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Jeffrey Robert Bagwell (born May 27, 1968) is a former Major League Baseball first baseman, who spent his entire major league career with the Houston Astros. After retirement as a player, he remains with the Astros as an assistant to the General Manager.

Early life

Born in Hanover, Massachusettsmarker, Bagwell grew up in Killingworth, Connecticutmarker. He graduated from Xavier High Schoolmarker, a private all-male Catholic school located in Middletown, Connecticutmarker, where he excelled at soccer as well as baseball. A versatile high school athlete, Bagwell lettered in basketball and set the school goal-scoring mark in soccer. In early 1999, Bagwell was honored by Xavier for his character and generosity. After high school he remained in Connecticut, attending the University of Hartfordmarker.

Playing career

Red Sox prospect

Bagwell was selected in the fourth round of the draft by the Boston Red Sox. On August 30, the Red Sox traded him to the Houston Astros for 36-year old relief pitcher Larry Andersen to gear up for their playoff run.

That trade may have been one of the most one-sided of all time. Although Andersen pitched well down the stretch in 1990 (allowing three runs in 22 innings of relief), and helped the Red Sox win the AL East division title on the last day of the season, Boston was swept in the American League Championship Series and then lost Andersen to free agency (in part because of a collusion settlement).

At the time, however, the trade appeared to make some sense from the Red Sox' perspective. Although Bagwell was considered a top prospect, he was blocked from third base by veteran Wade Boggs. He also had to contend with two other top prospects at the position, Scott Cooper and Tim Naehring.

Houston Astros

Bagwell at bat for the Astros
Bagwell blossomed in Houston, becoming one of the best players in Astros franchise history. Bagwell spent his 15-year career in a Houston uniform and, along with teammate Craig Biggio, was synonymous with the Astros throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s.

Bagwell hit and threw right-handed. His batting style was exaggerated and unusual; he actually stepped back with his front foot as he began his swing. Bagwell had a unique wide-open, crouched stance, which started in a low position with his knees bent, looking somewhat as if he were sitting on an invisible bench. Sliding his front foot backward, he would rise from his stance and swing.

Developed as a third baseman, he was shifted to first base during spring training because the Astros already had an established third baseman, Ken Caminiti. Debuting on opening day, Bagwell hit .294 with 15 home runs and 82 RBI, and led the Astros in several offensive categories, and was named the 1991 National League Rookie of the Year.

The best year in Bagwell's professional career was the strike-shortened season when he was unanimously named National League Most Valuable Player after batting .368 with 39 home runs, 116 runs batted in and 104 runs scored, in just 400 at-bats. He became the first National Leaguer to finish first or second in batting average, home runs, RBI, and runs scored since Willie Mays in . His .750 slugging percentage in 1994 ranks as the 11th best single-season mark in Major League history and was the highest by a National Leaguer since Rogers Hornsby in 1925. Bagwell's hand was broken by a pitch on August 10, just before the players' strike began; had the season continued, he would likely have missed the remainder of the year and might not have won the MVP. But because of the timing of his "lucky break," Bagwell became just the fourth player in National League history to win the award unanimously. Bagwell was also the runner-up for the MVP, and was third in .

Bagwell's unique stance made him vulnerable to inside pitches. His left hand was broken by pitches in 1993, 1994, and . But rather than change his successful style, he began wearing a heavily-padded protective batting glove. Bagwell's stance also allowed him to shrink his strike zone and walk more often.

Bagwell had nine seasons with over 30 home runs, eight seasons with 100 or more RBI, and nine seasons with over 100 runs scored. In six consecutive years, from through , he reached all three marks in every season. He drew at least 100 walks for seven straight seasons, and had six seasons with a .300 batting average.

Bagwell was also considered a strong fielder, winning a Gold Glove award in 1994, and compiling a career .993 fielding percentage. He also exhibited above-average speed and baserunning skills for a first baseman, stealing 202 bases over his career, including two seasons (1997, 1999) in which he stole at least 30 bases, and five seasons (1994, 1996-99) in which he stole at least 15. In 1997, he became the first full-time first baseman to steal 30 bases while hitting 30 home runs.

Bagwell was teammates with Craig Biggio for the entirety of his Major League career. While Derek Bell was on the team from 1995–1999, the trio was sometimes called "The Killer B's." The nickname also sometimes referred to Sean Berry and was later to include Lance Berkman and Carlos Beltran.

In 2001, Bagwell signed a five-year extension with Houston. By , Bagwell was the seventh highest-paid player in the sport, receiving $18 million in the fourth year of the deal. However, shortly after the 2005 season began, a persistent arthritic condition in his shoulder sidelined him for what turned out to be three-quarters of the season. This same condition, which began to affect him in 2001, turned the former Golden Glove winner into a defensive liability at first base, forcing him to "push" the ball instead of throwing it. Teams began taking advantage of Bagwell's defensive weakness caused by the arthritic condition. As the condition worsened, Bagwell's offensive production suffered as well, and pressure mounted on the Astros' managers to bench the perennial All-Star. Although unable to throw, Bagwell was reactivated in September 2005 as a pinch hitter and played a small but symbolic role in the Astros' successful drive to capture the National League pennant. Bagwell was the Astros' designated hitter in the first two games of the World Series versus the Chicago White Sox, and a pinch hitter in the two games played in Houston.

