Craig Biggio was inducted into the Hall of Fame this past weekend, thus achieving baseball immortality – and yet, there were rumblings that Biggio’s inclusion in Cooperstown was undeserved.
Biggio, the critics say, was good but not great – even though he had 3,060 hits, 1,175 RBIs and 414 stolen bases over a 20-year career, all with Houston.
Jeff Passan’s response? Nonsense.
“I think good for a really long time is great,” the Yahoo! Sports MLB columnist said on CBS Sports Radio’s The DA Show. “It sounds a little counterintuitive. You want to think of greatness as peak, but I don’t think greatness is necessarily just limited to peak. I think greatness can take a different form in somebody who plays for a really long time at a high level and maybe not the highest of levels but is still an excellent player for 15+ years. That’s what Craig Biggio was. He was somebody who put together numbers and built them up over a long time.”
Biggio, a career .281 hitter, was also a seven-time All-Star, a four-time Gold Glove winner and a five-time Silver Slugger Award winner.
“I think you could probably make the argument that if Craig Biggio were playing today, he would be far more appreciated than he was back when he was with the Houston Astros, especially in the early days,” Passan said. “You look at stats like wins above replacement – loves Craig Biggio. He got on base and he played positions in catcher and second base and centerfield that are very valuable up-the-middle positions. These are the types of things where I think Craig Biggio played in the wrong era for his greatness to be appreciated.”
If people nitpick over Biggio, though, they almost have to nitpick over Pedro Martinez, who had “only” 219 wins. Martinez was a three-time Cy Young winner, which is beyond impressive, but the true measure of his worth may have been pitching 18 seasons.
“I think there’s something to be said for longevity when it comes to playing because that means you stayed healthy – and if you can stay healthy for a long time, I think that’s a skill,” Passan said. “I really truly do believe there is some skill to staying healthy as long as you do.”
It’s amazing that Biggio was able to stay on the field as much as he did; he was his by a pitch 285 times – second-most in big league history. In the end, what he did should dazzle you.
And the same goes for Martinez.
“Look, we’ve learned because of the sabermetrics revolution – and probably even before that – wins don’t really matter that much,” Passan said. “I mean, they give wins out to guys who throw one pitch sometimes. So to judge somebody by a statistic that is so misleading is, I think, unfair and there’s so many other better ones out there to look at the true essence of a pitcher and see who he was.”