This is not a great year for a player like former Houston Astro Craig Biggio to appear on the Hall of Fame ballot for the first time. He would have been better off last year when it was Barry Larkin going in and nobody else coming that close to election.
Becoming a first-time eligible in time for the 2013 class with all of the noise surrounding steroids and with all of the big names thrust into the race at the same time is not the ideal moment for Biggio to make his debut (or maybe it is and he becomes a protest vote). In the past, his No. 1 credential, collecting more than 3,000 hits, would have made him an automatic Hall of Famer. The threshold for slam-dunk consideration was always 3,000 hits or 500 home runs. To date the one exception among those eligible is Rafael Palmeiro, who reached both of those levels, but is on the outs because of the drug issue.
The worst aspect of the performance-enhancing drug era is how to view the credentials of guys who ran up big statistics whom none of us ever expected of doing anything wrong, but now have to work their way out from under the cloud that obscured an entire block of years. As far as I can tell there was no hint of suspicion following around Biggio, no side issues, so he should be considered simply on his merits.
Those merits are pretty darned good. A lifetime .281 hitter, Biggio has the record for being hit by a pitch most often (285 times), so you’ve got say he gave his all for his team. Biggio, who played his entire career with the Astros, from 1988 to 2007, had longevity, too. He played 20 seasons and 2,850 games. He was a seven-time All-Star as one of the premier second basemen of his time, winning four Gold Gloves.
Biggio did collect those 3,000 hits (3,060, to be precise) and he scored 1,844 runs. That’s big, too. So is another number on his resume–668 doubles. Biggio led the National League in doubles three times and had 56 one season. He also stole 414 bases and led the league once in that category. He also bashed 250 home runs. Biggio also had 50 lead-off home runs.
One interesting aspect of Biggio’s career that few remember is that after being an All-American at Seton Hall, he broke into the majors as a catcher and even was chosen for an All-Star team at that position before spending the bulk of his career at second. (He did serve time in the outfield, too.) How many guys have you ever heard of switching from catcher to second base? Catcher to first, catcher to outfield, definitely, but from blocking pitches to fielding grounders, just about never.
Biggio played in every game in a season three times, as well, and off the field he was honored with the Roberto Clemente Award, baseball’s most prestigious man of the year award given to a player for involvement in community and charitable work. Biggio, who is currently a high school baseball coach in Houston, was singled out for that award in 2007.
I definitely believe Biggio is a Hall of Famer. Going up against other new faces like Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Sammy Sosa, and Mike Piazza could muddy things for him. Not to mention the fact that long-time Houston teammate Jeff Bagwell is still on the ballot. Bagwell got 56 percent of the needed vote for election last year. I just wonder if voters, who are having difficulty deciding just what to do about players who have in one way or another been linked to performance-enhancing drugs, will also have difficulty choosing between Biggio and Bagwell.
The other trick about this election is that it is not yea or nay like it is for president choosing between two candidates. There a system ranking players on the ballot and it is easy to run out of space before you run out of candidates. Some voters have made it sound as if they will not vote for certain players at all, regardless of their stats, because of the drug issue, and some voters have said they are going to vote for players whose stats would make them automatic regardless of the drug issue.
A guy like Craig Biggio is caught in the middle.