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Fun Cards: “Baseball Immortals” Craig Biggio

Biggio

Craig Biggio missed induction in 2014 by two measly votes, but the real travesty is that he didn’t get inducted in 2013, his first year on the ballot. No living persons were inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2013. In addition to Biggio, eventual BBWAA inductees Mike Piazza and Jeff Bagwell were also passed over in 2013. But the writers finally did the right thing in 2015 and elected Biggio on the strength of his 3060 hits as well as his versatility. The Astros legend started his career as a catcher, switched to second base, then to the outfield, then back to second. He started one final game at catcher in his second-to-last game in 2007, playing two innings behind the plate before moving to second base.

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Cooperstown is calling

Randy Pedro Biggio

Time is fast approaching for the Hall of Fame Class of 2015 to be announced. On Tuesday, January 6, the results of the BBWAA voting will be announced, with at least three players expected to be ushered into Cooperstown. The intimidating Randy Johnson, the dominant Pedro Martinez, and lifetime Astro Craig Biggio should all share the stage this summer. But who else might join them?

Smoltz Piazza Bagwell

Early ballot tracking shows John Smoltz receiving a lot of support, and will likely be the fourth man inducted in July, joining teammates Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and manager Bobby Cox, all who were immortalized in 2014. I’m not going to debate whether Smoltz was better than Mike Mussina or Curt Schilling; regardless of who was better, I believe all three should have plaques in the Hall of Fame. But allowing Smoltz in on his first appearance on the ballot should create more conversation about Mussina and Schilling, whose career statistics are very similar, and hopefully we will see support for them increase next year.

What about Mike Piazza? He was one of the greatest hitting catchers of all-time, but he is now in his third year of eligibility. Suspicions about steroid use create a dark cloud over his candidacy, but there has never been a shred of solid evidence or a Jose Canseco allegation against him. With 109 ballots revealed, Piazza is barely over the 75% threshold, but as Tuesday approaches that number is expected to drop. It would be nice to go ahead and get him in the door to clear room on the ballots of those who like to check off the full ten names allowed.

Same for Jeff Bagwell, who currently has just under 75% support. The steroid suspicions are in the minds of many writers, but Bagwell has vehemently denied using and his numbers merit induction. How fantastic would it be to see six men standing on the stage in Cooperstown on induction day?

The next name on the list is Tim Raines, who has seen a steady increase in votes with the exception of last year, when his percentage dropped from 52.2% to 46.1%. The early numbers show him at 63.3%, still far short of the required 75%, but giving hope to fans of the Rock that he will climb the rest of the way by the time his eligibility ends. 2015 is Raines’ eighth year on the ballot; a new rule allows a player’s name to be listed for ten years instead of fifteen (with the exceptions being those who were already past the ten-year mark when the rule was enacted this year).

After Raines comes Schilling and Mussina, then the PED posterboys Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens. I don’t expect (or want) those two to ever receive enough support from the writers or the Veterans Committee. Designated hitter extraordinaire Edgar Martinez is next, followed by four guys that I believe should be given more consideration than they have received so far: Alan Trammell, Fred McGriff, Lee Smith, and Jeff Kent. Sadly, none of them have any shot of election in 2015.

The big names in danger of falling off the ballot after this round include Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, along with first-timers Gary Sheffield, Nomar Garciaparra, and Carlos Delgado. Yankee superstar Don Mattingly is on the ballot for his fifteenth and final time.

Don’t get a big head

The Junior Junkie just posted a 1990 Topps “Heads Up” he received featuring Ken Griffey Jr. I have a few as well, and they’re actually hanging on the wall in my basement…

Topps Heads Up

That is, from left to right, Craig Biggio, Tony Gwynn, John Franco (the only Red in the set), Bo Jackson, and Junior. I also had Dennis Eckersley and Mark McGwire at one point, but they weren’t worthy of inclusion on my Wall of Awesomeness.

