1996 was a pretty normal year, sports wise. It was the last time the Summer Olympics graced American soil. The major sports were dominated by dynastic teams from the last thirty or so years. Jordan's Bulls won the NBA crown, Aikman's Cowboys won the Super Bowl, and Jeter's Yankees won the World Series. Kentucky won the NCAA Basketball Tournament, and Florida won the National Championship in college football. But 1996 was also significant because it was the last time Major League Baseball did not elect someone to its Hall of Fame...until now.
|Craig Biggio launches a ball at Comerica Park photo credit: waiverwireblog.com|
Steroids are as hotly a contested topic that sports has seen since Tonya Harding. They are talked about in schools, barber shops, even funerals. And today the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) decided that if you took steroids, no matter what your numbers are, you simply are not going to get into the most exclusive club in sports. That's the way it's going to be I guess, and that's fine. Steroids are cheating, I understand. I personally don't think it makes you that much better, but I've never tried them so I'm not really sure. I'm okay with that decision, though. It means Barry Bonds and Mark McGwire, Sammy Sosa and Roger Clemens will probably never have a place in Cooperstown. Oh well, should have thought of that before you put the needle in your ass. But baseball struck out looking when the writers failed to elect Craig Biggio to its version of the "He-Man Woman Haters Club."
Money drives the world. It can't buy happiness, but it sure can buy things that make you happy. After all, cash is king. Professional sports pays its "clients" more handsomely than almost any other industry. If you're good, you can make bank if you want. Forget loyalty, throw that out the window, because the next guy is putting an extra zero at the end of that check. It's easy to get caught up in money. There are numerous examples. Take A-Rod, Randy Johnson, and Jason Giambi for example, and that's only the Yankees. I don't care that A-Rod was traded, no. But then look at a guy like Craig Biggio. Before we get into the statistical robbery that occured, lets look at the character.
Biggio was drafted by the Houston Astros in the first round of the 1987 MLB Draft. He made his debut in 1988 for the club, and he NEVER played for another team. Biggio came up as a catcher, and changed his position about five times to make his boss happy. He was a fixture in the Houston community. He has won numerous awards for that hard work and charity. He won the Roberto Clemente Award, perhaps the most prestigious community and sportsmanship award in sports. He won the Hutch Award in 2005, given annually to a player who shows tremendous competitive fire and will to win. He won the Branch Rickey Award in 1997, given to the person (not player) in Major League Baseball who exemplifies tremendous community service. So throwing his numbers completely out of the equation, that's a good start for a Hall of Fame resume.
He could have average numbers with that start and still have a good shot to make the Hall of Fame on his first try. 2,000 hits, maybe 300 steals, throw a couple of Gold Gloves in there, you've got a case anyway. Forget the fact that his numbers are good enough to get him in alone. How about the fact that Biggio, a player whose entire career was spent in the steroids era, was never once associated with steroids? He played with Jeff Bagwell, Roger Clemens, and Andy Pettitte, so any argument about temptation not being there is now gone. He was never in trouble. Biggio tore his ACL and MCL in the middle of his career. It was hardly a blip on the radar for him, coming back to have numerous productive seasons.
So now let's look at those stats that apparently were not good enough to get Biggio elected to Cooperstown on the first try. Biggio was a career .281 hitter. Okay, that's about the only above average stat he has, because everything else is exceptional. He has 3,060 hits. He has 3,060 hits. No typo. If you have 3,000 hits, and your name isn't involved in scandal, you go to the Hall. Period. Aside from that, Biggio has 291 career home runs. You might look at it as average, and it is, for a career cleanup hitter. But Biggio was a career leadoff hitter. He had fifty leadoff homeruns...fifty. That's the most in National League history. Oh yeah, he stole 414 bases.
|Craig Biggio celebrates his 3,000th hit with his family photo credit: celebritybabies.people.com|
Okay the hard numbers are there. Now let's look at the accomplishment aspect of Biggio's career. He had 10,000 at bats. Only twenty-three players in MLB history have reached that number. His 3,060 hits have only been passed by nineteen other players. Craig Biggio fell nine home runs shy of 300 for his career. Had he hit nine more homeruns, he would have become only the second player in MLB history with 3,000 hits, 300 homers, and 300 steals. The other one is in Cooperstown, his name is Willie Mays. Biggio is the only player in history with 3,000 hits, 600 doubles, 400 steals, and 250 home runs. When he retired, he was fifth in career doubles, and also had the most doubles for any right handed hitter...in history. He did all of this while flying under the radar, for the most part.
Biggio was a seven time All-Star. He won four Gold Gloves, without ever really having a true primary position. He won five Silver Slugger awards. He played in a World Series. His number is retired in Houston, and he deserves a spot in Cooperstown. He deserved to be voted in today. This hits home a lot more for me because I grew up playing second base. I was the Houston Astros mascot for Halloween one year. I loved Craig Biggio because he played baseball the right way, the hard way. He kept his mouth shut, he put his head down, and he went to work every day. In the group that could have been elected today, Craig Biggio is definitely the kid who seems to do everything right.