It was a universal statement by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA). No player attached to the most tainted era of baseball since the Blacksox scandal would receive a plaque in Cooperstown – at least not this year.
It was a bold, loud, and clear message to the cheaters that was roundly cheered and widely criticized. It seems everyone has an opinion, and some have even suggested that Commissioner Bud Selig step in and flex whatever influential muscles he may have to initiate a change to the voting process. Yet, who are we non-members of the BBWAA to tell them how to run their business? After all, the baseball Hall of Fame is their invention and it certainly is their right to allow entry to whomever they choose.
The unfortunate repercussions of the BBWAA statement are that players we minions feel are deserving of an eternal designation in baseball’s hallowed halls must now wait for at least another year to attain their rightful spots alongside Ruth, Cobb, Mays, Mantle and all the other legends of the game.
Should the writers’ stand against PEDs have been so broad? Because of their action there is one player in particular that I feel has become part of the collateral damage of the vote.
His name is Craig Biggio.
Biggio played 20 seasons in Major League Baseball. He began his career as a catcher for the Houston Astros (the only organization he played for) and five seasons later, in an effort to minimize the wear and tear to their star, the team moved him to second base. Later he would play two seasons (2003 and 2004) in the outfield, helping the team to fill a need. His versatility, and ability to excel where ever he played in the field, endeared him to baseball fans.
From 1988 until 2007 Craig Biggio accumulated 3060 hits, 291 home runs, 414 stolen bases and 1844 runs while hitting .281. During his prime he was considered to be one of the best players in the game – getting selected to the All-Star game seven times and winning four gold gloves. In addition, he led the league in doubles three times (accumulating 668 in his career), hit-by-pitch five times, runs scored twice, and stolen bases once.
Why was he not elected to the Hall of Fame?
I should point out that I’ve never been a big Astros, or Biggio fan. My heart bleeds Yankee pinstripe blue, but when I compare what Biggio did during his career to some who already are in Cooperstown, I cannot help but feel that he was slighted. With credit to the Baseball Almanac, below is a link to a spreadsheet of the 19 current players in the Hall of Fame who played second base, and Craig Biggio (in red). The spreadsheet gives the player’s hits, average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage, home runs, RBI, runs scored, stolen bases and fielding percentage.
Here is where Biggio would rank if grouped with the others:
Hits – 3rd, Average – 15th, On-Base pct – 12th, Slugging pct – 10th, HR – 2nd, RBI – 8th, Runs – 1st, SB – 6th, and Fielding – 7th.
The bottom line is that Craig Biggio easily fits within the group in virtually all of the categories.
Is it because he doesn’t have a ring? Well, Ryne Sandberg played his career with the Chicago Cubs, and he is in. Enough said there.
Has there been evidence connecting the Astros beloved second baseman to PEDs? The only thing ever written tying Biggio to steroids was a baseless generalization made by Jeff Pearlman. In looking at Biggio’s career statistics, they seem to follow a “normal” progression with the exception of home runs which appeared to get a boost starting in 2001. However, that can be attributed to the fact that the Houston Astros moved from the spacious Astrodome to a new, cozier ball park (originally named “Enron Field”, now known as “Minute Maid Park”).
It would appear that the baseball writers fell victim to the same philosophy that Jeff Pearlman did – if some in the group should be accountable (for use of PEDs), then all should be accountable.
Biggio did receive the most votes (68%) of this latest class of eligible players, and it is more than likely that within a year or two he will be accorded his spot among baseball’s immortals, but it is sad that a player of his caliber could not be elected on this ballot simply because he had the misfortune of timing his retirement with some of the most notorious cheaters in the game.
One day, perhaps in the not too distant future, the BBWAA will succumb to the pressures of baseball followers and develop a better system to determine a player’s relevance among the legends of the sport. Perhaps it will be something like the World Golf Hall of Fame where numeric achievements are the sole factors to gain entry, or maybe some sort of sabrmetrics or Bill James-developed formula will form the basis to reaching immortality. Who knows?
All that is certain is what was proved in this year’s vote – that nothing is certain. The baseball writers can never be accused of being consistent with their approach and they have stayed true to form. I suppose that is because like us they are just fans at heart and yield to their own loyalties and bias.
In the end all we, and Craig Biggio, can do is wait and hope that one day justice will prevail.
After all, the Hall of Fame is the BBWAA’s house, and only they hold the key to let players in.