Biggio misses Hall of Fame election by just two votes
Career Astro on 74.8 percent of ballots; teammate Bagwell down to 54.3
HOUSTON -- Unfortunately for Craig Biggio, the National Baseball Hall of Fame does not round up.
Biggio, who was the face of the Astros for two decades and is arguably the greatest player to wear a Houston uniform, fell just shy of being elected into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in voting released Wednesday.
Biggio appeared on 74.8 percent of the ballots of the voting members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, two votes shy of getting elected. Teammate Jeff Bagwell appeared on 54.3 percent of the ballots, which is a drop from the 59.6 he received last year in his third time on the ballot.
Biggio, who has 13 years left on the ballot, missed the 75-percent cutoff point of 429 by two votes, tying Nellie Fox in 1985 and Pie Traynor in 1947 for the smallest margin in balloting history. Traynor was elected in 1948. Fox was in his last year on the ballot and was subsequently elected by the Veterans Committee in 1997.
That sets Biggio up to be an overwhelming favorite to make it on his third time on the ballot next year, but the fact he's still waiting is disappointing to those who played with him.
"I'm a little surprised," said Tigers manager Brad Ausmus, who played with Biggio in Houston from 1997-98, and from 2001-08. "I thought Bidge would get in. He only missed by two votes. It's certainly disappointing. I feel bad for Bidge, but in my mind, he's certainly going to get in a year from now."
The BBWAA elected former Braves pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas, all of whom will be inducted July 27 in Cooperstown, N.Y.
"Congratulations to Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas," Biggio said in a statement released by the Astros. "Obviously, I'm disappointed to come that close. I feel for my family, the organization and the fans. Hopefully next year."
Bagwell had a message for those who didn't vote for Biggio.
"You're misinformed," Bagwell told television station KRIV-TV in Houston. "He gave everything and his body every single day he went out there."
Larry Dierker, the former Astros pitcher and broadcaster who managed Biggio and Bagwell for five seasons, is disappointed Houston is still waiting for its first Hall of Fame player.
"I'm not familiar with who votes and how it's structured, but I would guess the quality of players that were in this year's class probably hurt Biggio and Bagwell both, and probably some other guys as well," Dierker said. "Maddux was a slam dunk. Glavine had 300 wins, which is about the same as 3,000 hits in my mind. I don't see Glavine being a better candidate than Biggio. To me, Maddux was above them all, but Biggio should be ranked along with Glavine and ranked more highly than Frank Thomas."
Biggio, 48, certainly had Hall of Fame credentials, led by his club-record 3,060 hits. But numbers aside, Biggio was known as a hard-nosed player who ran out every ground ball and had a deep desire to win. And along with longtime teammates Bagwell and Lance Berkman, he helped turn Houston into a raucous baseball town in the 1990s.
"We certainly share our fans' disappointment over the voting results today," Astros president Reid Ryan said in a team statement. "This was just the third time in history that a player has come within two votes of making it into the Hall of Fame, so that was tough.
"On the positive side, it is encouraging that Craig appears to be on his way to eventual induction. The other two players that came as close as he did eventually were inducted. It was also encouraging that on a crowded ballot with several strong candidates this year, Craig increased his vote total by six percent. The Astros and our fans know that Craig deserves to be in the Hall of Fame, and it is good to know that 74.8 percent of the baseball writers agree. We're hopeful it will happen in 2015."
Ryan added: "We also feel Jeff Bagwell is worthy of the Hall of Fame and are hopeful that his day will come in the near future as well."
A first-round Draft pick out of Seton Hall in 1987, Biggio quickly blossomed into an All-Star catcher before being moved to second base in 1992, where he became a superstar. He was among the best players in the game in the mid-to-late 1990s and helped the Astros win four division titles in a five-year span (1997-99, 2001).
When the Astros signed Jeff Kent prior to the 2003 season, Biggio played in the outfield for two seasons before finishing his career back at second base. He wound up hitting 291 home runs, with 1,175 RBIs, 414 stolen bases and a .281 average.
Biggio ranks 21st all-time in hits, and he has more doubles (668) than any right-handed hitter in Major League history. He's 15th all-time in runs scored (1,844), 10th in plate appearances (12,504) and first in hit by pitch (285) in the modern era.
Biggio became the 27th player in Major League history to reach the 3,000-hit plateau with a seventh-inning single against Colorado's Aaron Cook on June 28, 2007 at Minute Maid Park. Biggio's No. 7 was retired by the Astros in 2008.
Both of Biggio's sons, who play baseball at Notre Dame, shared their disappointment on Twitter.
"Still a Hall of Fame person," Cavan tweeted.
"Third time is the charm," Conor wrote.
Reaction also came in from Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra, who was a coach with the Astros when Biggio broke into the Majors as a catcher.
"Boy oh boy, that's disappointing," he said. "That's gotta hurt."
Bagwell, 45, last appeared in an Astros uniform during the 2005 World Series, the crowning achievement in a career that included the National League Rookie of the Year Award in 1991 and the club's only NL Most Valuable Player Award three years later.
Bagwell made four All-Star Game appearances, had 2,314 hits, 449 home runs, 1,529 RBIs and six trips to the playoffs. He was forced to retire after a degenerative shoulder condition made it impossible for him to throw a baseball and nearly impossible to swing a bat.
Bagwell drove in at least 100 runs in all but one season from 1996-2003, and slipped to 27 homers and 89 RBIs in 2004, though he hit .286 with two homers and eight RBIs in the playoffs. Led by Bagwell, Biggio, Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Roy Oswalt, Andy Pettitte and Roger Clemens, the star-studded Astros came within a game of the World Series.
After seeing his vote totals rise in each of his previous two years in the ballot -- 41.7 in 2011, 56.0 in 2012, 59.6 in 2013 -- Bagwell slipped by 5.3 percent. Players can stay on the ballot for 15 years as long as they receive at least 5 percent of the vote each year.
"Again, Jeff was hurt more by the numbers of players on the ballot," Ausmus said. "I think that's more an indication of why his vote went backwards a little bit this year. I still think, in the long run, he'll also get in. [Bagwell and Thomas] were essentially the same player until Jeff got hurt, and Jeff played a lot more first base."