Derek Jeter has been the talk of baseball for the past few weeks as his career starts to wind down. There’s no doubt that Jeter will be a Hall of Famer, but really, in my opinion, if Craig Biggio has not gotten in yet, then Jeter should have to wait as well. That being said, there is no chance that Jeter will have to wait beyond his first year of eligibility. When you compare their stats Biggio is actually ahead in many categories, aside from hits and maybe a few others, as well as one category that usually defines these types of arguments, and that’s World Series titles.
The most significant difference between the two is the teams that they were a part of. Jeter was on so many great Yankee teams, but was never the best player on any of those teams, except for maybe the past few years when the Yankees have struggled to stay relevant in terms of championships won. Biggio was always one of the go to guys on each of the teams he was on, and not until the 2005 season was he surrounded with more talent than Jeff Bagwell. Jeter got to play with an unending list of great players throughout his career, many of whom had more to do with the Yankees’ four World Series in the late 1990s, early 2000s. Aside from those four, Jeter has only managed one World Series since then, in 2009, when he was once again surrounded by high salary players that were arguably more important to the team than him.
There are multiple stats that can be looked at in order to prove that Biggio was arguably the better player throughout his career than Jeter, but you must ignore the World Series argument, because that has a lot more to do with the team than any individual player. There are a few Biggio stats that can shed some light on why one can make the argument that Biggio had an equally great career, and could have been among the elite all time if not for a freak injury in the 2000 season.
Craig Biggio was one of, if not the greatest second baseman of all time, especially at the plate. In his career, Biggio reached 668 doubles, good for fifth on the all time list, and first among right handed batters. In his prime, between 1994-2000, Biggio average nearly 42 doubles per season. The most he hit in one season was 56 doubles, and followed another 50 double season the year before. In that season, 1998, Biggio hit .325 with 51 doubles, 20 home runs, 88 runs batted in, and 50 stolen bases. In that same season, Biggio set the franchise record for hits in a season as well, with 210, which was just recently broken by Jose Altuve this season. Jeter only had one season of 40 or more doubles, and that was in 2004 when he had 44.
Craig Biggio had a few of the greatest seasons in MLB history for a second baseman, mainly because he could do just about anything on the baseball diamond, including steal a base at any moment. From 1994 to 2000, Biggio averaged 32 stolen bases a season, and would have continued his improvement each season in that category if it hadn’t been for one Preston Wilson who took him out on a slide into second in 2000, destroying Biggio’s knee and ending his season. Despite that injury and the decline in stolen bases each season, Biggio still is ahead of Jeter in stolen bases by a count of 414 to 358. One can only imagine how big the gap would have been if that injury never happened.
Fans often point to Jeter’s durability throughout his career, and the amount of games that he was able to take part in over 20 seasons. Jeter played one position throughout his career, and played a total of 2745 games in his career. Craig Biggio, an extremely versatile player, played 4 different positions for extended periods of time in his career, starting at catcher, then moving to second base, then to center field, left field, and finally back to second base. To move around that much and continue to be as productive as he was at the plate was an incredible accomplishment. On top of that, he played in 2850 games, 105 more than Jeter.
The talent that surrounded both players is another thing that needs to be looked at seriously. Jeter played with the likes of Alex Rodriguez, Jorge Posada, Alfonso Soriano, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, and many other great major league players. Biggio, aside from players like Jeff Bagwell and Lance Berkman, never really had much protection in the lineup, making it much easier for pitchers to attack him with sliders low and away something all too familiar for Astros fans of the 2000s. If Biggio had been fortunate enough to play for the Yankees, it’s scary to think how much better he would have been statistically.
Of course there’s always the steroids dilemma. Many voters did not include Biggio on their ballots just because he played at the same time that others were cheating. If this is true, then Jeter should definitely be left off of some ballots, and if he is not, once again, you have to question the writers that are making these decisions.
Both players deserve to be in the Hall of Fame, but it should make every baseball fan question the validity of baseball writers around the country when an incredible player like Craig Biggio is forced to wait two more years than he ever should have. Derek Jeter is an all time great, once in a generation player, and it has been an honor to grow up watching him lead the Yankees. However, watching these other players that reached career milestones that supposedly mean automatic election get voted in year after year, while the Astros legend is left on the outside looking in for some untold reason, seems like a slap to the face of not only Craig Biggio, but every Astros fan that had the pleasure of watching him play.