Paying Homage and Moving On

added 7/6/2007 by Scott Barzilla

Richard Justice, Jose de Jesus Ortiz, and John Lopez have done their bit to pay homage to Craig Biggio's career. They've met Biggio and have done a great job of handling the personal side of his illustrious career. Allow me to throw in a few statistical (sabermetrical) tidbits to show where he is in the game's history.

It has become popular in the national media to downplay Biggio's accomplishments. After all, ANYONE could close in on the top five in doubles. ANYONE could play for two decades and get to 3000 hits. The problem according to them was that Biggio was never a "dominant" player. I suppose that is true in the narrow sense that he has never won an MVP or deserved one (although he has been among the top three and five players in the NL on many occasions.)

This tact is not only a slap in the face to Biggio, but it also makes these writers look like complete idiots. It takes some pretty dominant play to get into the top 20 in hits (as Biggio might before the end of the season), top five in doubles, top 15 in runs scored, and all of the other traditional categories Biggio has joined (including 1000 extrabase hits). However, here are the standings in win shares among second baseman.

                     Win Shares
Eddie Collins           574
Joe Morgan              512
Rogers Hornsby          502
Nap Lajoie              496
Craig Biggio            429

Biggio is actually closer to fourth on the list than he is sixth. So, according to Bill James he is the fifth best second sacker in history. Other rating systems have him a little lower (sixth, seventh, or eighth). I think everyone would agree that if you are among the ten best players in history at your position you should be in the Hall of Fame. However, let's not stop there. Let's look at runs created (which takes all offensive contributions into account).

              Runs Created
Collins           2024
Morgan            1804
Hornsby           2108
Lajoie            1949
Biggio            1764*

Biggio's numbers are through 2006, so he has undoubtedly passed Joe Morgan in runs created by now. Morgan is one of Biggio's biggest critics. Morgan's bias against the Astros organization knows no bounds. Yes, Biggio played in a superior offensive era, but the stain of steroids has never sniffed him. It's time for Morgan and his critics to open mouth and insert foot.

However, as Biggio's moment in the sun wanes, we are left with the wreckage of this ballclub. Biggio's hot streak creates the all-star break as a convienient time to start looking to 2008. The Astros have several players other teams want and they could get a huge head start on next year by dealing them.

Dealing the likes of Jason Jennings, Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, Mark Loretta, Mike Lamb, and Morgan Ensberg not only brings in extra prospects; it also brings in extra money. The estimate on spendable money seems to be 40 million if McLane is willing to hit the 100 million plateau again. That is a lot of scratch for what appears to be a bumper crop of free agents.

Rebuilding through free agency is a fool's dream though. This club needs a mixture of young and old in order to make another run in 2008. We will have to get lucky with some of our own prospects and with prospects from other organizations. Troy Patton was just promoted to AAA Round Rock this week. Tim Purpura said he might even get called up before the end of the season. If he has an impact on the mound like Hunter Pence has had on the field, we could be a long way to fixing a broken pitching staff. Matt Albers is also brimming with potential that he has yet to fully realize. Sometimes guys like him realize that potential after a couple of trials. Sometimes they never do.

Teams like Boston, Cleveland, Detroit, and Atlanta have exciting prospects and are looking for help down the stretch. It is not out of the realm of possibility to expect the Astros to fill two or three holes in the lineup with young up and coming prospects. Jacoby Ellsbury (of Boston) could be a real find in centerfield. Jarrod Salatalamaccia (of Atlanta) could be a catcher of the future. Andy Marte of Cleveland is very young and very talented at third. The Indians also have Kelly Shoppach languishing behind Victor Martinez behind the dish. The Tigers have more young arms than they know what to do with. All of these trading partners have attractive young players that would look great in an Astros uniform.

Craig Biggio did his part. He reached his milestone and did it in about as admirable a way as possible. Five hit nights didn't come that often even when he was in his prime. He beats the odds yet again to get his average above .250. If he slowly fades away and out of the second base position he will have done what everyone hoped he would do. Now, it's time for Tim Purpura to start building this team. We are waiting patiently. We won't wait patiently for long.