Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? Craig Biggio

Claim to fame: This fall, the Hall of Fame will get its deepest and most troubled class of eligible players in recent memory, with Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, and Sammy Sosa among others new to the writers ballot. With the Baseball Writers Association of America continuing to argue amongst itself over enshrining players who were connected to steroids, perhaps the only honoree next year will be former Houston Astros second baseman Craig Biggio. With 3,060 hits and no taint of performance enhancing drugs for his candidacy, Biggio’s induction looks like a safe bet for the first ballot, a slam dunk. Should it be?

Current Hall of Fame eligibility: Having played his last game in 2007, Biggio will appear for the first time on the BBWAA ballot this fall and needs 75 percent of the vote for a plaque. He has a maximum of 15 tries with the writers.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? It used to be that 3,000 hits meant Cooperstown. Even now, 24 of 28 players who’ve reached the milestone are enshrined, with Biggio, Derek Jeter, Rafael Palmeiro, and Pete Rose the only ones left out. But something may have changed with Palmeiro, the first eligible player with north of 3,000 hits who’s fallen short with the writers, well short in fact. Just 12.6 percent of the BBWAA voted for Palmeiro this year, courtesy of his 2005 positive steroid test I’m guessing, and it’ll be interesting to see what happens with Biggio. If he comes up short in votes, it’ll be a sign 3,000 hits is no longer sacred.

Granted, even without 3,000 hits, Biggio would probably still be worthy. A lifetime .281 hitter with 291 home runs, he ranks as one of the best-slugging second basemen of all-time. His 66.2 WAR is about the baseline for enshrined players (though many have less), he ranks near or above for the Hall monitors on, and he compares favorably with other enshrined infielders. Biggio also had his best years in the pitcher-friendly Astrodome which makes him a little underrated to me, same as I’d say with Jeff Bagwell, Cesar Cedeno, or Jim Wynn. I even like the small things with Biggio, like the fact he started his career as a catcher and transitioned to other positions or that he once co-owned a ranch with Ken Caminiti, being a supportive teammate to a troubled man. Biggio sounds like a Hall of Famer in every sense.

That being said, it’ll be a shame if 3,000 hits is the main thing that gets Biggio in ultimately and is most remembered. I don’t think it’s the best thing about him, and he staggered his way to the achievement. His 20th and final season in 2007 where he attained the mark hitting .251 with an OPS+ of 71 and -1.5 WAR may be the worst work any everyday player has done in reaching an offensive milestone. Certainly, Biggio ranked among the most anemic hitters in the National League his last year, seeing as OPS+ is a measure of how a player’s offensive production compares to the rest of baseball and 100 a roughly average score. It’s also a hat tip to the other members of 3,000 Hit Club, 20 of 28 of whom had OPS+ of at least 100 the year they cleared the mark.

Considering the following list, which Biggio ranks dead last on:

Player OPS+ year they reached 3,000 hits Year
Ty Cobb 166  1921
Tris Speaker 166  1925
Hank Aaron 148  1970
Stan Musial 146  1958
Willie Mays 139  1970
Roberto Clemente 137  1972
Eddie Collins 135  1925
Cap Anson 134  1894
Eddie Murray 129  1995
Tony Gwynn 124  1999
Pete Rose 119  1978
Paul Molitor 116  1996
Paul Waner 109  1942
Rafael Palmeiro 108  2005
Carl Yastrzemski 108  1979
Al Kaline 107  1974
Dave Winfield 105  1993
George Brett 102  1992
Robin Yount 101  1992
Lou Brock 100  1979
Rod Carew 99  1985
Derek Jeter 97  2011
Rickey Henderson 95  2001
Cal Ripken 95  2000
Wade Boggs 94  1999
Honus Wagner 92  1914
Nap Lajoie 83  1914
Craig Biggio 71  2007

It’s not to take anything away from Biggio, who at the very least was well-thought of enough to keep getting trotted out in 2007 on his quest for 3,000. Whether it was intentional or not, the Astros did Biggio and his Hall of Fame candidacy a favor.

Does he belong in the Hall of Fame? is a Tuesday feature here.

Others in this series: Adrian BeltreAl OliverAlan TrammellAlbert BelleAlbert PujolsAllie ReynoldsBarry BondsBarry LarkinBert BlylevenBill KingBilly MartinBobby GrichCecil TravisChipper JonesClosersCurt FloodDan QuisenberryDarrell EvansDave ParkerDick AllenDon Mattingly,Don NewcombeGeorge SteinbrennerGeorge Van HaltrenGus GreenleeHarold BainesHarry DaltonJack MorrisJeff BagwellJim EdmondsJoe CarterJoe PosnanskiJohn SmoltzJuan GonzalezKeith HernandezKen Caminiti, Kevin BrownLarry Walker,Manny RamirezMaury WillsMel HarderMoises AlouPete Browning,Phil CavarrettaRafael PalmeiroRoberto AlomarRocky Colavito,Roger MarisRon CeyRon GuidryRon SantoS
moky Joe Wood
Steve Garvey,Ted SimmonsThurman MunsonTim RainesTony OlivaVince ColemanWill Clark