If you’re a baseball fan who remembers the days when Jacob Ruppert owned the Yankees, you’re likely near your 80th birthday or well past it.
And regardless of age, you also likely didn’t head upstate to Cooperstown yesterday when he was enshrined in the National Baseball Hall of Fame and Museum, along with two players who passed away around the time Ruppert did, in 1939.
And who can blame you? There hasn’t been a Hall of Fame class absent a living person in 48 years.
I get it. The collective of Hall of Fame voters isn’t going to give players linked to performance-enhancing drugs a free pass. I’m not going to say they should.
But if the so-called “cheaters” are going to be kept out for now, why not reward those who (likely) played the game fairly? Why couldn’t the baseball world have honored former Houston Astros great Craig Biggio, even if he may not be what most think of as a first- ballot Hall of Famer?
During a 20-year career, the Long Island native and seven-time All-Star collected 3,060 hits while playing the majority of his career as a second baseman, plus more than 360 games each as a catcher and outfielder. He’s fifth all-time in doubles (668) and has been hit by a pitch more times than anyone in the modern era (285).
No, Biggio was never a truly great hitter (.281 lifetime; only hit over .300 four times) not an elite player (only two top-five finishes in the NL MVP voting).
Biggio already received 68.2% approval from the voters (a player needs at least 75% to be elected), and the reality is that he will be a Hall of Famer soon. Only now it’s more likely he’ll be lost in the crowd with the influx other likely clean greats coming in the next few years such as Greg Maddux (2014), Randy Johnson (2015) and Ken Griffey Jr. (2016).
Maybe Biggio’s career doesn’t scream “first ballot,” but at least there would have been reason to care about this year’s Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
That is, aside of those who remember Jacob Ruppert.
Scott Fontana, amNY’s sports editor, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.