June 29, 2005

WOULDN'T 3,000 HITS HAVE BEEN EASIER?

Oswalt tosses seven scoreless innings vs. Rockies (AP, 6/29/05)

Craig Biggio's arm guard is headed to the Hall of Fame.

The way Houston Astros manager Phil Garner sees it, the player won't be far behind.

Biggio set the modern record for being hit by pitches and added a solo homer, helping Roy Oswalt win his fourth straight start in Houston's 7-1 victory over the Colorado Rockies on Wednesday.

"When you look at where he stands [with] offensive numbers, he's pretty impressive," Garner said. "The guys that are ahead of him are baseball icons that live forever. The guys that he's passed and he continues to pass are baseball icons too. So he's in high cotton he deserves to be there."

Biggio was hit on the left elbow in the fourth inning by Byung-Hyun Kim, breaking Don Baylor's post-1900 record of 267 times hit by pitches. Biggio calmly turned and trotted to first as he had so many other times, but this time he pointed to the ball and asked the ball boy to send it back to the Astros' dugout as a keepsake for his years of pain.

"Anybody that's been hit that many times, you have no understanding about how many times that is and how painful it is over the years," said Biggio, who had two hits to move into 52nd place with 2,718.

Many of the fans at Coors Field gave Biggio a standing ovation, and Cooperstown asked for his arm guard. As for the ball, it's headed home to his kids.

"My kids collect a bunch of stuff, it's amazing," Biggio said. "We have a rotation going on, I don't know if it's my daughter's or my oldest boy's -- somebody is going to get it. They treat everything with respect, they respect the game."


He actually could still get to 3000 fairly easily and has to be the only player who'll ever do so playing three of the four positions up the middle.

Posted by Orrin Judd at June 29, 2005 11:30 PM
Comments

Given that he was a catcher and a second baseman, Biggio's career numbers are even more impressive than they otherwise seem.

Now, that he has broken the career hit by pitch record will Robert Klein amend his routine concerning Minnie Minoso to make the same joke about the coaches' signal specifically for when he comes to the plate.

Posted by: bart at June 30, 2005 1:22 AM

Speaking of the Astros, is anyone else paying attention to Roger Clemens?

1.50 ERA with sixteen starts and six wins. Amazing.

It's be even more amazing if the Astros bullpen wasn't filled with donkeys. He leaves the game in the 7th with a 5-1 lead only to end up with a no decision. He'd have ten wins if the Astros had a decent set-up and closer combination.

Posted by: H. D. Miller at June 30, 2005 2:15 AM

H.D. Miller:

And he's almost 43 years old. Holy [buckets]!

Posted by: Matt Murphy at June 30, 2005 2:35 AM

Taking nothing from Mr. Biggio, but I am surprised that Ron Hunt wasn't mentioned. I thought that Mr. Hunt's career centered on HBP.

Posted by: Fred Jacobsen (San Fran) at June 30, 2005 5:48 AM

Ron Hunt came in a 243, but while Don Zimmer only had 20 or so HBP, he did perfect the unique head method

Posted by: h-man at June 30, 2005 7:02 AM

Biggio will be an interesting test case for the Cooperstown voters. He probably will get to 3,000 hits. He's only 282 short right now and still batting .285/.348/.484, very respectable for a middle infielder.

Nobody who got to the three thousand mark has been denied an HOF plaque. Biggio might be the first. Current conventional wisdom among the writers is that there are too many guys in the hall.

Biggio doesn't have one big number that makes voters sit up and notice, except the somewhat goofy HBP record. He's the kind of all-round talent that sabermetricians love, so he rates very well on computerized evaluations. But computers don't vote for the HOF.

Posted by: Casey Abell at June 30, 2005 8:40 AM

In the playoffs, Biggio was a relentless choker. His playoff batting average is just .198 in 106 at bats. That does not help his hall of fame credentials.

