Biggio not getting Hall call is probably a good thing. Here’s why.

0110_biggio

I took a slightly bold approach yesterday after the Hall of Fame announcement revealed that Craig Biggio did not get elected this year, his first on the ballot.

I suggested to Astros fans that Biggio not making the Hall this year is a good thing.

This was risky, obviously, given that I live in Houston, have spent most of my career either covering or working for the Astros and have spent most of the last several years communicating — via email, Twitter, blogs, whatever — with a more passionate segment of the Astros fan base. But hear me out. I really do believe Biggio not making the Hall was the best thing for not only Biggio, but also for Houstonians and Astros fans who have waited this long — precisely 51 years — to see a Houston player elected to the Hall of Fame.

The Hall voting process this year was complicated, controversial and brought out all kinds of emotions from writers and fans, from angst to anger to downright confusion. The conversations began pretty much the day after last year’s induction ceremony and gained steam in the weeks and months leading up when to the voters — 10-year members of the Baseball Writers Association of America — received their ballots and filed their selections.

The debates were atypical from those that usually surround Hall of Fame voting. Most of you followed along through the process. Performance-enhancing drugs and the “Steroid Era” were discussed more than statistics. Writers were conflicted about what to do with the stars from the 1990s and early 2000s who are on the ballot for the first (or second, or third) time.

Their opinions varied, which seemed to irk readers more than if everyone had taken one sweeping stance. Some voted for the best of the best, regardless of if they were presumed “dirty” or not. Some flatly refused to vote for anyone who had been implicated, either by failing a test or admitting to taking PEDs, or anyone who had large upper bodies that didn’t pass the eye test. Others opted not to vote for anyone from the era, yet, even if they were presumed clean — a sort of way to punish the entire generation that belonged to a union that didn’t seem all that interested in implementing stringent testing a decade ago.

The point is, the narrative went on and on. And on. And on. It hasn’t stopped. The debate continues, and probably won’t truly die down until pitchers and catchers report to Spring Training in about a month and the writers have something else on which to focus.

That brings me to Biggio. Let’s pretend for a moment that he did get elected. Do you honestly think the attention would have immediately switched from scathing articles about the PED era to trumpets and pageantry and celebration, just like that? Do you really, truly believe the writers and networks (other than MLB Network) would have spent an adequate amount of time lauding Biggio’s stellar career and giving it the recognition it deserves?

Mark me down for “no.” I believe Biggio would have had a bit part in a larger, ongoing story that the media has fixated itself on for months. It wouldn’t be so much about who got in, but rather, about who didn’t. Whether we like it or not, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens and Sammy Sosa will continue to come up in conversation more than anyone else, and this is going to drag on for a while.

In his press conference with media on Thursday (photo above), Biggio was asked more about the era he played in and the players he played with and against than what he actually did during his 20-year Major League career. I believe locally, Biggio would have been properly lauded had he been elected to the Hall. But on a grander, national scale, I think we would have witnessed something quite different. And I think the trend would have continued right up until induction day this summer.

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Biggio to media: “I got a 68. I’ll study harder and hopefully get a 75 next year.”

Through my years around the Astros, there were many times where I would wonder if they were somehow prone to “hard luck” situations. Don’t get me wrong — this isn’t some melodramatic cry that the team is cursed. It’s nothing close to that. Simply, it seemed like there was just always…something.

Jeff Bagwell, for example, was the greatest hitter in franchise history, but instead of his career ending with proper adulation from the fans and a fitting retirement for a player who never bailed for the greener pastures of free agency, his tenure as an Astro ended with a bum shoulder and messy arguments that involved Bagwell, ownership and insurance companies.

The Astros finally won the pennant — their only pennant — in 2005. And, they were swept in the World Series, mainly because they developed an inexplicable inability to score runs. A couple of years later, before a packed house and frenzied home crowd, Biggio logged hit No. 3,000 — and got thrown out at second trying to stretch it into a double. I remember shaking my head and thinking, “It’s always…something.”

So, when the Hall announcement was looming, and I was trying to gauge if Biggio would make it in or not, my first assumption was, if he makes it, he’ll barely squeak in. He’s either not making it with around 70 percent of the vote or just getting in with 76 or so. Is that truly how you want this to go? Biggio making it in with one of the lowest vote totals in history so that he can always be known as “the Hall of Famer with one of the lowest vote totals in history”?

Then, as the minutes crept toward the 1 p.m. CT announcement, the sentiment through Social Media was that if anyone gets in, it’ll be only one person — Biggio. And my thoughts turned to what the scene would be in Cooperstown. The Hall of Fame folks would make it a spectacular day for Biggio, for his family, the Astros and the fans who traveled to Cooperstown. They do things first rate, always have, always will. But it’s the peripheral stuff — the media, the line of questioning, the storylines in general — that are cause for worry.

