The HOF Case for Craig Biggio

Original Post:  December 27, 2012

Will Craig Biggio be elected to the Baseball Hall-of-Fame is his first year on the ballot?

The eligible voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America have until December 31st to return their ballots.

The Hall-of-Fame Class of 2013 will be announced on January 9th.

Biggio is a member of the 3,000 hit club. Their are only 28 members.

With the exception of Pete Rose and Rafael Palmeiro, every one of the HOF-eligible players to reach 3,000 hits since the end of World War II, has been elected on the first ballot.

Craig Biggio is not among those with direct links to the use of performance enhancing drugs (PED), so, given recent voting history, he should be joining the Hall in 2013, right?

I’m not so sure he will…

I have no doubts about his credentials, but others do, and I’m not sure he’ll get the votes needed. Voters can name up to ten players on a ballot. To be elected, a player must be named on 75% of the ballots.

Why do some voters view Biggio as coming up short as a HOF candidate?

Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci is one of the nation’s best and most respected writers. He said he thinks the vote on Biggio will be close. And while praising Biggio’s strong 7-year peak production, exceptional baserunning and adept fielding at 2B, he noted “More than a third of his career hit total occurred in the eight years after he turned 33, when he batted .266 and posted a 95 OPS+.”

In his series for Newsday on the 2013 Baseball Hall-of-Fame candidates, Cody Derespina gives arguments for and against each candidate. In his “arguments against”, he wrote of Biggio’s 3,000 hits: “Is one accomplishment enough to merit election?” He went on to state “While Biggio was a prolific hitter, he was only a good player (no top 3 finishes in MVP voting) and he doesn’t have much else to commend him to the Hall.”

Whoa!

“..doesn’t have much else to commend him to the Hall” ?

Really?

Let’s take a look and see if that statement holds up.

Now, those who question Biggio’s Hall-of-Fame credentials appear to have two main points.

The first is that Biggio hung around too long to reach 3,000 hits. That he played past the point when he was a productive player. That he compiled a lot of numbers through perseverance, rather than production.

I can not argue the performance drop off. Biggio’s decline was significant, especially his last two seasons. And his career numbers suffered because of it.

The other main point brought up in questioning Biggio’s HOF credentials is his lack of production in the playoffs.

It’s true that Biggio really struggled in the postseason, especially in 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2001 when he was still in his early-to-mid 30’s and enjoying regular season success.

Three of the four years, the Astros were beaten by Atlanta. The Braves pitchers made things tough on both Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, with Biggio going 7-for-54.

Biggio fared better in 2004 and 2005 with a .286-.322-.407 line with 10-RBI in 26-games. But the overall trouble hitting in the postseason can’t be denied.

That said, there is a body of work by Craig Biggio that is compelling on the “plus” side.

Beyond his 7-All Star Games, 4-Gold Gloves and 5-Silver Slugger Awards, consider the following accomplishments:

image

**Credit – Fangraphs

***Credit – Fangraphs ranked Biggio #1, Baseball-Reference ranked him 2nd behind Larry Walker

****Credit – Bill James

Consider also where Craig Biggio ranks among Major League Baseball’s All-Time Leaders.

image

* Credit: Baseball-Reference

There are other factors to consider.

* Biggio played his entire career as a leadoff hitter in the lower-scoring National League.

* Played his first 12-seasons in the less than hitter-friendly Astrodome.

* Became 4-time Gold Glove 2B after move from behind the plate, but agreed to play CF to accommodate arrival of free agent 2B-Jeff Kent. Then, with no time to learn the position, Biggio moved to LF in mid-season of 2004 when Carlos Beltran was traded to the Astros.

* Character: Branch Rickey Award (1997), Hutch Award (2005), Heart & Hustle Award (2006), Roberto Clemente Award (2007)

Baseball Hall-of-Fame voters are given the following guidelines for evaluating the candidates.

“Voting shall be based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

With Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa on the ballot for the first time, much has been said and written about integrity, sportsmanship and character. All three players have been linked in one way or another to the use of performance enhancing drugs.

Just about every writer looking at the Hall-of-Fame candidates for the class of 2013 has expressed his or her own view on the steroid issue.

Many have expressed the view that they don’t want to sit in moral judgment on the issue.

The character issue is seen in a negative light.

What is disappointing is how little is being written about the positive aspects of character that enhance the credentials of some Hall-of-Fame candidates.

Most of the Hall-of-Fame discussions I’ve heard and articles I’ve read break down the candidates numbers, delving into stats new and old. But, scant attention is given to how the player represented the game and his team.

Craig Biggio played baseball with heart and passion and represented the game with honor, respect and class. He played hard every day and hustled to first on every ground ball hit.

Those attributes are important. I would like to see the writers give more consideration given to them in the evaluation process.

In Biggio’s case, the attributes highlighted, combined with his career accomplishments, make it clear.

Biggio’s 20-year career is Hall-of-Fame worthy. He’s earned his spot alongside the greatest players in Cooperstown.

Jeff Bagwell is deserving of election as well.

His candidacy has been hurt by suspicions of steroid use. There is no evidence of it. But, Bagwell (and Biggio, too) were teammates and close friends of the late Ken Caminiti, an admitted steroid user. And for some, that’s enough to withhold a vote in favor of Hall inclusion.

It is unfair.

Over the years, the New York Yankees have had a slew of admitted or suspected steroid users on their roster.

Does that mean every that Yankee teammate should be suspected of PED use?

Even Derek Jeter?

Of course not.

No one should be tainted on a guilt-by-association basis.

Hopefully, the voters will not choose to punish every player now coming up for election, based simply on having played during the “steroid era”.

Jack Morris should not be the only living Hall-of-Fame player being inducted next summer. (I’m pretty sure he’ll be elected.)

Biggio and Bagwell should be there, too. The long-time teammates were the Stockton & Malone of baseball —- representing the Houston Astros together with heart, grace and grit for a 15-year period.

It would be fitting to see them enter the Hall-of-Fame together in 2013.

Chuck Wilson
Connect

Chuck Wilson

Chuck Wilson is an award-winning host, interviewer and commentator. He was an original host on ESPN Radio and was with the network for close to 17-years. He is the Founder of Even Field.
Chuck Wilson
Connect
By |2016-12-05T15:57:33+00:00January 16th, 2014|Categories: Author: Chuck Wilson|Tags: , , |

Leave A Comment