Posted by: Bartelson at June 30, 2005 9:12 AM

Casey:

That's ridiculous. Of course he'll make it and on the first ballot.

Bagwell is the harder call.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 9:25 AM

Biggio makes it because he was a catcher and 2d baseman. If his numbers were those of someone who spent his career in the outfield, it would be a tougher call.

Posted by: bart at June 30, 2005 9:45 AM

Orrin:

We'll see how ridiculous it is when the votes are counted. As I recall, you kept saying that Cheney wouldn't be the veep candidate.

If anybody who gets to 3,000 hits could be kept out, it might well be Biggio. He's not black or Hispanic, so there would be no fear of criticism for "racist" voting. His home run total is modest, he holds no records except the HBP oddity, he never played on a world championship team, his postseason record is underwhelming...there are all sorts of reasons that voters could find to keep him out.

It took Sandberg a while to make the hall because the voters are convinced too many guys are in already. Santo has never made it, and Biggio might never get there, either.

Mind you, he deserves HOF induction more than many current members, based on any reasonably consistent evaluation system. But he's definitely not the type of player who screams "first ballot" to the writers. We'll see if he makes it on any ballot.

Posted by: Casey Abell at June 30, 2005 10:00 AM

Casey:

As I said, Cheney won't be the VP when Bush leaves office.

Sandberg and Santo had only a fraction of the hits.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 10:33 AM

bart:

Name a multi-Gold Glove winning center fielder with 3,000 hits who didn't make it first ballot?

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 10:37 AM

Someone who should be in the hall and isn't is Don Mattingly. If Biggio's in then Mattingly should be as well.

Posted by: Bartman at June 30, 2005 10:53 AM

A first baseman with less than 2200 hits and just over 200 HRs? Shake a tree and a Mattingly falls out.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 11:02 AM

According to Baseball Reference, these are the 5 players who's statistics are closest to Biggio. He falls short of HoF standards (using their sabremetric approach) in 4 of 5 catagories with the exception being his overall probability of getting in. He has an overall score of 125 with 100 being the average for a hall of famer and 130 being a virtual lock.

# Roberto Alomar (902)
# Lou Whitaker (861)
# Joe Morgan (833) *
# Ryne Sandberg (826)
# Barry Larkin (819)

Posted by: Patrick H at June 30, 2005 1:27 PM

Body armor needs to be banned from baseball. If Biggio had to actually take all those hits on his body, he would probably have made attempts to get out of the way. Or, if they want to wear it for an injury, then a pitch that hits a piece of armor doesn't give you first base.

No one was ever worse than Mo Vaughn, who looked like a Sherman tank and then had to take off about 50 pounds of equipment after he got to 1st base. He also stood right over the plate and dived at every pitch, so a pitch right down the middle would have hit him.

Posted by: b at June 30, 2005 1:40 PM

He also got so fat a pitch down the middle would have hit him in the belly.

Posted by: joe shropshire at June 30, 2005 1:53 PM

Like 400 HRs, 3000 hits is rapidly becoming a meaningless number because so many players hang around till Social Security age to get it. In baseball's halcyon days, players made less money and so had less incentive to stick around and also had to work in the off-season rather than rehab or train. How many 35+ year old players were on rosters in 1970?

The lower mounds, smaller ballparks and lack of halfway decent pitching due to over-expansion also play a role.

Posted by: bart at June 30, 2005 2:05 PM

They made less so had less incentive to make a major league salary? That's too stupid for words.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 2:28 PM

Sheesh, oj, bart may be crazy but he has a point. If you look at the ratio of the median baseball salary to the national median salary, probably 50 years ago it was on the order of 1 and now it's more like 100...

Posted by: b at June 30, 2005 2:36 PM

Patrick;

Alomar is an interesting case--the most overrated defensive player of our time, but hard to keep out of the Hall due to his inflated rep. Fortunately by not making it to the landmark numbers he probably cost himself a shot.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 2:37 PM

b:

So they quit baseball to become what?

