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Bagwell Bags All the MVP Votes : Baseball: Astro first baseman wins award despite suffering a broken hand two days before strike began.

October 28, 1994|ROSS NEWHAN | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Jeff Bagwell, who appeared in only 110 games but produced statistics befitting a full season, was named unanimous winner of the National League's most-valuable-player award Thursday. Only Orlando Cepeda in 1967 and Mike Schmidt in 1980 had previously been elected unanimously.

The Houston Astro first baseman received all 28 first-place votes and 392 points from a committee of the Baseball Writers Assn. of America. Matt Williams, the San Francisco Giants' third baseman who led the major leagues in home runs with 43, received 201 points and finished second. Montreal Expo outfielder Moises Alou was third with 183.

In his fourth major league season, Bagwell, 26, dominated league statistics. He led in runs batted in with 116 (tops in the majors) and was second in batting average at .368, in home runs with 39, hits with 147, and on-base percentage. He was first in runs, total bases, extra-base hits and slugging percentage.

"I'm proud of what I did and a little worried about doing it again," Bagwell said in a conference call.

"People always said I was a guy who might hit 25 to 30 home runs. I hit 39. That's a little scary to me. I had 116 RBIs by Aug. 10. I feel I played as well as I can, which makes next year a real test for me. We're going to find out how good I really am."

Bagwell's season ended on Aug. 10 when a pitch thrown by Andy Benes of the San Diego Padres broke his left hand. The players went on strike two days later. It was suggested to Bagwell on Thursday that he might have the strike, partially, at least, to thank for the award, considering that Williams or Alou might eventually have surpassed the sidelined Bagwell statistically.

"I can see that point," Bagwell said. "On the other hand, I think I would have been well enough to play the last month and would have had the opportunity to improve upon my numbers and help the Astros win the division. Either way, I think I'd have come out a winner. People may say that the award doesn't mean as much because of the shorter season, but I'm not going to say that. I'm honored and grateful to win it."

The award netted Bagwell $100,000 in bonuses, but he is caught in the winter of uncertainty, unsure of what rules apply or how his $2.4-million salary of 1994 will multiply. Bagwell said he is interested only in getting back on the field.

"I want to get back out there and see if I can do this again," he said.

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