Tag Archives: Craig Biggio

Craig Biggio Among Class of Four Elected to Baseball Hall of Fame

Former Houston Astro Craig Biggio was elected to the 2015 Class of the Baseball Hall of Fame on his third year of eligibility.

Having missed out on being inducted last year by two votes, Biggio made his third time on the ballot truly a charm.

Joining Biggio in the Hall’s first four person induction class in 60 years are pitchers Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez and John Smoltz who each were elected on their first year of eligibility.

The selection of Johnson, Martinez, and Smoltz marks the first time that a trio of pitchers was inducted in the same Hall of Fame class.

Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap. Photo R. Anderson
Craig Biggio will become the first member of the Baseball Hall of Fame to be enshrined wearing a Houston Astros cap.
Photo R. Anderson

Failing to make the cut this year were a pair of Biggio’s former teammates, Jeff Bagwell and Roger Clemens.

Biggio received 82.7 percent of the votes (549 ballots cast). Johnson received 97.3 percent, Martinez 97.1 percent and Smoltz received 82.9 percent.

While each of the three pitchers elected to the Hall played on multiple teams during their careers, Biggio spent all of his 20-year Major League Baseball career from 1988 until 2007 with the Houston Astros.

Biggio is the 49th Hall of Famer to have played his entire career with one organization.

The seven-time All-Star will become the first player enshrined in an Astros cap when the induction ceremony is held on July 26, 2015 in Cooperstown, N.Y.

It is fitting that the Astros first Hall of Famer was born the same year that the team took on the Astros name since perhaps no other player has been so widely associated with the Astros brand as Biggio.

There are of course other players in the Hall of Fame who have played for the Astros during a portion of their career, including Nolan Ryan, whose last year with the Astros was Biggio’s first season with the team, but each of those players were inducted wearing another team cap on their Hall of Fame bust since the bulk of their success occurred on teams other than the Astros.

Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired. Photo R. Anderson
Craig Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that he retired.
Photo R. Anderson

In fact, fellow 2015 inductee Randy Johnson also briefly played for the Astros as a teammate to Biggio but he will not be enshrined wearing an Astros cap and will most likely have an Arizona Diamondbacks cap on his bronze statue since he won the only World Series title of his career in the desert.

Biggio was an Astro to the core and is often mentioned by fans as their ideal manager candidate to lead the team back to the glory days that seemed to disappear right around the same time that Biggio retired.

Whether he was playing catcher, outfield, or second base one consistent component of Biggio’s game was his performance at the plate.

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Photo R. Anderson
As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits.
Photo R. Anderson

As a member of the exclusive 3,000 hits club, Biggio finished his career with 3,060 hits to become one of only 28 players to have at least 3,000-hits. Biggio is fifth all-time in doubles and first among righthanded hitters with 668.

Whenever Biggio would come to the plate, the entire Ballpark would chant B-G-O in unison.

In true remember the glory days fashion, the Astros will honor Biggio with a public celebration at Minute Maid Park on Friday at 5 p.m. and it is likely that the B-G-O chant will once again echo through the rafters as fans pay their respects to a player who gave his all whenever he stepped onto the field.

The Astros will also offer fans a seven-game ticket plan centered on games where Biggio will be honored this season.

No word yet on whether those seven games will fall under the umbrella of dynamic pricing, or if they will be made affordable for the every day fan.

As the Astros continue to rebuild and move forward, there will no doubt be many moments this upcoming season where they look back at what was during the Biggio years.

There were certainly many memories generated during those two decades with the Astros.

I started following the Astros towards the tail end of his career but even in that short time Biggio became on of my favorite players and reminded me of a player I grew up following, Cal Ripken, Jr.  Like Biggio, Ripken also played the game the right way while spending his entire career with the same team.

In this era of free agency and trading for prospects, it is entirely likely that Biggio will be the last member of the Astros to spend 20 years with the team.

Such are the economics of baseball where teams trade away their players in the same way that children used to trade baseball cards with their friends.

But once in awhile a team will stick with a proven commodity and the results can truly be Hall of Fame worthy.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to dust off my Biggio shirt for one more trip to the Ballpark.

Copyright 2015 R. Anderson

Whose Hall is it Anyway?

The other day it was announced that three players had been selected as 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame inductees and one other player missed induction by the narrowest of margins.

The inducted players are Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

And if the trio felt like partying like it is 1999 one could not really blame them since it was the first time since 1999 that three players appearing on their first ballot were voted in for induction by the Baseball Writers Association of America (BWAA).

Long time Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine were named to the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class along with Frank Thomas. Photo R. Anderson
Long time Atlanta Braves teammates Greg Maddux, and Tom Glavine were named to the 2014 Baseball Hall of Fame class along with Frank Thomas.
Photo R. Anderson

Maddox received 97.2% of the votes, followed by Glavine with 91.9% and Thomas with 83.7%.

