After the Hall of Fame ballot results were made public, I took the mandatory 24-hour cooling off period to try to get a better perspective. That didn’t work, so I took a few more days to think about it. I’m still upset but there may be a silver lining.
As Bob Hulsey of Astros Daily pointed out, three members of the Atlanta Braves are among this year’s class of inductees. Sharing the spotlight with (or taking a back seat to) our once bitter playoff rivals isn’t exactly the preferred scenario for the first Astros player’s induction ceremony.
While it was disappointing to see Craig Biggio fall two votes short of enshrinement, the fact that Biggio was one of the only players to experience a spike in his vote totals is encouraging. Things are looking pretty good for Craig next year. But, then again, that’s what we were saying a year ago.
Looking at some other players that had comparable careers to Biggio, I have reason to believe that the third time could indeed be the charm for the former “Killer B”.
Barry Larkin was elected in his third year of eligibility. Although Larkin was a shortstop, I have no problem comparing him directly to Biggio. Craig spent the first four years of his career as a catcher — a position that is perhaps even more demanding than shortstop. Biggio made the first of his seven All-Star appearances as a catcher and went on to win four Gold Glove Awards as a second-baseman.
Larkin made eleven All-Star teams and collected three Gold Glove Awards. Larkin was known as a run producer, but Biggio outscored Larkin by more than 500 runs while besting the former Cincinnati Red by more than 200 RBIs. In his 20-year career, Biggio played in 670 more games than Larkin did in his 19-year career. Some have called Biggio a compiler. I prefer words like “durable” and “productive”. I feel the direct comparison to Larkin adequately illustrates my point.
The percentage numbers are pretty even too. Both players competed during the same era, so we are definitely comparing apples to apples here. Larkin has a slight advantage with a .295/.371/.444 slash line compared to Biggio’s .281/.363/.433. Add in the fact that Biggio spent most of his career playing his home games in the Astrodome and it is pretty much a wash.
Ryne Sandberg also had to wait until his third year of eligibility to gain entrance into The Hall. The former Cubs second-baseman came into the league several seasons before Biggio but played the bulk of his 16-year career while Biggio was also in the league. Known as one of the best power hitters at the position, Sandberg hit 282 homers and drove in 1,061 runs. Biggio topped both of those marks with totals of 291 and 1,175. Biggio finished his career with a .796 OPS compared to Sandberg’s .795.
Roberto Alomar is another of Biggio’s contemporaries and the most recent second-baseman to give an acceptance speech in Cooperstown. Alomar gained election in 2011, his second year of eligibility.
Unlike Larkin and Sandberg, Alomar stole more bases (474) than Biggio (414). His .814 OPS is also the highest among the group. The overall offensive numbers don’t exactly separate Alomar from the other three, but the owner of ten Gold Glove Awards is considered to be one of the best defensive players of all time.
Alomar may have been elected on the first ballot were it not for the spitting incident, an act that I felt could have kept Alomar out of Cooperstown altogether. Apparently, such a blatant act of disrespect towards another human being pales in comparison to having shared a locker room with another player who used performance enhancing drugs. Go figure!
Anyway, in conclusion, recent history tells us that Biggio should be elected into the Hall of Fame on his third attempt. All three of the aforementioned players were elected in their second or third year of eligibility. None of the three has produced statistics that would separate him from any of the others. If any of these three players had a vote, I’m pretty sure he would vote for Craig Biggio. But that’s another subject for another time.