If you don't mind, please read this very well written essay of Bill James' in reference to his admiration for Craig Biggio. I came across this essay in a link that was featured on one of Rob Neyer's latest blogs. And here is the link that will take one directly to it. A link that will take one directly to it.
Now Neyer also refers in his blog, to the book Bill rewrote in 2001 entitled "The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract." Which is a book that I currently own, and have owned for about a year now. Neyer doesn't speak much of the book within his blog, but I am going to discuss something that I never really agreed with in the first place, Starting.......Now!
James obviously does incredible work. I am sure he obsessively researches each subject presented to him, and generally he has some kind of breakthrough or realization that opens everyone's eyes up. But in his abstract he has a list featured of the top 10 players of the 90's. Here it is:
1) Barry Bonds
2) Craig Biggio
3) Frank Thomas
4) Ken Griffey Jr.
5) Jeff Bagwell
6) Rafael Palmeiro
7) Barry Larkin
8) Roberto Alomar
9) Mark Mcgwire
10) Greg Maddux
This is a small excerpt from the book following James' ranking:
"The number two man, Biggio, is closer in value to the number 10 man than he is to Bonds. Biggio passed Bonds as the best player in baseball in 1997."
Now that last line I am actually a little confused over. Bonds was the best, but did Biggio become better than Bonds in James' eyes in 97?' Then all of a sudden Bonds stormed past him following the final two years of the decade? That seems to be what it is implying, unless it is just a typo of some kind. When I originally read this at Barnes and Noble, before I had even bought the book, I disagreed with it. Biggio was a fine player and I can see how he comes out as being even better than everyone originally thought that he was, through the analysis of all the little things he does. But I have a hard time believing that he was a better player than Bonds, Griffey, or Frank Thomas. The rest of the list is debatable. I can see Biggio being better than some of those sluggers that were very good, but not the absolute best in the game. I would also personally have to put Clemens on this list, and maybe another pitcher or two. But that is beside the point right now. Different people value pitchers in different ways.
If you have read the essay then you read the part where Bill goes into the fact that Biggio never could hit good pitching. All players are going to perform better against weak pitching than that of good pitching. But James describes Biggio's split as being much larger than other players. Which leads me even more to agreeing with my previous opinion...That he was not better than the three players who I feel were the best of the 1990's. I personally have to put some added value on a player who could slug five home runs in a single ALDS (Griffey), or the player who ended up being the best ever ***. Or what may have been the best hitter of the 90's (Thomas). Bonds actually may still have been the best hitter, but I don't have the ability to view everything from just one decade. Again, not relevant now.
And I am enamored with the way Biggio did whatever he could to help his team. I am glad that he "overachieved" as James put it. I am also very intrigued knowing that he was so adept at staying away from the double play. Or that he knew how to get on base frequently from being hit by the baseball, or any way imaginable for that matter. But I have been aware for years now how poorly Biggio did play in the postseason. And now I am aware, through Bill James, how difficult it was for Biggio to hit against opposing pitchers who knew what they were doing when standing on the rubber. Craig Biggio will be in the Hall of Fame, but he was not better, in my eyes, then Barry Bonds, Ken Griffey Jr., or The Big Hurt. Feel free to think otherwise, but I will not be convinced until someone convinces me.