Man, I'm not even a 1/3 of the way through these teams!
These take a lot of energy to write, but there is no rest for the weary...
Let's move on!
The Houston Astros are a strange team.
They began their history as the Colt .45's, which glorified either guns or malt liquor.
Switching their name to the Astros, they forged a unique identity.
They were a team of the future!
Their name referred to space travel... which is very futuristic.
They played in a futuristic stadium... The Astrodome.
They had crazy futuristic uniforms with the orange horizontal stripes.
For Godsake even the grass was futuristic... Astroturf!
Plus there was a distinct style of play for the Astros.
Pitchers flourished in the cavernous Astrodome and the hitters tended to have line drive power with speed rather than big home run hitters.
They were building an off beat tradition.
And then all of that changed.
First they dropped the orange uniforms.
Then they moved out of the Astrodome and into a park than honored Enron!
It was a hitters park. Suddenly being an Astro meant slugging it out while wearing completely forgettable pinstriped uniforms.
But two things didn't change:
1. The Astros played an exciting winning brand of baseball.
2. The Astros have given their fans an underratedly large amount of post season heartbreak.
So let's break down this team's history.
They've played 46 seasons... that's enough for two teams.
The rules as always are here...
Let's bust out the orange unis and do some listing!
ALL TIME HOME GROWN ASTROS TEAM
The Astros beloved backup catcher once set the team mark with a 24 game hitting streak. Now seeing he wasn't playing every day, the streak was spread out over 45 games but he was nicknamed "The Astro Clipper" during the streak.
Eusebio was inches away from being an Astros postseason hero.
The Astros were big underdogs to the Braves in the 1999 Division Series, but they won the opener in Atlanta. Then game 3 went into extra innings. In the bottom of the 10th, the Astros loaded the bases with nobody out. A single run home would mean a commanding 2-1 lead in the best of 5 series. Enlightened reliever John Rocker got one out and faced Eusebio.
He hit one up the middle that seemed destined to go into the outfield for a game winning hit, but Braves shortstop Walt Weiss dove and stopped it. But with only one out and not enough time to turn two, Weiss' had to throw from deep shortstop to home to keep the game from ending.
He fired a strike to Eddie Perez, the catcher, to force out Ken Caminiti.
If that ball had gone into the outfield or Weiss couldn't get up and throw fast enough, Eusebio would have had a walk off hit. Instead it is listed simply as a fielder's choice. The Braves would get out of the inning, score two and win in the 12th and end the series the next day.
Eusebio would homer in that last game. No glory though... just footnotes.
Now I should note with both Craig Biggio and Joe Morgan as home grown second basemen, I came thiiiiiiis close to listing Craig Biggio as the catcher.
Remember he came up as a catcher and even made the All Star team as a catcher... but I decided not to.
STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
One of the few power hitters to flourish in the Astrodome... if you call 16-18 homers a year flourishing. He is the first person to hit for the Cycle in both leagues. He did it in his half a season stint with the Red Sox.
I loved Bob Watson as a Red Sox first baseman and he clearly loved playing in an easy home hitters park. He loved it so much that he went straight to the Yankees. (I'm guessing 1/2 a season under the Yawkeys was just enough, thank you very much!)
He scored the 1,000,000th run in baseball history.
I'm not sure why that is important but it shows up in every bio about Bob Watson.
Truth be told, it would more impressive if HE scored a million runs!
STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
Last spring I wrote my massive "Hall of Fame or Not" entry. I said about Craig Biggio if he hits 3,000 hits... he belongs in the Hall of Fame.
Well he did and he does.
He played his whole career for a relatively small revenue team despite chances to split via free agency.
He worked hard, switched from catcher to second to the outfield and back to second when it helped the team.
He won Gold Gloves, Silver Sluggers and awards for his community service.
And he wound up with Hall of Fame numbers.
And after he retired he stayed in the Houston area where he coaches high school baseball.
So OF COURSE he wasn't a house hold name nor superstar!
WHY WOULD YOU CELEBRATE A GUY LIKE HIM???
(I'll find a way to blame Bud Selig for this! I'm not sure how but I will!)
Jackson's rookie season was his best when he batted .292 with 49 steals. He created a dynamic middle infield with Joe Morgan and appeared on the cover of Sports Illustrated together.
He was part of the Topps All Rookie Team along with George Scott and Tommy Helms.
He later became a coach under Dusty Baker.
STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
The Late Ken Caminiti was a solid third baseman for the Astros from 1989 to 1994, making the 1994 All Star Team.
