HOUSTON — As a baseball parent, Craig Biggio was looking forward to seeing a young, aggressive Blue Jays team continue its rapid rise towards baseball’s elite.
As a baseball Hall of Famer who still works for the Astros, Biggio was also keenly qualified to make comparisons between the two teams meeting on the field Saturday afternoon at Minute Maid Park.
And, yes, with his own insight into what is happening with his son Cavan’s Toronto squad, Biggio sees strong parallels to the Astros of 2016, a team on the doorstep of a dynastic run that is still going.
“I see a lot of Jays games and yes, they’re very good,” Biggio told Postmedia on Saturday afternoon just outside the Minute Made Park batting cage. “The same pattern that they have going on over there is what we had going on here.
“With (Jose) Altuve, (Alex) Bregman, George (Springer) — you can go around that infield and that team we had here and it’s the same thing.”
That thing, of course, was the creation of the 2017 World Series champions and a squad that was American League champs three of the past five seasons, including last season.
Both the Astros and Jays are blessed with obvious talent but also run by front offices that recognize the trigger point in development where it makes sense to make significant adds.
But in both cases, the young core was the central building block and extremely exciting to watch.
Where it was Altuve, Bregman and Springer to name three of the Astros, in Toronto it has been Bo Bichette, Vlad Guerrero Jr. and take your pick of Teoscar Hernandez and Lourdes Gurriel Jr.
“You sign guys. You develop guys,” Biggio said. “You get them to the big leagues and then all of a sudden you add a couple of pieces and then you are right there knocking on the door. That’s kind of the key to success.”
Like many around baseball, Biggio believes that success is imminent for the Jays. With that in mind, the Astros legend opines that this version of his son’s team is not far off the 2016 Astros who were a year away from their World Series triumph and emergence of AL West dominance.
“I haven’t dove into the numbers, but I’d say it’s pretty close,” Biggio said. “Again, you’ve got a lot of your young guys who are playing every day and not making a lot of money. Once those guys start making the money — you can’t pay everybody.
“With us back (in 2016) and what they have now… it certainly looks familiar. We had younger guys with growing pains and getting through it and then all of a sudden you have to spend your money wisely and figure out who you can keep and who you can’t keep and who you are going to add or subtract.”
For obvious parental reasons, Biggio watches as many Jays games as he can break away from his duties with the Astros to consume. And what he sees is a confident group that has matured to the point of understanding their capabilities.
“They know who they are now,” said Biggio, who was looking forward to seeing Cavan do his thing in right field against the Astros. “In the beginning, when you get here to the big leagues it’s one part of the evolution and the next part is taking your career to the next level.
Biggio has been following the development of that young core almost as closely as he did with Altuve, Springer, Bregman and the rest. Back when they were all teenagers, he’d routinely travel to see games at minor league parks across North America.
In his consultant’s role with the Astros, Biggio has been an important sounding board for players coming up through the ranks. A man who worked his way to a long hall of fame career, he has long been a willing tutor.
“I loved all those guys and was just trying to help them out any way I could,” Biggio said of those who were part of the Astros dynasty. “You help them understand that just because you’re in the Hall of Fame doesn’t mean you didn’t have struggles and didn’t go through all sorts of changes and adjustments just to have some success in the major leagues.
“I have experienced thinks on a baseball field that all of them could relate to. And it’s not just the baseball itself — you have a whole life when you take the uniform off so it’s kind of getting to know the person and their families and what they have going on.”
One of those players who benefited from the Biggio counsel was Springer, who has often spoken about the wisdom the Astros legend imparted during his formative big-league years.
“It makes me feel good that I’ve had a positive influence on him and his career,” Biggio said. “I’ve known Georgie for close to 10 years and we’ve experienced and talked about a lot in that time.
“The adversity of this game… you’ve got to learn how to handle it. It’s easy when you are on the top of the mountain but when you’re getting kicked in the teeth a little bit, you’ve got to be that same guy.”