Biggio would be stamped as the first true PED-era player to make it to the Hall. He’d be asked about it ad nauseum. He’d have no choice but to talk about Bonds and Clemens and Sosa and others.

And I thought, my goodness. There’s a really good chance Biggio will be a footnote at his own Hall of Fame induction.

So count me as one who’s kind of glad the way things turned out. There is no doubt in my mind that Biggio is getting into the Hall of Fame, and it will probably happen next year. He has 3,060 hits. His 668 doubles are the most ever by a right-handed hitter. He’s the only player in history with at least 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 stolen bases and 250 home runs. It is ludicrous that he was not elected to the Hall of Fame this year. He will get in.

But as absurd as it is that he garnered only 68 percent of the votes this time, I think Biggio dodged a bullet this year by not making it. Next year, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas appear on the ballot for the first time. All three will merit first-ballot consideration. It’s entirely possible Biggio will be on the dais in Cooperstown with players who be celebrated for simply being great, and nothing else.

Is that so terrible?

Follow Alyson Footer on Twitter

25 Comments

Great read and I never thought about the after effects, thanks for enlightening us and as hard as it was that he didn’t make it this year, when he does I want it to be because he was a 1st class act player who was never associated with steroids and things of that nature. By the way Alyson I was there when he got 3000 hits and I also hated he was thrown out at 2nd base!

Alyson, would those first timers hurt Biggio and Bagwell’s chances? Would some writers say they don’t want to vote for too many in one year? Bagwell only gained 3% this year, so I don’t expect much of baseball writers.

Hard to say when Bagwell will get in, if ever. I still feel he will get in eventually but it will take a while, I’m guessing. Regarding Biggio – there are writers who decided to not vote for any first timers from the PED era, regardless of whether they thought they were clean or not. I believe there will be a significant wave of voters next year who will vote for him. I could be wrong. He’s getting in. I can’t see someone with 3,060 hits waiting more than a year. I mean, come on!

After having the worst day in Astros history……your article has brought us back down to earth. Biggio WILL get in, and maybe, just maybe next year it will be even sweeter.
I can NOT tell you how much you are missed with the Astros. There is NO ONE who
could color our world like you did. We will be forever grateful to you for putting the
effort to bring the REAL stories about our guys here in Houston. Thank you for writing
a sensible article about Biggio, and the HOF. We think he’s pretty special, and I know you do to. Thanks again, Becky

Thanks Becky. Glad I could add something to true HOF conversation. I always appreciate your kind comments!

I liked Biggio as a player and thought he was the 3rd best 2B of his era. But I never forgave his comments about scabs during the strike, haven’t been to game since then, and have not bought season tickets since. Maybe his charitable work reflects his change of attitude but the picture in my mind of the pitcher with a sick kid and no money will always haunt me.

Weren’t Larkin and Alomar PED-era players?

Yes they were, no doubt. I guess I was more referring to the players who are now on the ballot that contains all of the controversial players from the era. Should have worded it differently.

Great points Alyson! I’m still bummed he wasn’t voted in, he deserves it, but I know he’ll get in. I’m looking forward to making the trip to NY for the induction when he does!!

Allyson, it was very good hearing from you again. Congradulations on your promotion but I and true Astros fans miss you. While I was disappointed in Biggio and Bagwelll not making it to HOF, your perspective on the subject as always was “right on”. I am sad that the Astros are no longer in the National Leauge but once an Astros fan, always an Astros fan. I mean a true Astros fan. While living in Riverside, CA from late 1959 to 1963 and the Washington, D.C. area from 1977 to 1980, I was unable to follow the Astros. All the dates in between 1963 and 1977, I resided back in Houston. In 1980 my late husband and I moved to Austin, TX where I remain and am very greatful I have been able to follow the Astros on cable. I’m hoping that my cable provider will give me the Astros on Comcast now that they are no longer with the their former network. Thanks again for your email.

Excellent analysis as usual.

Love Biggio, but are his numbers more a sing of greatness or durability. Really like your points, but there is another side http://anytownsallstar.blogspot.com/#!/2013/01/a-baseball-dilemma-for-hall-of-fame.html I wish we were having this debate rather than the PED one

Totally valid concerns, mprager. I read your blog post and you aren’t the first to wonder about Biggio and longevity vs. greatness. There is absolutely no doubt — and Astros fans aren’t going to want to hear this — that Biggio wasn’t very productive his last few years. There is also the very real fact that had the Astros decided to part ways with Biggio after 2004 or ’05 and go with a younger second baseman (Chris Burke) — something Drayton McLane was not willing to do — it’s highly unlikely he would have gotten a full-time job with another team. He would have been signed, no doubt, but a 150 game commitment? Unlikely. So when Drayton decided they’re going for it — that they were going to retain Biggio — the 3,000 hit plateau became a reality. Would he have reached 3,000 hits if he had moved on to a different team? It’s possible. But unlikely.

