January 26, 2006
Not really much to say about the Jeff Bagwell saga, in which the team is attempting to claim he's physically unable to play in 2006 and thus claim over 90% of the $17 million salary he's owed from their insurance carrier. Bagwell, of course, insists he's fine and will report to spring training to try to win his starting job back. The Astros' stance makes perfect financial sense. Even a healthy Bagwell would be unlikely to be worth $17 million this season. That's a sum that was given to him for past performance, not for genuine market value. Bagwell, like most athletes, isn't ready to let go. Why should he be? He wants to leave on his terms, and his injury-marred 2005 wasn't what he had in mind.
I'm sorry this has soured Bagwell's relationship with the team, but at least so far no one has said anything that can't be forgotten about. There's no other solution that I can think of to this that doesn't involve Bagwell agreeing to take less money this year, and as he's perfectly within his rights to demand that the Stros live up to what they contracted for, I don't see that happening. You're stuck with each other, fellas, so make the best of it. Far as I can tell, that's Bagwell being healthy enough to be at least a positive contributor. Don't know how likely that is, but good luck with it.
Posted by Charles Kuffner on January 26, 2006 to Baseball
I've grown up with Bagwell as my #1 favorite baseball player. I was actually at the Padres game in his MVP year of '94 where he got his hand/wrist broken (ended up being the second-to-last game of that strike-shortened season). I don't know if I've ever been so mad at another team in all my life.
The only thing that could work is like you said -- negotiating his contract to half it's size, and then maybe including lots of bonus incentives for performance. It's frustrating to think that the 'Stros might end up losing that one more big stick they need -- or, if Clemens doesn't return, that one other starter -- b/c they have to pay Bagwell so much money. Pulls on team loyalty a lot.
The problem is, he's untradeable because he's only good as an AL DH. I don't like it when my favorite players have to hit the road, either, but it's a Wilson-Lane-Taveres outfield, with Lance moving to first.
Bagwell was good, but not great; never quite as good his billings. He choked most of the time that it mattered.
His retirement brings to mind the retirement of my own childhood baseball idol, Mickey Mantle. The Phe-nom, as Casey Stengle called him, was a class act even when he retired. When his lifetime batting average dipped below .300, he figured his usefulness to the club had seriously waned, and he retired. Mick was legendary for playing with painful injuries, but Bagwell's are far more debilitating. If Mantle had not retired, he could have played for half a decade or longer and still be better than Bagwell is today.
If Bagwell wanted a class act to emulate, he would emulate the Mick and retire right now. He's no good to anyone anymore. He's got, what, $150 million for drowning out his sorrows? The Mick left with a restaurant. I'd say Bagwell has no complaints.
I can see both positions and as much as I want the Astros to do well, I think the Astros should let Jaff Bagwell go out on his own terms. Much has been made about loyalty. Bagwell has been loyal to the Astros and the Astros have been loyal to Bagwell. I see no reason to stop now.
Let Jeff try to come back. It's not about the money for him - he gets paid either way. Its about desire. He wants to be a part of this team. He wants to play baseball.
I can't imagine what it would be like to have someone tell you that you can't play a game you love anymore so they can collect on an insurance policy. As a fan I'm willing to give him a shot even if it means that money isn't available for "improving the team". That's a nebulous what if. Jeff deserves better. He's earned it.
I just read an ESPN article that Bagwell can't renegotiate his contract downward -- some longstanding union rules won't allow it.