by John Furgele
I feel bad for Craig Biggio, the man missed going into the Hall of Fame by one or two votes, getting an agonizing 74.8 percent of the vote. The BBWAA states that 75 percent is the magic number and the former Astro was right there, but I suppose there has to be a cutoff number of some sort. The BBWAA are a peculiar bunch and because their human beings, they will remain peculiar. Some vote for 10 players each year, some vote for none. Others vote for the alleged steroid users, others won’t and will continue not to do so.
As for Biggio, simply, he is not a Hall of Fame baseball player. The reason 74.8 percent of voters think so is because he collected 3,060 hits in a 20 year career. That number, much like 300 wins or 500 home runs is considered a magical milestone, a barrier which automatically qualifies one for induction. I never understood why that is? If Biggio had 2,960 hits, he wouldn’t even come close, but voters feel that he had to be great to get over 3,000.
When it comes to the Hall of Fame—in any sport—I am a hard marker. I’ve always believed that if it takes you more than five seconds of thinking about a particular player, then he shouldn’t be on your ballot. Take Greg Maddux, for me, it took less than one second to say yes. The man dominated, his numbers say so as do his individual seasons. Take Tom Glavine. It took me about 3 seconds to say yes to him. He won 305 games, but he had dominant seasons, won Cy Young Awards and a World Series MVP in 1995. Take Frank Thomas. For some reason, Thomas says he never took steroids and everybody—including myself—believes him. There are no traces that he did, no mention of him on the Mitchell Report and when he spoke to Congress, he was the one that most believed was telling the truth. He also had dominant seasons, a two time MVP, and even as an old man, had a 39 homer, 114 RBI season with the Oakland A’s in 2006, a year that the A’s made it to the American League Championship Series.
With the Hall of Fame, you have to dominate or have dominant years for inclusion. Some say that Kirby Puckett shouldn’t be in, but to me, they’re wrong. Puckett had a .318 career batting average, extraordinary for a right handed hitter, better than Roberto Clemente and a host of others. The .318 is a dominant statistic, and that puts him in. Add to the fact that he had 2300 plus hits in just 12 seasons, 207 home runs and was a dominant defensive player with numerous Gold Gloves puts him over the top.
Biggio will get into the Hall of Fame, perhaps next year, but he shouldn’t. He should be the first case of the writers ignoring the automatic number. Biggio never was a dominant player. He was a great player, a very great player, and to exclude him from the Hall of Fame does not take away from his greatness. Many think stating a player is not a Hall of Famer is a knock or an insult. In many ways, keeping a Jack Morris or a Craig Biggio out of the hall is similar to the team that loses the Super Bowl. Rather than celebrate the runner up as a conference champion, we critique why they failed to win the Big Game. Look at the Buffalo Bills. They won four consecutive AFC Championships and played in four Super Bowls, but because they lost them all, three in ugly fashion, they became sort of a laughingstock.
Biggio led the league in doubles three times. Seriously, does anybody care that much about doubles? Batting titles, yes, home runs, yes, RBI yes, but doubles? He also led the league in runs scored twice, twice in 20 years as a primary leadoff hitter. He never led the league in walks either. He did have some great seasons, including a .325 average in 1998, but there is nothing that sticks out in what was a stellar career.
There are some that will play the if he’s in, he should be game, and while there is some merit to it, I don’t buy it. They will say if Bill Mazeroski is in, then Craig Biggio should be in. Well, Mazeroski was a great fielding second baseman, won tons of Gold Gloves, but batted just .260 in his career. That said, Mazeroski should never be in the Hall of Fame. It was weak moment by the Veterans Committee, a moment that they should regret. Biggio played second base when Roberto Alomar played, and Alomar was far superior and it isn’t even close.
If you’re a Biggio fan, don’t worry and don’t be offended at this article because in 2015, he will be voted in. But, if you’re being fair, did you worry about Biggio? Did he put fear in opposing players, like Rickey Henderson did, like Roberto Alomar did, like Frank Thomas did? If you were hosting the Atlanta Braves and you had to face Glavine on Tuesday and Maddux on Thursday, you feared that you’d lose two straight games, but Craig Biggio and his .281 average? I don’t think so.
Steve Garvey was feared, but he “only” batted .294 with 2,599 hits and 272 home runs. He won an MVP award, one more than Biggio. But, Garvey never came close despite being a much better player than Biggio. But, life isn’t always fair and in the end, it’s not the end of the world. Biggio got the magic number of 3,000 hits, despite just a .281 average.
You could go on and on with guys that have compelling cases. Edgar Martinez was a dominant offensive player, who won batting titles and batted .312 for his career (see Puckett), but he is being punished for being a designated hitter. Thomas and Paul Molitor were also known for being designated hitters, but Thomas achieved 521 homers and Molitor well over 3,000 hits. Alan Trammell out “batted” Ozzie Smith .285 to .262, hit way more home runs, but the perception was that Smith was the greatest fielding shortstop of all time. But Trammell won four Gold Gloves and overall was the better package at the position, but he only gets 20 percent of the vote, while Smith gets in on the first try.
There is no silver bullet formula, it just is what is, and as long as humans are doing the voting, that’s okay. I wouldn’t vote for Biggio, but if he gets in, I won’t have a problem with it either. It’s not personal, it’s business.