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January 9, 2013

Cooperstown 2013: Craig Biggio

First Year on Ballot

Houston Astros (1988-2007)

Career batting average of .281 with 3060 hits, 668 doubles, 291 home runs, 1844 runs and 414 stolen bases. Ranks fifth all-time in doubles and 21st all-time in hits. Became just the ninth player in the 3000 hit club to get all his hits with the same team. Holds the modern record for most times hit by a pitch in a career with 285. Seven-time National League All-Star (1991-1992 and 1994-1998). Four-time Gold Glove winner (1994-1997). Five-Time Silver Slugger winner (1989, 1994-1995 and 1997-1998). Member of the Houston Astros Hall of Fame. Number 7 retired by team.

If you’re looking for a great statistical analysis of why Craig Biggio deserves to be a first ballot Hall of Famer (casually referred to as the Hall within the Hall), you won’t find that here. I’ll give you enough of that to make my case but Craig Biggio is about much more than numbers – he personifies greatness and what it means to be a team player.

He’s everything that is right about baseball.

If you believe in magic numbers, he’s got the 3,000 hits. If it’s hardware you’re after, he’s got multiple Silver Sluggers (at two different positions) and multiple Gold Gloves. If you place a high degree of emphasis on intangibles, Biggio is certainly your guy. As mentioned, he played multiple positions at a high level – unselfishly, for the betterment of the team – and he made the All-Time Astros Team over at For Baseball Junkies at catcher despite playing the majority of his 20-year career in Houston at second base. Why? Because, well, it’s Craig Biggio, and it’s what he would have done to make the team better.

Biggio put his body in harm’s way more than any other player in baseball history and ranks first in modern baseball history for being hit by a pitch. If you look at Baseball Reference similarity scores, he is “most-likened” to Robin Yount, Derek Jeter and Joe Morgan…three first ballot Hall of Famers. Biggio ranks top 25 all-time in hits, doubles, runs scored, games played, plate appearances, at bats and 33rd in total bases.

In terms of player value, he ranks 88th in WAR and 44th in Offensive WAR. But, like I said, Biggio’s greatness is centered not on numbers but on his versatility and his selfishness. If he had played his entire career at second base, he would have likely challenged Joe Morgan for the title of GOAT but Biggio played catcher and outfield in his early days to accommodate the team’s needs.

In the history of baseball, there hasn’t been anyone like Craig Biggio and there will likely never be anyone like him again. In the middle of this high profile, highly controversial class of 2013, there’s one guy that stands out as worthy and exempt from skepticism and criticism – Craig Biggio.

He belongs in Cooperstown – that much we know – but unlike the others, he doesn’t deserve to wait.

Chuck Porter can be found writing about baseball over at For Baseball Junkies. Feel free to check out the site’s Facebook page as well. If you’re so inclined…go nuts and follow Chuck on Twitter!


@OCP22 said...

He would also be the first 3,000 hit member not named Pete Rose since 1962 to not make it in on his first ballot (if his name is not announced today).

If Biggio doesn't make it in, you have to ask the question, "What does it take?" In today's SABR driven, holier than thou environment, what does a player have to do to put himself over the top? The pendulum has clearly swung from letting too many in to letting too few in... In four years, we've gone from Jim Rice getting in (which I'm ok with) to a player with 3,000 hits potentially not getting in. Larry Walker... Edgar Martinez... Dale Murphy... I don't get it. Someone will have to explain to me why a small Hall is so much better because I'd rather see more celebrations and fewer disappointments.

Anonymous said...

Sorry, I don't see Biggio as a Hall of Famer, much less a first-ballot guy. He was a very good player, no doubt, but it isn't the Hall of Very Good. He hit .281, and .234 in postseason. He never won a battle title, a HR title, or led the league in any category of real significance. He never won a WS or was a league MVP. He struck out over 1700 times and never hit 30 homers, or drove in even 90 runs in a season. Yes, he notched 3,000 hits, but only by hanging on for dear life and becoming a compiler for several years. He topped .265 just once his final six years. His final season was awful (23 walks, 112 Ks) but he got the 3,000. That should get him in eventually, but he'll have to wait.

@OCP22 said...

You don't see Biggio as a Hall of Famer... I'm sorry but that absolutely discredits anything you say after that sentence. Didn't lead the league in home runs... no but he played in one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in baseball history and is 5th all-time in doubles (behind only Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Pete Rose and Tris Speaker). His BBRef HOF Monitor score is 169 which is top 70 all-time, higher than a lot of guys you'd call all-time all-timers. 3,000 hits... after A-Rod, we might not see another 3,000 hit player for 5-10 years (unless Ichiro guts it out 3 more years). I don't see how you can poo poo that off as nothing... he was a beacon of consistency and even though he was overshadowed by some other guys that went about their business differently, it's Biggio, in my mind, that deserves the recognition.