Baseball Hall of Fame debates 2013: Craig Biggio
Part 6 of a 10-part series that looks at prominent potential Hall of Famers for the Class of 2013 and the reasons to vote them in - or keep them out.
Craig Biggio is in his first year on baseball's Hall of Fame ballot. The former Astros icon ended his career after the 2007 season, the year he reached 3,000 hits. But is there more to Biggio than the "3,000" number? Or is the Kings Park High School graduate a one-trick pony?
THE CASE FOR THE HALL
There are 28 players who've reached 3,000 hits, a magical number for fans and players. Four of those 28 players are not in the Hall of Fame. Pete Rose (4,256) is banned from baseball. Derek Jeter (3,304) is still playing. Rafael Palmeiro is on the ballot, but questions about performance-enhancing drug use may hurt his chances. Biggio is the other.
Biggio, who played for the Astros every year of his 20-year career, finished with 3,060 hits, 21st on the all-time list, just ahead of Rickey Henderson and behind Dave Winfield.
That achievement alone should guarantee the second baseman a spot in Cooperstown. But he has other qualities that lend to an easy election.
Biggio is 15th on the career runs scored list. Everyone ahead of him is either in the Hall of Fame, still an active player, banned from baseball or about to be on the ballot for the first time (Barry Bonds). He's also fifth all-time in doubles. The only player in the top 4 not in the Hall of Fame already is Rose.
During his career, Biggio was a seven-time All-Star, won five Silver Sluggers and four Gold Gloves and finished in the top 16 of MVP voting five times.
He led the National League in doubles in 1994 (44), 1998 (51) and 1999 (56). His 291 home runs would be second only to Rogers Hornsby among Hall of Fame second basemen. His 1,844 runs would be first.
Biggio also led the league in stolen bases (39) in 1994. A durable player, he played less than 141 games in a season just four times, and two of those occasions came during his first two years in the league when he was a catcher.
A versatile player, Biggio primarily served as a catcher for his first four seasons, during which time he made one of his All-Star appearances (1991) and earned one of his Silver Slugger awards. Those awards didn't stop after he moved to second base.
And he may have one more honor coming to him.
THE CASE AGAINST THE HALL
It's hard to battle a number like 3,060 hits. But hear the argument out, since this whole Hall of Fame series is about debates
Many of the players currently up for election to the Hall of Fame have one question that needs to be answered in order to figure out how to vote. For sluggers such as Bonds or fireballers such as Roger Clemens, that question is "should a player associated with performance-enhancing drugs be voted into the Hall?" For Jack Morris the question is "Does one outstanding game and one decade overshadow the rest of his career?"
For Biggio the question is this: "Is one accomplishment enough to merit election?"
While Biggio was a prolific hitter, he was only a good player (no top 3 finishes in MVP voting) and he doesn't have much else to commend him to the Hall.
Biggio finished his playing career with a .281 average and only reached 3,000 hits by hanging on long after his numbers started to drop. From 2004-2007, Biggio never had an on-base percentage above .337. His batting average dipped from .281 in 2004 to .251 in 2007. His slugging percentage in 2007 was .381, his lowest since 1992.
Biggio hit .246 with a .306 OBP in 2006, but he also had 2,930 career hits. But, as the franchise's icon, he signed a one-year deal worth more than $5 million and had 555 more plate appearances to continue his quest for 3,000.
There's also the matter of Biggio's poor postseason play. In 185 plate appearances spanning nine playoff series, Biggio batted .234 with a .294 OBP. He batted over .222 in only three series. He hit .222 during his only World Series appearance in 2005, a loss to the White Sox.