This was a neat little set, and I wouldn’t mind picking up a few more for my wall if I found them on the cheap at a card show. Looking at the checklist the Junkie posted, I probably also wanted Gregg Olson and Jerome Walton back in the day. But alas, I never got them.

Astros 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (2012)

Astros celebrate fifty years of baseball

Astros 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition:
The Essential Games of the Houston Astros
and Astros Memories

New Video, 2012
5 discs; 11 hrs. 46 mins. + extras

Every team has them. Games that define a franchise, that will be talked about for decades after the last pitch is thrown. In this special collection by New Video due to be released May 15, the Houston Astros take the starring role as four of the most important games in the history of the team are on display.

  • Nolan Ryan‘s 5th career no-hitter (September 26, 1981)
  • Mike Scott‘s no-hitter, clinching the NL West (September 25, 1986)
  • 18-inning NLDS clincher over the Braves (October 9, 2005)
  • Craig Biggio‘s 3,000th hit (June 28, 2007)

This set is great not only for Houston fans, but for baseball history lovers. To watch one of Ryan’s no-hitters, against a lineup full of consistent Dodger hitters like Steve Garvey and Pedro Guerrero, is a great experience. One can relive the emotion on the field after Biggio’s 3,000th hit, as his family came onto the field and his teammates hugged him, and then the impromptu reunion with former teammate Jeff Bagwell. Mike Scott’s no-hitter clinched the division for the Astros in 1986, facing the San Francisco Giants and a young Will Clark. And then there is the longest playoff game in history, an 18-inning marathon victory over the Braves in 2005.

A fifth disc called Astros Memories rounds out this fine collection, featuring the legends of Astros baseball: Cesar Cedeno, Jimmy Wynn, Jose Cruz and more. Highlight reels and interviews are woven together as the story of Houston baseball is told from the days of the Colt .45s, featuring no-hitters, All-Star games, and playoff appearances. Larry Dierker provides several anecdotes in the form of “Dierker’s Diary,” while Bob Watson shares his heartfelt thoughts on the Houston franchise.

Baseball fans who love the Astros, Nolan Ryan, Craig Biggio, or just history in general will love the opportunity to watch these games again.

Learn more about New Video.

Pre-order Astros 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition.

Retired Numbers: #7

Only a pair of #7’s have been retired; one is in the Hall of Fame, the other will be soon.


Craig Biggio, Houston Astros

Biggio started his career as a catcher, then moved to second base, then moved to the outfield, then moved back to second base…and he was still awesome. Finishing his career 3060 hits, he all but guaranteed election for Cooperstown when he is eligible.


Mickey Mantle, New York Yankees

How magical are “magic numbers”? (part 2)

In June, I examinded 300 wins and 3000 strikeouts. I intended to jump right into 500 home runs and 3000 hits after that, within a week maybe, but wouldn’t you know…I never did. So let’s knock that out and put this question to rest.

Twenty-five guys have hit 500 or more career home runs…a lot more than I thought.

1. Barry Bonds (762)
2. Hank Aaron (755)
3. Babe Ruth (714)
4. Willie Mays (660)
5. Ken Griffey (630)
6. Alex Rodriguez (626)
7. Sammy Sosa (609)
8. Jim Thome (596)
9. Frank Robinson (586)
10. Mark McGwire (583)
11. Harmon Killebrew (573)
12. Rafael Palmeiro (569)
13. Reggie Jackson (563)
14. Manny Ramirez (555)
15. Mike Schmidt (548)
16. Mickey Mantle (536)
17. Jimmie Foxx (534)
18. Willie McCovey (521)
Frank Thomas (521)
Ted Williams (521)
21. Ernie Banks (512)
Eddie Mathews (512)
23. Mel Ott (511)
24. Gary Sheffield (509)
25. Eddie Murray (504)

Of those, eight are not yet eligible for the Hall of Fame. Eleven were first-year inductees. That leaves us with six names to look at: Killebrew, Foxx, Mathews, Ott, McGwire, and Palmeiro. The problem with McGwire and Palmeiro is steroids, no doubt. Both would be ushered into Cooperstown on the red carpet had they come by their numbers clean. The way they have been handled by the voters will make future elections very interesting, with Bonds, A-Rod, Sosa and Sheffield on the horizon.

