.

The pain from his arthritic right shoulder forced Bagwell to undergo capsular release surgery on his shoulder in May 2005 and caused him to miss 115 games. He returned for the final few weeks of the regular season and served in a pinch-hit role because of the difficulty he had throwing a ball.

When the Astros beat the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 2005 NL Championship Series to clinch a spot in their first World Series, the image of long-suffering teammates Bagwell and Biggio hugging in the dugout was one of the most memorable moments of the season.

Bagwell served as designated hitter in the first two games of the World Series against the White Sox and wound up going 1-for-8 while the Astros lost in four games. He came to Spring Training in 2006 hoping to prove his shoulder had healed enough to allow him to play, but wound up going on the disabled before the regular season started and ultimately decided to retire later that year at age 38.

Brian McTaggart is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.