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 2:48 PM

Salesmen, farmers, shopkeepers, doctors...the same things any other people did.

Posted by: b at June 30, 2005 2:53 PM

In the year after Joe DiMaggio had the 56 game hitting streak, he made $7500.

In the 1960s, only a handful of players made as much as $100,000 and lots made $20-30000/yr. If you've got a successful cattle ranch,car dealership or neighborhood tavern back home, there was a whole lot of incentive to pack it in. In MLB today, where the median salary is like $2 million, the incentive to stick around is enormous. When career utilitymen like Mark McLemore make $40 million in their time of service in MLB, why should they quit?

Posted by: bart at June 30, 2005 3:06 PM

Orrin:

I agree that Cheney won't be veep on January 21, 2009. I see no signs that he's going anywhere before then.

Back to other forecasts...if Biggio doesn't make it to 3,000, I don't think he has a chance at the HOF. If he does make the three-thousand mark, it gets interesting. If there was ever an opportunity for the voters to show they won't be influenced by "automatic" criteria like 3,000 hits or 500 home runs, this might be it.

It's too bad because Biggio easily deserves induction. If I were Pete Rose and had to bet, my wager is that Biggio eventually gets in but will have to wait a few cycles like Sandberg. If he ends up like Santo, it's just as big an injustice as Ronnie's exclusion.

Posted by: Casey Abell at June 30, 2005 4:10 PM

bart:

DiMaggio played in pain because there was nothing else he was competent to do.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 4:33 PM

Casey:

Kingman and Canseco establish that the vicinity 0f 450 HR doesn't get you in. McGriff stopped before they had to decide about 500. 3,000 hits is automatic and Biggio gets there easily.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 4:36 PM

Wouldn't you know, Mariotti and Paige just argued Biggio as an HOFer on Around the Horn. Mariotti, who may actually have a vote (isn't he a ten-year member of the BBWAA?) argued "no" based on Biggio's less then overwhelming offensive numbers and his relatively poor performance in the MVP voting.

Paige argued "yes" but made the weakest possible argument for induction: Bill James likes Biggio! Considering what James has said about the HOF voters, we better keep this endorsement very, very quiet.

Unfortunately, I think there will be enough Mariottis in the BBWAA to keep Biggio out for at least a few years.

Posted by: Casey Abell at June 30, 2005 5:59 PM

Bart:

In 1970, Roberto Clemente (36 at the time) played in about 140 games and hit .342, I believe. He hit .317 two years later, his final season.

Posted by: jim hamlen at June 30, 2005 7:41 PM

Casey:

Bet my signed first edition of Princess Casseopia?

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 8:53 PM

And Clemente is one of about the best 20 position players of all time. Ridiculously over-qualified for the HOF.

Posted by: bart at June 30, 2005 9:13 PM

Bet what? Sorry, I honestly don't know what you're talking about.

Posted by: Casey Abell at June 30, 2005 10:28 PM

Biggio makes it first ballot.

Posted by: oj at June 30, 2005 11:08 PM

oj

My point exactly. Neither Mattingly nor Biggio deserve to be in.

Posted by: Bartman at July 1, 2005 8:10 AM

Mattingly because he's only about 2/3rds of a Hall of Famer and Biggio because he's qualified but not a Yankee?

Posted by: oj at July 1, 2005 8:41 AM

Mattingly doesn't because he only had a few good years and the rest were crap. In his last year he batted eighth in the order. Also, he played a position(first base) where there are lots of great hitters.

If you let in Mattingly, how do you keep out Keith Hernandez, Jeff Bagwell and Kent Hrbek?

Posted by: bart at July 1, 2005 12:43 PM

Alomar may be dq'ed because of his spitting on John Hirshbeck.

Posted by: Robert Schwartz at July 1, 2005 1:14 PM

Also because he is practically the poster boy for lackadaisical play after signing a huge free agency contract.

Posted by: bart at July 1, 2005 1:33 PM
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