His talents exploded in San Diego where he won the MVP and continued into his second stint with the Astros. He hit 3 homers, drove in 8 runs with a .471 average and a 1.526 OPS in 1999 Division Series.
Sadly we now know why he had such an upturn in production.
Caminiti, who had faced a career filled with drug and alcohol abuse, was also the first major baseball star to admit he was a steroid user. His admission was the first slight movement towards testing and the attempt to clean up the sport.
Caminiti never saw any of the attempts nor the Mitchell Report farce as he died in October of 2004 of a heart attack that some say was caused by his cocaine and steroid abuse.
I know I may get some flack for putting him on the list.
Maybe I should.
STARTING LEFT FIELDER
In my "Robbed of an NLCS MVP" post, I pointed out that Puhl would have won the NLCS MVP in 1980 if the Astros could have held onto a lead.
Puhl, a native of Saskatchewan, played in Houston from 1977 to 1989... being part of heart aches in 1980 and 1986... and he was able to be teammates with J. R. Richard, Enos Cabell, Bob Watson and Cesar Cedeno on one side of his career and play with Craig Biggio and Luis Gonzalez on the other side.
Is a member of both the Saskatchewan Sports Hall of Fame and the Texas Baseball Hall of Fame.
That covers a lot of ground!
STARTING CENTER FIELDER
There are so many reasons for Sully Baseball to honor Cesar Cedeno.
He had power (3 straight seasons of 20 or more homers when you call the Astrodome your home is impressive!)
He had speed (6 straight seasons of 50 stolen bases or more.)
He had 5 seasons where he got some votes for MVP.
He was a 4 time All Star.
But the biggest reason why he is here is when I played little league... I had a Cesar Cedeno glove!
Folks, I literally had Cedeno in my hand.
Or on my hand.
Or maybe my hand was in Cedeno.
Either way this is getting strange. Let's move on.
STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
Who knows what kind of career Lance Berkman would have had if he played in the Astrodome?
As a minor league call up he played 2 1/2 months there in 1999.
But his rookie season was the Astros first year in the park that was then called Enron.
The pitchers may have hated the park as much as Enron shareholders, but Berkman exploded and put up offensive numbers that would have been physically impossible in the Dome.
He also has big post season numbers. In fact when Sully Baseball retroactively awarded Division Series MVPs
TOP PINCH HITTER OFF OF THE BENCH
I remember I met Robert Wuhl at Catch a Rising Star in October of 1996.
We struck up a baseball conversation and tried to stump each other on "Who was traded for whom?"
I said "Who did the Orioles get for Steve Finley, Pete Harnisch and Curt Schilling?"
Arli$$ was stumped and I told him "Glenn Davis."
Wuhl gave that intense laugh and said "WOW! GLENN DAVIS!! What an AWFUL trade!"
And it's true, the Orioles were hosed in that deal.
But in his hey day, Davis was big a power threat as you can have in the Astrodome and his homer off Doc Gooden in game 1 of the 1986 NLCS resulted in the game's only run.
All that being said, Robert Wuhl was right. It was an awful trade for the Orioles.
THE STARTING ROTATION
Oswalt is the kind of ace who would have fit in perfectly with the pitching rich Astros during their time in the Dome. His two 20 win seasons plus his 19 win season and three other Cy Young caliber seasons make him one of the legit aces during his 8 years in the bigs.
His domination of St. Louis earned him the 2005 NLCS MVP.
And to think that his career might have been literally jumpstarted while he was in the minor leagues.
Evidently he had shoulder problems that looked serious while in single A ball. But when trying to jump start his car, an electric jolt from his car battery loosened some scar tissue and he hasn't had an issue since.
I'm not 100% sure I believe the story, but I am guessing a bunch of pitchers are going to grab their car batteries the next time they have a shoulder problem.
J. R. RICHARD
In my youth no pitcher was more intimidating or dominating than J. R. Richard.
Even an 8 year old Paul Sullivan had a replica Astros jersey with #50 on it.
The combination of Nolan Ryan and J. R. Richard promised to be one of the great 1-2 pitching punches in baseball history.
Then came the terrible stroke that ended his career and sent him in one of the cruelest spirals in the history of sports.
In 1980 he was one of the best pitchers in baseball possibly putting together a Hall of Fame resume.
In 1994 he was broke, divorced twice, homeless and sleeping under a bridge near the Astrodome.
