Biggio relishes shot at 3,000 milestone

NL notebook

Baseball Week

June 19, 2005

Here's a nugget from Ballplayer 101: When nearing a milestone, downplay it as "just a round number" and "no big deal" so you don't sound selfish.

The Houston Astros' Craig Biggio, considered one of baseball's straight shooters, isn't playing that game. Last week he picked up his 2,700th hit. Biggio's now 57th all time and third among active players, behind only the Orioles' Rafael Palmeiro and the San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds - assuming Bonds' Web site still says he's active.

Biggio, the consummate team player during his 18-season career, makes no apologies for wanting 3,000. He cherishes its significance - only 25 men have reached it.

"I want 3,000 and I have a chance at it. My family really wants me to go for it because they played a big part in this whole thing," Biggio said. "I owe it to the people in Houston. ... I think you owe it to the game, and you have to give it a shot."

More than anything, Biggio wants 3,000 hits in an Astros uniform. Technically, that's not guaranteed.

He'll be 40 in December, and his contract expires this winter. The Astros are struggling, and rebuilding the franchise would make some sense. If the Astros were inclined to deal Biggio, he'd instantly be one of the most intriguing rental players.

Through Friday, he was hitting .268 with eight homers and six stolen bases. He can play second base or the outfield. He's one of the game's best clubhouse guys. And he has the extra incentive of never having played in a World Series.

Asked if he would welcome a trade to a contender, though, the lifelong Astro scrunched his face and exhaled as if he had just witnessed a car accident.

"I'd have to go home and seriously consider it and talk about it with my family. And see where we go from there," Biggio said. "I could never answer that question now."

Astros general manager Tim Purpura said Biggio could relax. There's no way he'd trade him.

"My time as a general manager would come to a quick end," Purpura joked.

As long as Biggio is productive - and Purpura doesn't think Biggio would play if he weren't - he'll always have a home in Houston, the GM said.

No Houston problem

Purpura said he understands the perception that he's a seller at the trade deadline, since the Astros are in fifth place, double digits out of first. But they were in fifth place this time last year and rallied to make the playoffs.

"If we didn't give up on things last year, I don't think we will this year," Purpura said. "I don't see any way we would trade our best players and quit."

His best trade commodity is pitcher Roger Clemens, but the organization remains steadfast that it is keeping the all-but-certain Hall of Famer. If the Astros make any trades, Purpura said he would want major league-ready players.

Quick hits

The combined age of Atlanta Braves third base tandem Wilson Betemit and Andy Marte is 45, a year younger than Braves first baseman Julio Franco. ... San Francisco pitcher Jason Schmidt has gone from untouchable to a risk in three months. ... San Diego Padres third baseman Sean Burroughs has five extra-base hits in his first 179 at-bats.

League notebooks are compiled from interviews, wire services and reports from other newspapers.

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