The Bagwell train suffered a major derailment last year. Through May 31 he was hitting only .183. "I'd get in the batter's box, and I'd have no idea what I was doing," he says. "The bases would be loaded, and I'd be up there thinking, What do I do here? My hands were all wrong, my feet were messed up. Then self-doubt came in. I started thinking, Maybe I'm not as good as last year. Then I was in big trouble. It's amazing. I first started swinging a bat when I was three years old and I've been playing 25 years, and sometimes I feel like I've never played before. How is that? Michael Jordan has a bad game and scores 28. He's always good. But in baseball, you can go 4 for 4 one day, and the next day you're awful. This game, you deal with failure all the time. You have to be a pretty strong person to do that."
Last year made Bagwell stronger. He had never been through a slump like that, and even though he finished with decent numbers (he hit .290, with 21 homers and 87 RBIs in 114 games), he says, "It looks O.K. on paper, but it was ugly." One big reason for his poor performance: He was going through a divorce that one teammate says "tore him up mentally."
"It wasn't like I was thinking about the divorce every time I went to the plate," he says, "but when I get to the park at 3 o'clock every day, I want to have an idea of what I need to do. And I wasn't doing that. I was thinking about everything else until finally, one day in June, I just said, That's it—I'm going out and having fun now."
Having regained his focus, Bagwell drove in 31 runs last July. On July 30, though, he was hit by a pitch and broke his left hand for the third year in a row. He would miss the entire month of August. He hit .313 with five home runs and 21 RBIs from Sept. 1 on, but the Astros still finished one game behind the Rockies in the race for the wild-card playoff spot. "It was a very emotional year for me," says Bagwell. "Up and down, up and down. But I learned a lot about myself. After last year, I know now I can deal with anything."
Still, he doesn't want to hear any talk of the Triple Crown. "I could never imagine myself doing that," he says. "All that matters to me are the RBIs. This park [the Astrodome] would not allow me to hit enough homers, plus I'm not a home run hitter. The only way I could win the home run title is if the whole league is down—and it's not."
Rockie Horror Show
The Rockies must be the Jekyll and Hyde team of all time. At home they hit like the '27 Yankees—actually, they hit better than that. Through Sunday, Colorado was averaging 8.1 runs per game this season at Coors Field; the '27 Yankees averaged 6.3 at Yankee Stadium. But on the road Colorado is the second-worst-hitting team in the league (.221), averaging only 3.9 runs per game. Consequently the Rockies are 17-11 at home, but only 12-19 on the road.
Consider last week's performance: The Rockies went 2-5 on a trip through Pittsburgh and Houston, losing to such immortals as the Pirates' Matt Ruebel and the Astros' Donne Wall, both of whom were only recently called up from the minors. Then the Rockies returned home to face Atlanta's Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and John Smoltz. What happened? They torched Maddux for seven earned runs in 3? innings of a 19-8 victory last Friday. Then they clobbered Glavine for seven earned runs in five innings of a 13-12 win on Saturday before Smoltz finally contained them in an 8-3 Braves win on Sunday.
Obviously, the high altitude in Denver partially explains this home-road phenomenon, but it's more than that. At Coors the Rockies hit the ball to all fields, but on the road they just try to pull the ball. As they stagger along in last place with a sub-.500 record, 5� games behind the first-place Padres in the National League West at week's end, it's time for Colorado general manager Bob Gebhard to reevaluate his club. The Rockies fully expected to slug their way to the playoffs this year, so they acquired no pitching help in the off-season, despite question marks about their top two starters, Bret Saberhagen (who underwent season-ending shoulder surgery on May 28) and Bill Swift (who, at week's end, had pitched only once, ineffectively, all season). It was a gamble that wasn't paying off even before centerfielder Larry Walker broke his left collarbone on Sunday. The Padres and the Dodgers, their National League West rivals, have significantly better pitching. Colorado can't beat those two teams until it beefs up its own staff.