Craig Biggio, who spent his entire two decade career with the Houston Astros, fell just short of the 75% threshold required for induction. Biggio, in his second year of eligibility, garnered 74.8% of the votes to fall two votes shy of Cooperstown.

And while Biggio fell painfully close to admission and will likely get elected next year, others were not so lucky.

Once again players who were deemed tainted by the steroid era in baseball were left on the outside looking in.

In fact several of the roughly 500 men and women who comprise the voting members of the BWAA have gone so far as to say that they will not vote for any players who spent their careers in the steroid era regardless of whether or not they ever failed a drug test.

By all accounts through their careers Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were locks for first ballot induction to the Hall of Fame.

Both men had lengthy careers and put up the type of numbers that made a statistician blush and opposing players and fans curse.

Unfortunately late in their careers both Bonds and Clemens were caught up in the net of suspicion regarding performance enhancing drugs and were brought in front of a congressional subcommittee to face charges that they lied about their use of PEDs.

Despite both men being acquitted and with Hall of Fame caliber numbers they still are not in the Hall of Fame despite calls from more than 75 percent of fans to let them in.

Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other platers were were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting memebers of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them. Photo R. Anderson
Barry Bonds, shown in plastic figurine form, was once again passed over for the Hall of Fame along with several other players were were believed to have used banned substances. Although known of the players were shown to be dirty some voting members of the BWAA refuse to vote for anyone who played during the so called steroid era regardless of what was or was not proven against them.
Photo R. Anderson

And therein in lies the rub and the disconnect related to Hall of Fame voting.

The Hall of Fame is decided by around 500 people who have been BWAA members for at least 10 years.

There is no requirement that they ever played the game but merely that they have covered the game as members of the media who have paid their club dues for 10 years.

Another wrinkle in the BWAA rules is that only 10 people can be included on any given ballot despite there being more than 10 eligible players each year.

At least one BWAA writer determined that the process of leaving the public out of the process was flawed so he crowd sourced his vote to a website that conducted a poll to determine who should be included on the ballot.

As can be expected the BWAA did not take too kindly to the news that one of its votes had been given to someone who had not paid the 10-years of membership fees.

Once the member revealed himself the BWAA acted swiftly and banned this particular member from ever casting a Hall of Fame vote again and also suspended him for a year. One can only hope that he was refunded his membership dues as well for the year that he will not be allowed to be a member.

This crowd sourcing of a Hall of Fame vote garnered reaction on both sides with some people agreeing with the BWAA postion that it was cheapening the Hall of Fame to let not tenured people decide who was worthy while others have felt that it was about time for a fresh look at what constitutes a hall of famer.

I have mentioned before how I do not like the ballot stuffing that occurs during the All-Star voting which allows a single fan to submit as many ballots as they can get their hands on so I am not necessarily thinking that a fan internet vote for the Hall of Fame can be a good thing.

I am also not suggesting that the Hall of Fame turn into a sort of American Idol situation where fans can call in their votes for their favorite players.

But, I am also not sure that allowing 500 members of the media who have different philosophies on what constitutes a tainted player should be the only people guarding the gate and determining who is in and who is out.

In all likelihood I will never be a member of the BWAA with enough tenure to ever cast a Hall of Fame ballot.

But if I were able to ever cast a ballot I would be sure to do my homework on the players and consider their numbers as a whole and not in a vacuum. I would also not use my vote as some sort of political platform.

For example if steroids were as widespread as Jose Canseco and others would have us believe than the playing field was level in a certain way in that the numbers put up by players during that era were against other “enhanced” players so they should count.

And by all means with players such as Bonds, Clemens and others who never failed a drug test one cannot ban them from the Hall of Fame because they might have been dirty.

I might have run a red light today on my way to work today, or I might not have. Should I get randomly pulled over by a police officer and given a ticket just because at some point when no one was looking I may have run a red light? Of course not.

That would be overstepping the authority of the police and in many cases it is why cities with red light cameras are removing them.

So players need to be judged on their on-field performance and if their numbers support admission they need to be admitted.

Yes, there was a time when the game of baseball was riddled with steroids but it was not the only time in the history of the game where players sought to get an edge.

Are we supposed to go through all the way back to Babe Ruth and others to determine if their numbers were enhanced through supplements? No we are not.

I am glad that drug testing is part of the sport and I do hope that the use of steroids can be contained. However, players always have and always will look for an off the field edge to help their on the field performance.

And unless a player drops their pants at home plate and injects steroids in front of 35,000 witnesses we need to give them the benefit of the doubt and give those players with a Hall of Fame career their proper enshrinement in bronze if they have never failed a drug test.

So the BWAA member who gave away his vote to the people certainly exposed a flawed system but it is certainly not a system that can be easily fixed. Until it is there will be deserving players who are only able to get into the Hall of Fame with a paid admission.

Now if you’ll excuse me, all of this talk about baseball has me craving a hot dog.

Copyright 2014 R. Anderson

Castro the Astro Named All-Star Cuz Someone Had to Be

Saturday night Major League Baseball announced the starters and reserves for this year’s All-Star Game.

