He added 20 pounds that winter through intense weightlifting and a high-protein, low-fat that (heavy on egg whites, tuna, turkey and steak). Bagwell hit 108 dingers over the next three seasons, including a career-high 43 in 1997. His off-season regimen now includes not only Johnson's training but also creatine, the nutritional supplement, and the controversial testosterone-boosting androstenedione. "It may help your workout, but it doesn't help you hit home runs," he says.
Given where Bagwell plays his home games, the extra muscle comes in handy. "He'd probably have 350 home runs by now if he didn't play in the Astrodome," Biggio says of the team's domed stadium, where the fences are far back and the ball carries poorly. "When we're at home, he doesn't even think of hitting the ball out to right center. But when we get on the road, you can see that he can be power conscious that way." While Bagwell has only a handful more home runs on the road than at home in his career (128 to 121), he has hit only seven this year at the Astrodome, including only one to the opposite field.
At the break Bagwell was hitting .349 with runners in scoring position. Is there anything that Mr. Chamber of Commerce can't do? Well, yes. "Play hoops," Astros closer Billy Wagner says. "He's got no game. He played soccer in high school, so if the ball's on the ground, he's good at kicking it." There's this, too: Bagwell couldn't roust himself an endorsement deal if he tried—which he doesn't. Despite an MVP award, four All-Star Games, a better career on-base percentage than Rickey Henderson's and a better lifetime slugging percentage than Frank Robinson's, the guy is only slightly more recognizable than Thomas Pynchon.
"Houston," he explains. "It's a strange market for endorsements. Nobody on this team has a car deal. There are no sports bars in the city with an athlete's name on them. It's weird." After a pause he adds, "And we haven't done anything."
He means in October. In postseason games Bagwell's Astros are 1-6 and have scored a total of 13 runs. Bagwell went a combined 3 for 26 in the Division Series losses to the Atlanta Braves in 1997 and the Padres in 1998. Anxious the first time and unlucky the next—"I felt great, I just didn't get any hits," he says—he would love a third chance this season. There's reason to be encouraged: Dierker and Caminiti might be back by the end of this month, Alou by the end of August. And Bagwell is seemingly on his way to hitting 50 home runs, which might actually get him noticed. "Fifty home runs this year?" he says. "That's crazy. That's absolutely ridiculous."
Sure. It's as crazy as a self-made home run hitter who swings a stub of lumber while doing the limbo. Absolutely ridiculous.
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