It was considered one of the most lopsided trades in baseball history.
In 1990, the Boston Red Sox were looking for bullpen help and found it in the likes of Houston Astros right-hander Larry Anderson. A deal was then made. In return, the Astros acquired a minor league third baseman named Jeff Bagwell.
Fast forward to today and Bagwell is part of the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2017. He will be inducted along with former Rangers catcher Ivan Rodriguez and Montreal Expos outfielder Tim Raines. Retired Kansas City Royals and Atlanta Braves executive John Shuerholz and former commissioner Bud Selig will join them after being elected by a veterans committee.
After arriving on the scene in Houston, Bagwell made the transition to first base and played his entire 15-year career with the Astros. The slugger took the baseball world by storm, winning the N.L. Rookie of the Year in 1991 and then the N.L. MVP in 1994. Bagwell was part of the Astros’ lineup that formed the famed “Killer B’s” along with fellow Hall of Famer Craig Biggio Sean Berry and Derek Bell. Lance Berkman was added later to the mix.
While Biggio is considered the face of the Astros franchise, Bagwell was just as important. He’s the only player in MLB history to achieve six consecutive seasons with 30 home runs, 100 RBI, 100 runs scored and 100 walks. Bagwell is also just the fifth player to achieve 300 home runs, 1,000 RBI and 1,000 runs scored in his first 10 seasons.
But wait, there’s more.
Bagwell is a four-time All-Star and three-time Silver Slugger Award winner to go along with that MVP and Rookie of the Year awards. He was also a Gold Glove winner in 1994 and is the only first baseman to achieve the 30-30 club more than once.
He is considered one of the best of all-time at his position. Keep in mind, Bagwell spent the early part of his career hitting in the Astrodome, which wasn’t exactly home-run friendly. If the strike hadn’t shorted the 1994 season, he might have put up some monster numbers that year.
Not a bad resume. In fact, you can now officially say it’s a Hall of Fame resume.
We can talk numbers all day but Bagwell is also well-known for his unorthodox batting stance. It basically defined logic as a hitter. Bagwell would crouch low at the plate but instead of striding forward towards the ball, he would bring his front foot in and lean back before swinging.
Hey, it was productive so if it’s not broke, why fix it? The stance was unconventional but it worked, which is why no hitting coach was going to mess with it. Bagwell would tinker with things here and there himself but nothing major.
A stellar career came to an end quicker than expected. Shortly after the beginning of the 2005 season, Bagwell started dealing with a chronic arthritic condition that actually began six years earlier. The issue caused Bagwell to miss three-quarters of the season. His last official major league plate appearance was in Game 4 of the 2005 World Series against the Chicago White Sox, which was a groundout. The Astros would lose the World Series in a sweep at the hands of the White Sox. A comeback attempt fell short the following season and Bagwell would later announce his retirement.
Bagwell was eligible for the Hall of Fame for the first time in 2011. There was speculation of performing-enhancing drugs since he played during the time that was considered “the steroid era.” However, no concrete evidence was ever found that would implicate Bagwell. He finally made it into the Hall in his seventh year of eligibility.
The No. 5 jersey was officially retired by the Astros in 2007. During that ceremony, Hall of Fame outfielder Carl Yastrzemski delivered a special message to Bagwell, saying “I begged the Red Sox not to trade you when you were in the minors with us. Boston’s loss was Houston’s gain. See you in Cooperstown.”