That said, Biggio was one of the best players of his era. Just look at where he ranks in history. We could disregard the hit totals and still, his numbers are fantastic. Fifth all-time in doubles, and first among right-handed hitters. 668 doubles — I mean, think about that — doesn’t come along because you stayed two years two long. He’s the only player in history to record 600 doubles, 250 home runs, 3,000 hits and 400 stolen bases. Among his peers — players who played at some point from 1988-2007 — he’s first in hits, doubles and games played; second in runs scored and fourth in total bases, trailing only Bonds, Palmeiro and Griffey.

Those numbers suggest longevity, sure, but also tremendous talent. He’s up there with the best, and he’s a Hall of Famer. The writers didn’t want him in on the first ballot, fine. Good for them. Golf clap. He’ll get in, and probably next year.

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After the unfortunate name of Enron Field years ago, and now the forced move to the AL (gangster style) I could see how some fans could view this team as “cursed.” Why not? It’s like the Astros are the stepchild of MLB. Grrrrr….don’t get me started.

Biggio and the Hall of Fame. Here is what Tim Cowlishaw of the DMN wrote on his live chat:

Tim: How could you have “not” voted for Craig Biggio for HOF?

How many different times and places do you want me to explain this? There are players who have been on the ballot longer — Jeff Bagwell and Tim Raines to name two — who I felt were more deserving (because they are) and I was already at 8 and I had Biggio and Piazza and Schilling (further down the list but worth considering) and so I didn’t vote for any more first-time eligible players other than Bonds and Clemens. I think the idea that certain numbers make a player automatic are silly. Biggio hung on to get to 3000. Raines only got 2600 hits so he doesn’t get votes, never mind Raines’ 1300 Walks, 800 steals, higher on-base and OPS for his career than Biggio. I have said I plan to vote for Biggio and probably (but not definitely) Piazza next year. I think Biggio will get in. When you get 68 percent, you can usually make the jump to 75.

I also read SI writer Tom Verducci stating that it hurts Biggio admitting to taking Creatine (yes, it was legal then) and being good buddies with known users. I guess that guilty by association thing kicks in hard with this guy.

Bottom line, I hope to see Biggio make it in next year, and I agree with what you said about this not being the right time. I also loved his comment about “studying harder.” Funny.

So if he gets elected next year with Glavin, Maddux, Thomas, and possibly others, and the “dirty” players still aren’t elected, aren’t his accomplishments going to be just as lost in the “noise” not only on the day he is elected but on the day of induction? If he had been the only one elected this year, he would have the stage to himself on induction day. Until Bonds, Clemens, etc. are off the ballot either by election or time, the talk surrounding them isn’t going to stop. Now that he hasn’t been elected, but best result would be that he and Bagwell go in at the same time.

Having the stage to himself would have been nice but I don’t see it as an important thing. I like it when more than one player is inducted. Just my personal preference. Regarding the PED issue, it’s just my personal hunch that the media would have made that the story more than who actually was elected. As someone who worked with and covered Craig for about a decade, I’d like to see him get his due when the day comes. I don’t think that would have been the case this year. I don’t have that much faith in the media. I wish I did.

A well written piece, but..Bagwell was not clean, Craig is. Just look at Bags now vs then..and I like the guy. Hou does not get respect and next the excuse will be the ballot is too crowded, or some BS like that..the questions will be there for years no matter when he gets in..the process is flawed and the national media shows their ignorance..don’t make excuses for them..

craig…….show us your evidence that Bagwell is not “clean”. You don’t HAVE any do you. Thought so. Unless you have PROOF that a guy took PED’s, you have no case.

Just sad Biggio didn’t make it this year! Woulda have been a PERFECT day come July 28. Biggio would have been only living inductee, along w/3 historical figures. He would have had a large fan base from New York, as well as Houston. Now, he’ll just be a footnote to the Braves legacy next year. Seems like Craig is not too upset by the snub; but playing all of those years in Houston prepared him well for role as a stepchild in the media. It still hurts–him, as well as us! Will be nice, regardless, next year. But, would have been PERFECT this year!

great article, Directrix. and a perspective i hadn’t considered. still want to see the B’s go in together, because that’s how they played, but you have a solid point. thanks for the article.
Peace From the Great NorthWet

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Wonderful points in your essay. I was actually glad there was no one elected this year. The buzz should be considerably less next year about PEDs esp with the 2 Braves pitchers coming on board the ballot.

I Hope its biggio and bagwell that get in next year…

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