Yesterday’s complete game shutout thrown by the Baseball Writer’s Association of America left a foul taste in my mouth. In possession of a ballot containing as many as 7 future Hall of Famers and at least 10 players with legitimate cases, the voters instead found that no player was worthy. Just to ram that point home one more time: the 2013 Hall of Fame ballot, one of the most talent-laden ballots in the history of Hall of Fame ballots, contained no Hall of Famers according to America’s sports writers. That’s absolutely baffling. I’ll say it again. Baffling. Jonah Keri wrote a brilliant post detailing some of the major problems with the voting electorate and some ways to fix it, so I’ll leave those issues for another day. Instead I want to take a look at three thoughts/observations/conversations floating around my head.
Craig Biggio, who ranks 21st all-time in hits, 5th in doubles, and is 15th all-time in runs scored, is not a Hall of Famer
Craig Biggio was an absolute master at getting on base during his prime. He’d take a base in any possible way a pitcher would allow. You wanted to buzz him off the plate? Sure, go ahead, but run that pitch inside and Biggio’s getting on first. Catch a little too much of the plate with a breaking ball and his plunking it into the outfield. And if you wanted to be a little to fine around the edges of the strike zone, Biggio was more than willing to allow you do so, as he was content to take a walk. Biggio ranks among the most effective offensive 2nd baseman in the history of baseball, and statistically, his case is completely sound. Biggio should be a no-doubt-about-it Hall of Famer.
Biggio was also the ultimate team player as well. He spent 20 seasons with the franchise that drafted him, the Houston Astros, and he was willing to do whatever they asked of him. Biggio began his career as a catcher, manning the backstop for over 400 games in his career, which is good for about 2 and a half seasons. Biggio next settled at 2nd base, where he would win 4 Gold Gloves while playing next to another Astros mainstay Jeff Bagwell. Biggio was always considered an upstanding member of the Houston community, a team-first player, and he was widely liked by his peers. He was never suspected of using steroids when he played or even after he retired. He never ballooned in size and he most certainly never had to get a bigger hat. Basically, Biggio was a 5’11”, 180 pound tornado of hustle, grit, and determination. The only possible way to tie him to steroids is to bigot yourself against an entire era of ballplayers, which is what the sportswriters, sitting high up in their moral towers casting judgment upon us all, have decided to do. For those writers who want to bombard us with “character clause this and character clause that,” Biggio should be their guy. Hang on. Nevermind. On second thought they’re probably the same group who can’t vote for anybody on the first ballot because nobody but Willie Mays and Babe Ruth and Walter Johnson are first balloters.
Mike Piazza falls victim to assumed guilt
Quick, name the 3 greatest offensive catchers in baseball history.
Ok, good. I’ve got my quick and dirty list here too and in my mind it has to be Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, and then maybe Yogi Berra, but I’m most definitely certain on the first two. Piazza is the only catcher in baseball history (minimum of 1000 games of course) to have an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of over .900, and guess what else? He’s also the all-time leading home run hitter at the position with 427 bombs. Bench is right behind in homers, 3rd in ribbies, and has a nice collection of hardware to boot, so those two players are #1 and #2, no argument. I could be talked into some other players at number three. Mickey Cochrane and Bill Dickey are excellent choices too, as is Carlton Fisk, but I like Berra at #3.
It’s really just semantics though, because all of those guys are enshrined in baseball’s hallowed Hall. Wait you mean Piazza isn’t? Well why the hell not? Oh, some idiots think he used steroids, despite the fact that there is no tangible evidence or connection that Piazza did in fact use steroids. You mean the greatest hitting catcher in baseball history could barely crack more than 50% of the vote because a bunch of revisionist journalists are on a crusade? What a bunch of bull.
The Hall of Fame should reanimate the corpses of Deacon White, Jacob Ruppert, and Hank O’Day for the Induction Ceremony this year, because the event is going to need some livening up
I have absolutely no problem with the Veteran’s Committee going back into the annuls of baseball history to pull out some of the best players, movers, and changers who left an imprint on the game in it’s infancy. Deacon White put up some wonderful numbers while playing catcher for teams like the Buffalo Bison and the Detroit Wolverines. But Deacon White passed away in 1939 in Aurora, Illinois and he won’t be able to attend the ceremony. Jacob Ruppert, former owner of the Yankees, and Hank O’Day, the 2nd hardest working umpire in history, won’t be able to attend either. That’s a big problem for the Hall, because not only has it been losing money for the past decade, but now they won’t be able to count on their largest (aka most profitable) weekend of the entire year. There won’t be a stream of orange and blue clad Mets fans making the trek to hang on Piazza’s every word as he is inducted. The Houston faithful won’t get to have their brief moment of joy with Biggio in what will probably be another lost season.
Instead, a bunch of men that nobody has ever met or knows anything about will be elected. So why don’t we punch it up? Scientists have just got to be only a few months away from creating some kind of reanimation matrix or synthesizing some sort of zombie-type virus to get these newly elected Hall of Famers out of the grave. Wouldn’t it be great to hear baseball stories that pre-date the National League from Deacon White’s reanimated corpse? Provided he doesn’t gnaw your arm off of course.