It was the hope of every die-hard Astros fan that the two legendary players who played side-by-side for fifteen seasons would be inducted into the Hall of Fame together this year. Well, they still may be, but it will have to wait for at least another season. The results for the 2013 Hall of Fame induction are in and these two, along with everyone else, fell short.
Unfortunately, the steroid era and two of the biggest culprits, Bonds and Clemens, have spooked the voters, causing many to turn in blank ballots. These blank ballots could possibly be the sole reason Biggio was not elected. There is little suspicion in regards to Biggio and steroids. Of course, there will always be doubters or finger-pointers, but Biggio’s name has relatively flown under the radar of steroid speculators. His numbers speak volumes – over 3,000 hits, where he ranks 28th all-time and 668 doubles, which ranks him 5th all-time in that category. He stole a lot of bases – 414 to be exact – and he played three positions and he played all of them well. Few, if any, played the game as hard as he did in his era. Biggio was not a stranger to hustle or getting dirty. One of his most identifiable trademarks would be his pine tar covered helmet, which is a sight that I will never forget. You might not meet a nicer guy, on or off the field, and in a time where voters are worried about “character,” it seems to me that he would be the perfect candidate to vote for. Maybe those with the blank ballots would have made a bigger “statement” by voting for the nice guy who played the game the right way.
The only possible argument for not voting in Biggio as a first-ballot would be those with the opinion that he stayed around too long to get his 3,000 hits and his final seasons were sub-par. I actually do agree with this statement. However, he did get to 3,000 hits, which is a number that all great hitters strive for and immediately punches a player’s ticket to Cooperstown. Maybe he did stay around a little too long, but his entire body of work and all of the things mentioned above do solidify his rightful position in the Hall.
In my humble opinion, Bagwell, not Biggio, is the greatest Astros player ever. There have been dominant or Hall of Fame players such as J.R. Richard, Nolan Ryan and Joe Morgan who played for the team. However, I do not acknowledge them as all-time Astros greats due to their tenure with the team, or because they spent most of their career playing elsewhere. While Bagwell did not achieve any major baseball milestones such as 500 home runs or 3,000 hits, he produced at an exceptionally high offensive level for over an entire decade. For a time in the mid-90’s, he was quite possibly the most-feared hitter in the National League. It also cannot go without mentioning that he had three seasons ended by broken hands, a career ended by an arthritic shoulder, and he played most of his games in the Astrodome, which was one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks in all of baseball. It’s safe to say that he would have easily blown passed the 500 home run plateau if not for the stadium he played in. Pair that with healthy seasons or a prolonged career and 600-650 home runs would have been well within reach. He also did a lot of other things right as well, such as a great glove, excellent base-running instincts, and leadership on the field, in the clubhouse, and in the community.
Bagwell is what I tend to refer to as “guilty by muscles.” He has never been named in any report, failed a drug test, or recognized for steroids or any kind of performance-enhancers. Despite this, he is essentially being held out of the Hall due to his muscles, and nothing more. The only positive in all of this is that he is receiving a considerable amount of votes compared to the known steroid users. His vote total is inching up each season, so it’s safe to say he will get there one day.
The Hall of Fame voters consist of the Baseball Writer’s Association of America (BBWAA), which consists of over 600 writers, many of which do not even write or follow baseball anymore. Then there are these guys casting the blank ballots to, as they say, make a statement, which is actually only a ploy to get publicity and attention for themselves. The voting process is flawed, to say the least. All of the men who I respect such as Peter Gammons, Tim Kurkjian and Buster Olney, to name a few, all cast their support in favor of Bagwell. It is those writers which have a vote, yet sadly and truthfully barely know what is going on, that are the ones mostly responsible for keeping Bagwell, Biggio, and others out of the Hall of Fame.
We, as Astros’ fans and the general baseball public, can only hope that these writers eventually get this right. An even better idea would be that the Hall of Fame procedures and protocol are changed in a manner that better represents the players being voted on. Hopefully this reformation will happen, and preferably sooner rather than later.