But what about the four old-timers, who never stuck a needle in their buttocks?

Foxx and Ott were on the ballot under a different set of rules than what are currently in place. Voters were not required to wait for a player to be retired five years, or to even wait until they were finished playing. Both Foxx and Ott received good support running up to their eventual induction, and would have been first-ballot inductees had the five-year waiting period been in effect.

Then you have Killebrew and Mathews. Mathews waited five years for the call, receiving only 32.3% of the vote in his first year on the ballot. He eventually climbed the list and was enshrined in 1978. Killebrew was on the ballot four years before getting his plaque. What makes this so crazy is that Killer led the league in home runs six times, and was at the time in the top 5 on the all-time list (he now sits at 11).

While it is somewhat insane that Mathews and Killebrew did not get first-ballot treatment, there are no pre-steroid players with 500 home runs outside the Hall of Fame.

Now on to 3000 hits…

1. Pete Rose (4256)
2. Ty Cobb (4189)
3. Hank Aaron (3771)
4. Stan Musial (3630)
5. Tris Speaker (3514)
6. Cap Anson (3435)
7. Honus Wagner (3420)
8. Carl Yastrzemski (3419)
9. Paul Molitor (3319)
10. Eddie Collins (3315)
11. Willie Mays (3283)
12. Eddie Murray (3255)
13. Nap Lajoie (3242)
14. Cal Ripken (3184)
15. George Brett (3154)
16. Paul Waner (3152)
17. Robin Yount (3142)
18. Tony Gwynn (3141)
19. Dave Winfield (3110)
20. Craig Biggio (3060)
21. Rickey Henderson (3055)
22. Rod Carew (3053)
23. Lou Brock (3023)
24. Derek Jeter (3020)
Rafael Palmeiro (3020)
26. Wade Boggs (3010)
27. Al Kaline (3007)
28. Roberto Clemente (3000)

Four of these guys (Speaker, Anson, Collins, Lajoie) were elected within the first few years of the Hall’s opening, and since there was such a backlog at the time, we’ll overlook the indiscretion of making them wait. The only two eligible on the outside are Charlie Hustle (who didn’t know when to fold ’em) and Raffy (Mr. Positive). Biggio should make it in next year, and Jeter in his first year of eligibility (whenever that may be).

That leaves only Paul Waner, who was on the ballot for seven years before being inducted. However, similar to Ott and Foxx, Waner had just retired when he began receiving votes. He climbed from 42.1% in 1948 to 83.3% in 1951, only seven years after announcing his departure from the playing field.

So back to the original question, how magical are the milestones of 500 home runs and 3000 hits? The only eligible players not inducted are gamblers and ‘roiders, and 3000 hits seems to be a first-ballot ticket so long as there is no controversy.

Original Carter Sketch Card: Craig Biggio

In the style of the tobacco cards of ye olden days, future Hall of Famer Craig Biggio. A seven-time All-Star who switched from the catcher position to second base to centerfield with considerable ease. I wonder who would have guessed he would end his career with more than 3000 hits? The milestone of 500 home runs has been diminished because of the steroid scandal, but 3000 hits is still special. Of the 27 (soon to be 28) players who have reached that number, only one is a stinkin’ cheater, and it ain’t Biggio.

The significance of the first-ballot Hall of Famer

The results were just announced a couple of days ago, and Andre Dawson was the only player chosen by the BBWAA to enter the Hall of Fame in 2010. It was Dawson’s ninth year on the ballot. Some are grousing about his lack of qualifications, while others are ecstatic that he is finally in. To me, Dawson is a Hall of Famer. He was one of the heroes of my childhood due to his exposure on WGN, and it’s hard to erase childhood memories even when statistics are hurled at you.

