After six years of falling short, 2017 is finally Jeff Bagwell’s year. The Baseball Hall of Fame has announced the class of 2017, and the former Houston Astros first baseman is part of it.
Here’s what you need to know about Jeff Bagwell.
1. A Degenerative Shoulder Cut Bagwell’s Career Short
Despite being forced to retire earlier than he wanted to because his right shoulder deteriorated to the point where he could no longer swing a bat or throw a ball, Bagwell still has credentials from his playing career that make him qualified to become a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame.
The 1991 National League Rookie of the Year and a four-time All Star, Bagwell also became the first member of the Houston Astros to be named the NL MVP in 1994. During his years in Houston, he led the Astros to six playoff berths, the 2005 NL pennant, and racked up personal accolades.
Bagwell retired with 2,314 hits, 1,529 runs batted in and 449 home runs. If not for the shoulder issues, there is little doubt that he would have become a member of the 500 home run club. Bagwell is in the top 15 all-time among first basemen in both home runs and RBIs. He ranks seventh all-time among first basemen in both walks and on-base percentage. Bagwell is ninth among first basemen all-time in slugging percentage and 10th in on-base plus slugging percentage.
2. Bagwell Was Part of One of the Most Lopsided Trades in Baseball History
Bagwell was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the fourth round in 1989, and signed with Boston out of the University of Hartford. Not even six months after signing with the Red Sox, Bagwell was traded to Houston for right-handed relief pitcher Larry Andersen.
Andersen was a journeyman reliever, playing for six different teams during his 17-year career. Andersen was never an All Star and BaseballReference.com estimates that he only made about $7.2 million during his 17-year career.
Bagwell played third base in Boston’s system, but was flipped across the diamond by the Astros. He made his major-league debut on April 8, 1991 at the age of 22 with Houston, and the rest is history.
3. Bagwell Has Been Accused of Using PEDs
Bagwell never failed any drug tests during his playing career, wasn’t named in the Mitchell Report, and there has been no eyewitness testimony to his usage of performance-enhancing drugs. Despite this, Bagwell deals with suspicion of PED usage, so much that he had to address the rumors publicly.
Those who suspect Bagwell of PED usage refer to the muscle mass he put on during his career. José Canseco, who is himself a former MLB player and author of the book Juiced, recently stated his belief that Bagwell used PEDs on Twitter.
Bagwell explains that he was consuming large amounts of raw protein and lifting heavily after his career in the majors began, and that’s the reason why he bulked up. Bagwell says that he regrets bulking up to the extent he did, because he thinks it attributed to the arthritis in his shoulder and therefore shortened his career.
4. Bagwell Got ‘Hand-sy’ at an Astros Game
In 2015, Bagwell resurfaced in the national media for publicly grabbing the breast of his current wife Rachel Brown Bagwell while seated behind home plate at an Astros game in Houston.
Brown became Bagwell’s wife in 2014, making herself Bagwell’s third wife. Bagwell’s first marriage was to Shaune Stauffer, who he married in 1992 and divorced in 1996. Bagwell then married Ericka Rodriguez in 1997 and had two daughters with Rodriguez, Blake and Bryce Bagwell. Bagwell also has three step-children with his current wife.
5. Bagwell is Still Worth Millions
Since retiring in 2006, the 48-year-old Bagwell has worked in various coaching/instructional roles with the Astros, which has allowed him to stay connected to the industry that made him a millionaire.
BaseballReference.com estimates that Bagwell made over $128.13 million during his 15 years in the majors, and his net worth today is an estimated $65 million.
Based on the public ballots available, the chances that 2017 would be Bagwell’s year looked good. Last year, he got 71.6 percent of the vote, putting him on the edge. Now that Bagwell’s election has been made official, the reward has been worth the wait.