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Joe Sheehan on Craig Biggio and the Astros

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Joe Sheehan's column today is on Craig Biggio, and the decision by the Astros to sit him for a couple of the games this week in Milwaukee as he approaches 3000. A couple of excerpts I wanted to share:

Set aside for the moment the issue of whether the Astros are better with Burke at second base and Loretta batting leadoff, which is certainly the case. That was also the case on Opening Day, but Garner has pencilled Biggio's name into the lineup 62 times, including 59 times in the leadoff spot. He decided at the beginning of the season that Biggio was his starting second baseman, and no amount of out-making was going to change that. Biggio's .279 OBP wasn't the reason he was on the bench last night.

Consider the context as well. The Astros, in no small part because of that .279 OBP from their leadoff hitter, were 32-43 heading into last night's game, 11 games behind the Brewers. I don't think the Astros are serious contenders any more than the next guy does, but if they were going to make a push, it would certainly help to go into Miller Park and win three games. Doing so would seem to require playing your starters. Garner elected to not do so last night. Consider that the Astros were dead and buried in both 2004 and 2005 before making runs to the NLCS and World Series, respectively. If any team can take itself seriously from 11 games out with nearly 90 to play, it's these Astros.

Pull that all together for a second. Astros manager Phil Garner went into a do-or-die series with a division leader and benched his starting second baseman not for any reason related to merit, but so that an individual achievement can be celebrated in a certain manner. He put a statistic, a person and a show ahead of the team's goals. He and the Astros have been doing this all year of course just by playing Biggio, but the naked manipulation of playing time in what should be a key series is galling.

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This act, this glorifying of a statistic, a number, is supposed to be the thing that we do, that statheads do, that takes away from the beauty and spirit of the game. But I don't know a single stathead, not one, who would allow a player who so clearly doesn't deserve to play any longer into the lineup just because of a number. Numbers only matter when they're part of the pursuit of a championship. Separated from that, they're a sideshow, and they have little meaning.

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Biggio's last few hits have no such relevance. They are just hits garnered so that Craig Biggio can get hits. That was clear at the start of the season, but benching him for two of three games in a June series against the division leaders is the cherry on top. Craig Biggio isn't a baseball player now. He's a stat-generating robot.