Health issues

On January 23, , the Astros indicated that they would file a claim on an insurance policy on Bagwell's health, to collect approximately $15.6 million of the $17 million in salary Bagwell was owed for the 2006 season. Because of the language of the policy, the Astros could not release Bagwell without losing their settlement, nor could Bagwell take the field. The decision effectively eliminated Bagwell's chances of playing again in the Major Leagues.

Nonetheless, Bagwell still reported to spring training hoping he could contribute in some way during the upcoming 2006 campaign, and to test his own injured shoulder. He wanted his play to determine his status, not the particulars of the Astros' insurance policy. Bagwell played several games with the Astros in spring training, batting .219 with two RBI. He never had to make any throws that were difficult enough to put notable stress on his shoulder, since the other infielders shifted toward him when they were playing. As expected, the Astros put him on the 15-day disabled list in late March. Bagwell said that he was only in good enough condition to play every several days, rather than every day. Bagwell was paid the full amount of his contract, and that was never at issue. The Astros and the insurance company settled the claim the same day Bagwell announced his retirement.

Retirement

The Astros declined to pick up the $18 million club option for , instead buying Bagwell out for $7 million. Bagwell filed for free agency in November 2006 but announced his retirement one month later. Astros owner Drayton McLane and general manager Tim Purpura announced that Bagwell would remain in the Astros organization, in the player development department, as one of the Assistants to the General Manager.

Bagwell made his first public appearance at Minute Maid Park since the end of his career on June 28, 2007, when he was pulled out of the Astros dugout after the 7th inning by his former teammate and long-time friend Craig Biggio, who had just logged his 3000th career hit. Biggio wanted Bagwell to be with him "between the lines one more time" and to share the achievement and appreciation from the hometown Houston fans.

Jeff Bagwell will be eligible for election into the Baseball Hall of Famemarker in 2011 (after the 2010 MLB season).

Number retirement

The Houston Astros retired his number 5 jersey on August 26, 2007, prior to the start of a game versus the Pittsburgh Pirates. Bagwell was the eighth player in Astros history to have his number retired. Most recently, Jimmy Wynn's No. 24 was retired in 2005.

Career statistics

Jeff Bagwell career statistics
G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB OBP SLG AVG HBP
1991 156 554 79 163 26 4 15 82 75 116 7 .387 .437 .294 13
1992 162 586 87 160 34 6 18 96 84 97 10 .368 .444 .273 12
1993 142 535 76 171 37 4 20 88 62 73 13 .388 .516 .320 3
1994 110 400 104 147 32 2 39 116 65 65 15 .451 .750 .368 4
1995 114 448 88 130 29 0 21 87 79 102 12 .399 .496 .290 6
1996 162 568 111 179 48 2 31 120 135 114 21 .451 .570 .315 10
1997 162 566 109 162 40 2 43 135 127 122 31 .425 .592 .286 16
1998 147 540 124 164 33 1 34 111 109 90 19 .424 .557 .304 7
1999 162 562 143 171 35 0 42 126 149 127 30 .454 .591 .304 11
2000 159 590 152 183 37 1 47 132 107 116 9 .424 .615 .310 15
2001 161 600 126 173 43 4 39 130 106 135 11 .397 .568 .288 6
2002 158 571 94 166 33 2 31 98 101 130 7 .401 .518 .291 10
2003 160 605 109 168 28 2 39 100 88 119 11 .373 .524 .278 6
2004 156 572 104 152 29 2 27 89 96 131 6 .377 .465 .266 8
2005 39 100 11 25 4 0 3 19 18 21 0 .358 .380 .250 1
Career 2150 7797 1517 2314 488 32 449 1529 1401 1558 202 .408 .540 .297 128


Highlights

  • NL MVP: 1994
  • NL Rookie of the Year: 1991
  • NL All-Star: 1994, 1996, 1997, 1999
  • Gold Glove Award (1B): 1994
  • Silver Slugger Awards (1B): 1994, 1997, 1999
  • Houston Astros Career Leader in Home Runs (449), RBI (1,529), Walks (1,401), Runs Created (1,715), Sacrifice Flies (102) and Intentional Walks (155).
  • Holds Houston Astros single season records for Batting Average (.368 in 1994), On-base percentage (.454 in 1999), Slugging Percentage (.750 in 1994), OPS (1.201 in 1994), Runs (152 in 2000), Total Bases (363 in 2000), Home Runs (47 in 2000), Walks (149 in 1999), Times on Base (331 in 1999), Intentional Walks (27 in 1997) and At Bats per Home Run (10.3 in 1994)
  • Bagwell's best seasons took place in the pitcher-friendly Astrodomemarker.
  • Baseball statistician Bill James, in his New Historical Baseball Abstract, listed Bagwell as the fourth best first baseman of all time.


Family

Bagwell and his wife, Ericka, make their off-season home in Houston with their two daughters: Bryce Alycia (born January 11, 2001) and Blake Alexia (born December 23, 2002)

See also



References

  1. Jeff Bagweel: Bio, Photos and Highlights


External links


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