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This Error is a First
Wednesday, January 16, 2013 • Posted January 17, 2013

by Art Dlugach

One of the big stories of the month was a non-story. No one was elected to be inducted into baseball’s Hall of Fame.

Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, and Roger Clemens did not get the required 75% of the baseball writers’ votes because of alleged steroid or performance-enhancing-drug usage.

The evidence may have been large against the trio, but nothing has ever been proven in a court of law. You may not like these guys now, but this smacks of “guilty till proven innocent.” It was sort of like: a warm gun, not even a smoking one, some questionable accusers, and a buff look did them in.

Actually, I thought the 36% for Bonds and close to 38% for Clemens were high votes.

This commentary, though, focuses much more on Craig Biggio, the Houston Astro from 1988-2007. He was on the ballot for the first time—five years of retirement from the game is required.

The writers think “first ballot” is akin to winning a Golden Globe or something, maybe claiming that Edgar Allan Poe trophy for first-time mystery authors, and Biggio—who has no steroid associations—received just over 68% of the votes. 32% of the scribes thought he should have to stay in the on-deck circle for now. Baloney.

He collected 3,060 hits, 20th or 21st on the list of all-time players. (Cap Anson’s 3,081 is in dispute.) Do you know how old Major League Baseball is? Close to 115 years in the modern era.

Hall of Famers such as Mickey Mantle, Reggie Jackson, Ernie Banks, and Duke Snider did not pick up 3,000 hits.

This is one of baseball’s landmark achievements. It’s like 300 wins for a pitcher or 500 home runs for a slugger.

Did playing two decades help? Yes. Should Biggio have quit after 12 or 15 years with the comment, “I want in the Hall, but I don’t want longevity to be a factor.” In his 17th season, Biggio hit .281, his lifetime average. That’s not Ty Cobb-esque, but I’m putting my chips on the table because of the 3,060.

Joe DiMaggio, Frank and Brooks Robinson, and Al Kaline—all Hall of Famers—did not acquire the hits Biggio did. Neither did Cooperstown resident Rod Carew, who seemed to hit .410 every year.

Craig Biggio, who played outfield, second base, and catcher in his time in Houston, will get into the Hall. It’s that first-ballot bugaboo that beat him for 2013.

Some writers think if Babe Ruth, Honus Wagner, or Jimmy Foxx might disagree with such an early selection, it’s best to err on the side of delay.

“Sorry, in a bona fide séance, I heard from the spirit of John McGraw, and he’s opposed….”

“Sorry, I talked with the great grandson of Carl Hubbell, and he said, even though he didn’t know Carl, he’s sure he wouldn’t have approved of designated hitters, wild cards in the playoffs, or a player getting in the Hall on the first ballot.”

Cy Young, who had 511 wins, and a big award carries his name, and Joe DiMaggio—among others—did not arrive in Cooperstown in their first year of eligibility. I’d say future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio is in mighty good company.

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