With the exception of a final fan’s choice vote for each league, and some players to be named later by the managers, the rosters are pretty much set.

For the most part the rosters seem sound and despite the ill conceived notion of fan voting, the bulk of the players seem to have gotten on the team through merit.

Of course since the introduction of the “all teams have to be represented by at least one player rule” some of the reserve players would not be on the team were it not required for someone from their team to be there.

Jason Castro was named to his first All-Star game Saturday. Photo R. Anderson
Jason Castro was named to his first All-Star game Saturday.
Photo R. Anderson

This brings us to Jason Castro, catcher for the Houston Astros. Castro was named to the All-Star game as the sole representative of the Astros.

To think that his level of play reaches the level of an All-Star leads one to have to make a quantum leap of reasoning.

Even given the notion that someone from the Astros has to be selected as an All-Star, Castro does not even lead any offensive categories on the team. Which means that he is not even the best of the worst team in baseball.

Castro ranks second in batting average behind Jose Altuve (last year’s Astros All-Star representative) and also ranks second on the team in runs scored and home runs.

Granted Castro had a “see I belong in the game” moment Saturday night when he hit a three-run home run against the Rangers as part of a shocking upset in Arlington but the case remains puzzling as to why he is heading to the All-Star game as a reserve catcher.

To be fair I have nothing against Jason Castro despite the Astros seeming to have a man crush on him since drafting him with the 10th pick of the 2008 draft and repeatedly shoving him down the throats of the fans despite the presence of better catchers on the roster.

While there have been some catchers through the years that have swung the bat well those are usually few and far between. And in the case of former Astros catcher turned second baseman Craig Biggio catchers that can hit are usually moved to other positions to prolong their careers. Had Craig Biggio remained a catcher it is very probable that he would not have had the long career that allowed him to obtain over 3,000 hits.

So to me the job of catcher first and foremost is that of a defensive player that works well with the pitchers and can throw runners out at second base. Through the years prior to Jason Castro arriving at the Astros there were a string of such players who while not known for consistently driving in runs they definitely minimized opposing teams scoring through their work behind the plate.

Future Hall of Famer Ivan "Pudge" Rodriquez spent only part of a season with the Astros before being traded to the Rangers. Photo R. Anderson
Future Hall of Famer Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez spent only part of a season with the Astros before being traded to the Rangers.
Photo R. Anderson

To me the best catcher to ever wear an Astros uniform was Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez. With a young team and a future Hall of Famer behind the plate, it seemed like a no brainer to keep Pudge in the Astro pinstripes for as long as possible to allow him to mentor the pitching staff and provide veteran leadership in the clubhouse.

Sadly the Astros traded Rodriguez to the Rangers midway though the 2009 season. But during his time there he was definitely fun to watch and showed Astros players and fans what a real catcher looks like.

J.R. Towles was another catcher who called a good game but fell short at the plate. Towles and Castro were both competing for the starting job at the same time. Towles beat out the injury prone Castro twice in spring training for the job and received high praise from many of the Astros pitchers for his presense behind the plate.

For my money former Astro J.R. Towles was twice the player Jason Castro is where it counts most, defensively. Unfortunately for Towles the Astros disagreed and kept sticking with the error prone Jason Castro behind the plate. Photo R. Anderson
For my money former Astro J.R. Towles was twice the player Jason Castro is where it counts most, defensively. Unfortunately for Towles the Astros disagreed and kept sticking with the error prone Jason Castro behind the plate.
Photo R. Anderson

Unfortunately Towles struggled mightily at the plate generating far more outs than hits. After a few seasons of battling between the Majors and Minors, and with Castro still the anointed catcher of the future, Towles was finally let go paving the way for the Jason Castro era to begin.

Still even after Castro was anointed the starter he still faced injury issues and actually missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury received during Spring Training.

It seems that he is finally showing the offensive spark that they had hoped was there but there are still glaring defensive issues visible in his game in the amount of passed balls that get by him. His ability to call games and be in sync with his battery mates is also an area that is still in work.

I certainly hope that I am wrong and Jason Castro can become a successful every day catcher for years to come and help the team with both his bat and his glove. I just have not seen enough evidence of that to date to give me confidence in his ability to be that player down the road.

Granted, as a reserve there is no guarantee that Castro will take the field at any point in the game. The rules say a member from every team has to make the roster but it does not say that the managers are forced to use every player like some Little League pay to play situation.

I truly hope that both fan voting and guarantee representation from all teams are removed from the All-Star Game landscape in the coming years to return the game to its roots where the best players, regardless of team affiliation, are battling each other for bragging rights and home field World Series advantage.

Until that day comes the All-Star Game will carry a virtual asterisk next to it meaning that the accomplishments made within it should not be judged the same way as the the pre fan vote era.

Now if you’ll excuse me I need to start planning my All-Star Game menu.

Copyright 2013 R. Anderson