In the last decade and a half, he has found peace and refuge as a Minister... but man, what a career he could have had and what titles the Astros could have won with J. R. and Nolan pitching every 5 days.
I wish I still had that jersey,
An early star for the Colt .45s and later the Astros, Dierker showed everyone how to win in the Astrodome.
He won 20 games for a .500 Astros team in 1969.
He threw a no hitter later and made the All Star Team twice.
His number is retired by the Astros and he became a color commentator for the team over 4 different decades.
As manager of the Astros over five years he lead the team to four division titles... by far the best stretch of postseason play in Astros history.
Naturally they fired him after the last division title. Go figure.
Another tragic pitcher in Astros lore, Wilson overcame wildness to become a steady winner and an All Star.
For good measure he threw a no hitter against the Braves in 1967.
But an accident in his own garage took his life and his son.
The 1974 team, the last one he played on, had a staff that included Dierker, Ken Forsch and J. R. Richard.
Another what could have been for Astros and their fans.
His #40 was retired the season after his death.
I try my best to write something kind of informative but also hopefully funny with these mini bios for the players.
But between the deaths of Ken Caminiti and Don Wilson and the stroke of J. R. Richard, it is hard for me to just let loose and have fun.
I just finished writing about the late Don Wilson and I looked down to see who was next...
And it's the late Darryl Kile.
There is no need to review his stunning death and how it affected and brought together the Cardinals and his former teammates on the Astros.
I'll just celebrate a guy who had a no hitter through 6 innings in his major league debut and was lifted because he was on a pitch count... I mean REALLY!
And then he threw a no hitter in 1993 against the Mets.
He put together a Cy Young caliber season in his last year with Houston and then did what no player should have ever done:
He left the Astrodome for Coors Field.
He got shelled but became a 20 game winner with St. Louis.
OK, OK... no more sad entries!
And here is the late Dave Smith.
Oh bloody hell!
Former closer Dave Smith died this off season, and from everyone's take on him, he seemed to be one of the most loved players of their division title winning teams.
Keeping it positive, Dave Smith was the Astros best reliever during the 1980s. He burst onto the scene in 1980 helping build a formidable bullpen to win the division title. He was a consistent closer and a member of two All Star teams.
And evidently loved to show his flowing blond hair off during batting practice.
Please please PLEASE don't have any more tragic stories.
Wagner broke into the scene in 1996 and by 1997 was the full time closer where he logged 106 strike outs in 66 1/3 innings while saving 23 games for the Division Champs.
He was a regular in the All Star Game, won a Rolaids Relief Award and ended that strange multiple pitcher no hitter thrown at Yankee Stadium.
Has found his fortune playing for the Mets and happiness... if you consider happiness being a part of the 2006 playoff loss, the 2007 collapse and possibly having his career over with major elbow damage.
(Hey, compared to those previous entry, this was a positive one!
After all of these downers, it's nice to see someone who had a HAPPY ending.
Unfortunately for Astros fans, his happy ending had NOTHNG to do with Houston.
His talent was jaw dropping and his stats backed it up.
And he seemed to be on the verge of clinching the pennant for the 2005 Astros and cementing himself as one of the elite closers.... when Albert Pujols took him so deep that I am not 100% convinced the ball has landed.
No shame in serving up a tater to Pujols and the Astros recovered 2 days later to win the pennant (with Dan Wheeler closing the series out instead of Lidge.)
But Lidge didn't recover. He let up a walk off homer to Scott Posednik in game 2 of the World Series.
Posednik had 0 homers that year.
Then he let up the World Series winning run in game 4.
And he lost the closer job in 2006 and by 2007 I was saying that maybe Lidge needs to get out of Houston and find some peace.
Who knew that peace would be found in Philadelphia of all places where he had a perfect season as a closer and struck out Eric Hinske to clinch the World Series.
I'm sure Astros fans felt good for him... but wouldn't have minded him clinching for the Astros instead!
One of the rock solid relievers for the early 1980s Astros, Sambito threw 40 2/3 straight shut out innings from the bullpen.
He made an All Star team, got Cy Young votes one year and MVP votes another but his Astros career was derailed by ligament damage.
He later returned as a member of the 1986 near World Series champion Red Sox.
I wonder if he could have gotten Mookie Wilson out in the bottom of the 10th.
(Let it go, Sully... Let it go.)
Forsch had a few solid years as a starter in Houston and even threw a no hitter.
But his lone season as a National Leaugue All Star was as a closer in 1976.
I always kept the Forsch's straight by saying "Bob plays for the Cardinals."
