The Baseball Writers Association of America did the game a disservice Tuesday when it announced that it voted no one into the National Baseball Hall of Fame.
What this means is, for the first time since 1996, there will be no class of inductees to cheer in Cooperstown this summer.
I'm not mad that first-time players on the ballot like home run king Barry Bonds, seven-time Cy Young Award winner Roger Clemens, or Slammin' Sammy Sosa and all 609 of his home runs didn't make it in. I didn't expect the voters to look past their reported performance enhancing drug use. What I did expect was to see at the very least former Houston Astro Craig Biggio and former power-hitting catcher Mike Piazza get elected. When I checked around 2:30 p.m. Tuesday, and saw neither of them had been elected, my faith in the BBWAA took a giant hit.
AP File Photo
This Sept. 28, 2007 file photo shows Houston Astros’ Craig Biggio grimacing during a game against the Atlanta Braves in Houston.
Keeping the PED suspects out is fine, but to not vote in Biggio, who finished his career with 3,060 hits, or Piazza, one of the most feared hitters of his generation, is absurd.
Biggio, along with all the other candidates, needed 75 percent to be inducted, received 68.2 percent of the 569 ballots cast, becoming just the third person with 3,000 or more career hits to not be elected to the Hall of Fame. The other two you ask? Pete Rose, who wears baseball's scarlet letter and Rafael Palmeiro, who got caught up in the whole PED fiasco.
Rose, the all-time hits leader was banished from the game in 1989 for gambling on his own team while manager of the Cincinnati Reds. Rafael Palmeiro, after waving his finger at members of the U.S. Congress, declaring he had never done PED's, later failed a drug test.
Besides his 3,060 hits, Biggio, who started as a catcher, played all three outfield positions and was one of the National League's finest second basemen, finished with a .281 AVG, .363 OBP, slugged .433, hit 291 home runs, drove in 1,175 runs, stole 414 bases, and won four Gold Gloves at second base. One of Houston's favorite sons also played in seven All-Star games, won five Silver Slugger awards, finished in the top 10 of the NL Most Valuable Player vote three times and finished with a .985 fielding percentage. I ask you, how is this man not a Hall of Famer?
Piazza received 57.8 percent (329 votes), and was by far the most feared hitting catcher of his generation, or any other for that matter. His not getting in represents another disastrous lapse in judgement by the BBWAA.
Piazza, as the story goes, was taken in the 62nd round of the 1988 amateur draft, mainly as a favor to his father, Vinny, from childhood friend, and Los Angeles Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda, went on to win the 1993 Rookie of the Year. He didn't stop there, setting the all-time home run mark for catchers at 396. I'll say that again, no catcher in the history of the game has more home runs than Piazza. Not Johnny Bench, Carlton Fisk, 'The Kid' Gary Carter, or even Yogi Berra. The only difference is those four are in the Hall of Fame, and Piazza, for now, is not.
He wasn't just a home run hitter though. Piazza finished with a .308 AVG, .377 OBP, .545 SLG, and 1,335 RBIs, better than Carter (1,225) or Fisk (1,330), and not too far off of Bench (1,376) or Berra (1,430). All four of those players spent the majority of their careers, if not all of them as catchers, and all four of them played at least one year longer than the 16 Piazza spent in the Big Leagues with the Dodgers, Florida Marlins, New York Mets, San Diego Padres and Oakland Athletics.
If you look on baseball-reference.com at the 10 players Piazza is most similar to, seven of them are in the Hall of Fame. He was an All-Star 12 of his 16 seasons, won 10 Silver Slugger Awards and led the Mets to the 2000 World Series. What else did he have to do? What is missing from his resume?
If I had a vote, which I likely never will, I would have put these two players at the top of my ballot. Biggio was a constant during the Astros most successful run, a run that saw them win four NL Central titles, two wild cards and earn their only trip to the World Series, a loss to the Chicago White Sox in 2005.
Piazza was my generation's Johnny Bench. No other catcher was as feared at the plate as he was. He tortured NL pitchers for the better part of 15 seasons, hitting .300 or better his first nine seasons (.346 in 1995, .336 in 1996 and .362 in 1997), crushing balls the opposite way from the right-hand batter's box like no other player I have ever seen.
Keeping these two players out does the game the injustice of not having its best players in the Hall of Fame. It puts a stain on what the Hall is supposed to represent, a shrine to the absolute best the game has had to offer. Neither of these players were linked to PED use, and they shouldn't have to suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, it looks like for now, they will remain guilty by association.
Gib Snyder III is an OBSERVER sports reporter. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.