As the announcement of the 2014 Hall of Fame class became official, one glaring omission became painfully obvious. From the moment that MLB Network revealed a three-man class, six if we included the Veterans Committee inductees, it was clear that Craig Biggio wasn't going to be part of the festivities.
The former Houston Astros star, 3,000-hit man, dominant offensive player and multi-position talent must wait until 2015 to enter Cooperstown after falling two votes short of a 2014 induction.
At 74.8 percent, Biggio missed a trip to Cooperstown by the narrowest of margins. We won't know exactly who or what kept Biggio out of the Hall of Fame, but MLB.com's Ken Gurnick's egregious ballot, the 10-man limit for each voter, a deep, star-studded group of candidates and the individuals that chose to check off Jacque Jones and Kenny Rogers likely didn't help the cause.
Craig Biggio is a Hall of Famer, results not withstanding. At some point, possibly as early as July 2015, his day will come.
Until then, we can opine about one of the best second baseman in history, the dominant force at the position during the 1990s and a player that respected baseball historian Bill James gushed over through the years.
From the moment the game of baseball was conceived, the central tenet to offense has been to avoid making an out while at the plate. From that concept, everything else is spawned. Over the years, on-base percentage and times on base became a stat that forward-thinking decision makers used to gauge the value of offensive players.
When looking at the history of second basemen, Biggio reached base as well or better than anyone who has ever manned the position.
|Times on Base|
Not all Hall of Fame players should be viewed through the same prism; positions such as catcher, shortstop and second base must not be held to the same offensive standards as first base, left field and right field.
Furthermore, how a particular candidate dominated his era, relative to every other player in the game at his position, must be taken into account.
Under those terms, Biggio thrived. The voters, at least the 144 who chose not to check off Biggio on their ballots, failed to thoroughly investigate.
During the 1990s, Biggio wasn't just the best second baseman in the sport. He was leaps and bounds more valuable than anyone else who shared his position. The following chart puts Biggio's dominance over other second basemen of the decade in perspective.
|Most Valuable Second Basemen (1990-1999)|
Consider this: Biggio was 15 full bWAR wins better than the next most valuable second baseman. Mike Piazza, the most valuable catcher (41.5 WAR) of the decade was less than four wins above (subscription required) Ivan Rodriguez (37.6). Before you remind me that both are likely Hall of Fame catchers, Roberto Alomar, the second baseman that Biggio lapped in value during that period, is already in the Hall of Fame.
The same holds true for third base (Robin Ventura), shortstop (Barry Larkin), first base (Jeff Bagwell) and right field (Larry Walker). Only Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr., in left field and center field, respectively, were more than 15 wins better than the next most valuable player at their positions over that 10-year span.
When a player deserving of induction misses by a margin as slim as Biggio just did, fans and analysts look for excuses. In this case, the depth of former stars on the ballot made Biggio's case harder to evaluate. If the ballot only had a few names worthy of induction, perhaps today would be a day of coronation for Biggio and the Astros organization.
Instead, the ballot was simply too deep, costing players like Biggio and former Astros teammate Jeff Bagwell much-needed votes. With the rules stating that Baseball Writers' Association of America members can only vote up to 10 inductees in a single year, a ballot so fraught with talent creates an untenable argument.
Although three all-time greats—Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas—are off the ballot for next year, three more tremendous candidates will arrive in their place. When Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz appear on the ballot, along with Biggio, in 2015, the same problem will persist.
Hopefully, for the sake of fairness, Biggio commands the same voters to check off his name next time around, and a year of contemplation will change the minds of at least two nonbelievers. In theory, it should be easier. Yet the voting process will always be an enigma due to the constant influx of superstars and those still lingering on the ballot from year to year.
If Biggio, and the Astros organization, receive justice, it could come in the form of a special ceremony next summer.
Although Bagwell, Biggio's infield partner in Houston for so many years, only received 54.3 percent of the votes in his fourth year of eligibility, he's a deserving inductee. Next year, it's possible that a major uptick in Bagwell support could net Houston fans a unique day in which both Biggio and Bagwell are enshrined together, similar to what Braves fans will experience this summer with Maddux, Glavine and Bobby Cox.
While that's unlikely, it's a dream that Biggio supporters can hold on to for at least another year. When the dust settles in 2015, Biggio's name should be among those celebrated, rather than the unfortunate tale he's turned into this winter.