Another complaint I have seen on several blogs is the concept of “first ballot Hall of Famers.” The line of thought is, “How can someone be a Hall of Famer next year, but not this year? If you’re a Hall of Famer, you’re a Hall of Famer plain-and-simple!” While there is merit to this, I can understand the line of thinking of those who refuse to vote for certain players on their first ballot. The idea is that a first ballot induction is somewhat of a higher honor, and it is. Sure, there were oversights (Ryne Sandberg, Carlton Fisk), and there were some who got in on their first ballot that really didn’t deserve it (Paul Molitor? Seriously?), but in an imperfect system it’s a reasonable line of thought.

That’s why I don’t really have a problem with Alomar waiting a year, and Larkin a couple of years. I’m surprised that Alomar was not elected (especially after the Paul Molitor debacle), but not offended. He’ll get in next year, along with Blyleven, and while that may take a potential vote away from Larkin, I’m confident Barry will be inducted in 2012 or 2013.

Here are my predictions of Hall inductees for the next several years (* = first ballot, ** = final year of eligibility):

2011: Alomar, Blyleven

2012: Larkin

2013: Craig Biggio*, Jeff Bagwell, Edgar Martinez

2014: Greg Maddux*, Tom Glavine*, Frank Thomas*

2015: Randy Johnson*, Tim Raines

2016: Ken Griffey, Jr.* (assuming he retires after this season), Mike Mussina

2017: John Smoltz (assuming he retires after this season), Lee Smith**

Bagwell may squeeze through in 2012 on his first try, but to me he just doesn’t qualify as a first ballot Hall of Famer if you are going to limit it to the greatest of the great (Rickey Henderson, Cal Ripken, Tony Gwynn). And I’m still not sold on Edgar, but I do believe he will pick up enough steam over the next few years.

2014 will be interesting – all three are more than deserving of first ballot status, but when is the last time three guys went in on their first try in the same year? It’s only happened once (excluding 1936, the first year of voting). You have to go back to 1999 – Nolan Ryan, George Brett, and Robin Yount – just barely. Ryan and Brett both received more than 98% of the vote; Yount got just 77.5%.

Thomas’ latter years may hurt him, but he should still go in on the first ballot with at least 80%. Glavine should also receive at least 80%, although if the writers look back at history and see that Warren Spahn only received 83.2%, a few might hold back their votes. Maddux, on the other hand, should receive 100%. He won’t, but he should. Any writer who fails to vote for Maddux should have his voting rights stripped, taken out into the street and be publicly flogged.

2015 is the year I have Raines finally getting in. The writers have to wake up eventually, right?

The Big Unit will cruise in, as will Junior (I’m assuming he retires after this season). The Moose will have to wait a couple years, and Lee Smith will get in during his final year of eligibility.

You might notice that I didn’t use any statistics in this post, other than the voting percentages that Hall of Famers received. I’m not anti-stat; I think stats are great. But I just get overwhelmed with all the new stuff that has picked up steam in this internet age. WHIP, WAR, Win Shares, OPS+…I don’t understand half of them. I’m more of a counting stat guy. And yeah, I know Molitor had 3k hits. But he still shouldn’t have been in on the first ballot.

Fun cards

Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I worked for Cingular Wireless. “Worked” meaning I went in, sat at a desk, and played on the computer. During this time, I created “fun cards” of current baseball players on classic card designs. Below are some of the fruits of that effort (you can click on the thumbnails for larger versions)…

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I printed two of some of these cards and sent them to the players, asking them to autograph one and return the other. I got responses back from Kerry Wood, Josh Hamilton, Jason LaRue and Pokey Reece among others.

But my time was not wasted entirely on baseball. I also created some Star Wars Jedi cards based on the 1986 Topps baseball design. I never got around to making the Sith cards though. Here are the Jedi…

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