If you're an Astros fan of a certain age, the two biggest names in the franchise are Biggio and Bagwell.
If you've followed the team online for any length of time, you probably also have a fond spot in your heart for Alyson Footer, the former MLB.com beat writer for the team who's transitioned to being a national writer on the sport.
When she starts talking about the Hall of Fame, you take notice. She did that today in a series of tweets, then responded to some of her commenters.
Hall of Fame voting season is so much less fun now that we have Twitter to sling insults & eliminate thoughtful, intelligent conversation.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) December 24, 2014
That said, I'll give my annual proclamation, as a non-voter who watched, in person, half of Biggio's career and 2/3 of Bagwell's.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) December 24, 2014
Both are HOF players. But Bagwell better. He is simply the best all-around player the Astros have had, ever.— Alyson Footer (@alysonfooter) December 24, 2014
I couldn't agree with Footer any more vehemently. I feel the same way. Both Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell are no-doubt Hall of Famers. They should have already been elected. But, Bagwell was a better player than Biggio. What he did offensively was inner-circle stuff, tying his name to the likes of Gehrig and Foxx and other immortal first basemen.
Yet, that cloud of suspicion after the fact has kept his name from being enshrined. Instead of devolving into vitriol and attacking voters who didn't like Bidge or didn't think that Bagwell performed well enough in the postseason, let's go to one of my well-used tricks: what we think, what we know, what we can prove. Santa, this is why you should bring me the gift of enshrining one of these fellows in Cooperstown. I'll try to stay away from most of the gory statistics.
What we think
Hall of Fame voting doesn't have to be about the numbers. There isn't a formula for figuring out whether a player should be in Cooperstown. Otherwise, this time of year would be a lot less stressful.
Let's talk quickly about memories, then. An Astros fan will have a different relationship to Bagwell and Biggio than the normal Hall of Fame voter. Very few voters got to see Bagwell and Biggio play all the time. As someone who grew up with them, let me make the case that they deserve enshrinement.
Biggio embodied grit. His helmet was always smeared with pine tar. He got on base any way he could, including maybe, possibly, sorta leaning into a pitch or two. He hit home runs. He switched positions and he was my favorite player of that Astros era.
Bagwell was different. While Bidge was my favorite player, Bagwell was transcendent. He was so, so good, you werenn't just a fan of him. You were in awe. You considered naming your first-born kid after him, before the wife shot that down. You most distinct memory of then-Enron Field remains a monster moon shot of a home run that arced out into the dying light in left field, soaring above the train tracks into the Houston skyline.
Those players meant something to the city of Houston. They won, they won big and they both got to the World Series (eventually). They should be in the Hall of Fame.
What we know
We know that both hit well enough to get in.
We know that Biggio amassed 3,000 hits. Only one player to top that mark isn't in the Hall (Rafael Palmeiro) and no player with more than Biggio's 3,060 career hits is not enshrined.
Only three second basemen hit more than Biggio's 291 home runs (Rogers Hornsby, Jeff Kent) and only four players in MLB history had more doubles than Biggio's 668. That lineup includes Ty Cobb, Stan Musial, Pete Rose and Tris Speaker.
For Bagwell, only 24 players in MLB history finished their careers with 5,000 or more plate appearances and a higher career on-base percentage than Bagwell. Only 16 players had more PAs than Bagwell and also had a higher career OBP than his .408 mark.
Only 28 players in MLB history posted career OPS+ numbers of 149 or higher with at least 5,000 PAs. One of those was Frank Thomas, who shared a birthday with Bagwell and breezed into the Hall of Fame last season.
Despite seeing his career end prematurely due to a shoulder injury, Bagwell finished with the 63rd-most runs scored in MLB history at 1,517. Only 37 players hit more home runs than Bagwell's 449 and only 48 had more RBIs than Bagwell's 1,529.
Only 26 players in MLB history have hit at least 400 home runs, scored at least 1,500 runs and drove in at least 1,500 runs. The list is a who's who of Hall of Fame candidates, including Frank Robinson, Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig and Mike Schmidt. Of the candidates who are eligible for the Hall of Fame, only Mel Ott, Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield and Bagwell have not been inducted. Bagwell had a higher OPS+ than both Sheffield and Palmeiro.
What we can prove
These systems aren't perfect, but we can compare both Biggio and Bagwell's numbers to Hall of Fame measuring systems like Jay Jaffe's JAWS and the Black Ink and Gray Ink measurables at Baseball Reference.
Biggio's numbers stack up against Hall of Fame standards well. He scores a 57 there, with an average Hall of Famer around 50. He also has the 14th-highest JAWS rating of any second baseman, with only Lou Whitaker ahead of him on the list not being in the Hall.
For Bagwell, the case is even stronger. He has a 59 out of 50 for Hall of Fame standards, a 157 in Gray Ink, where the average HOF is at 144. His Black Ink, which measures his career statistics, is even at 24 where the average HOFer is at 27. That's despite losing a few years at the tail end of his career to that shoulder injury.
Oh, and JAWS loves Bagwell. He's the sixth-best first baseman of all time by the system. Out of 19 first basemen in the Hall, Bagwell has a 14 more career Wins Above Replacement than the average HOFer. His seven-year peak WAR total is six better than the average HOFer and his JAWS score is nine better than the average HOF first baseman.
Both guys deserve to be in the Hall, Santa. All I want for Christmas is one of the two to be a Hall of Famer. I recognize we won't get both next summer.
I'll settle for one.
So, Santa, if you can hook an Astros fan up, I'd appreciate it.