Imagine my confusion when Bob went to the Astros.
Sometimes it isn't wise to judge the quality of a trade until some times has passed.
When the Astros acquired Lee May, an All Star firstbaseman and Tommy Helms, a one time Rookie of the Year second baseman from the Reds... it was considered to be a STEAL for Houston.
All it cost the Astros was Cesar Geronimo, Jack Billingham, Ed Armbrister, Denis Menke and a good hitting, nice fielding second baseman who was a bit of a trouble maker.
Well Menke didn't work out for the Reds but Geronimo was the Big Red Machine's starting center fielder, Billingham became a 19 game winner for the Reds, Armbrister had a key World Series moment at the plate in 1975... and that trouble making second baseman became a 2 time NL MVP and a Hall of Famer.
Morgan speaks with reverence of his time in Houston and when he was a free agent he came back to the Astros in time for the 1980 NLCS.
I'm sure the Astros were happy with Lee May.
Astros fans considered Doran to be their answer to Ryne Sandberg during the 1980s.
While that was certainly a stretch, he provided some unexpected power from second (14 and 16 homer seasons in the Astrodome are noteworthy!)
Plus he had 20-40 stolen base speed and played the field well.
On a team that produced Biggio and Morgan it is tough to get noticed in an "All Time Team" roster.
But this fan favorite will get his due respect on Sully Baseball.
Obviously Gonzo's best years were with the Diamondbacks where he flourished as a World Series hero. But is a product of the Astros farm system and had some solid seasons during his two stints in the Astrodome.
In 1993, he hit an even .300 with 15 home runs and 20 stolen bases.
He returned to the Astros where he helped bring the playoffs back to the Astrodome.
He homered twice and drove in 6 runs on July 20th that year. His production tailed off by the end of the year and he was let go.
Eventually he became an MVP candidate in the desert. It's safe to say he would never have had a 57 home run season in the Astrodome.
Hidalgo had a nice career over his 7 seasons with the Astros with two gigantic seasons tucked into those years.
He tended to be a 15-20 home run hitter with 80 some odd RBI thrown in.
In 2000 he smacked 44 homers, 122 RBI, had an OPS of 1.028, batted .314 and got some MVP votes.
He went back to normal in 2001 and 2002 before having another big season in 2003.
He got kicked around to the Mets, Rangers, to Japan and finally to the Long Island Ducks.
He now lives in Florida and tried to build a "Field of Dreams" on his property but was voted down by his neighbors.
I would love to get a hold of his plans.
I assume they include him planting corn.
My decision to not include Craig Biggio as a catcher was to the advantage of John Bateman.
The Astros don't have a long tradition of developing great catchers, so guess what? Bateman is on the list!
Actually Bateman's 16 home runs in 1966 remain the club record for catchers.
And in 1963, his rookie year, he was the Colt .45's team leader in RBI.
He had a whopping 59 RBI.
I know what you are thinking... 16 homers... 59 RBI....
Obviously a juicer.
When I compile these lists, I often check other people's "All Time" rosters for ideas and to see if there are fan favorites I didn't think of.
Doug Rader's name kept popping up from Astro fans listing their favorite players.
Now the Red Rooster didn't really have eye popping stats. Granted he had 20 some odd homers three times while playing in the Astrodome, but still I wasn't exactly overwhelmed.
But he did win 5 straight Gold Gloves and kept appearing on Astro fan blogs as a fan favorite.
So while I was GOING to give this to Morgan Ensberg, but I decided to listen to the fans for this one.
Call this a preemptive strike to all of the Astros fans who would post on my comments "Where is Doug Rader???"
Well the home grown team is solid, if sprinkled with a little too much tragedy for my taste.
Let's see how they raided other teams for talent.
ALL TIME ACQUIRED ASTROS TEAM
Alan Ashby was involved with the Astros for so long as a player, a coach, a minor league manager and a color commentator that when I started to work on this entry, I just assumed he was on the home grown team!
But nope. He is a product of the Indians farm system.
Then he was a member of the original Toronto Blue Jays team.
With the Astros he was a steady if not spectacular player with a little bit of pop.
His homer off of Sid Fernandez gave the Astros all the runs they needed to win game 4 of the 1986 NLCS.
Later as a broadcaster he was fired for being too critical of the team. He then went to the Blue Jays to be a color commentator.
I am guessing he will eventually come full circle back to the Indians.
STARTING FIRST BASEMAN
Earlier I mentioned discussing the Glen Davis trade with Robert Wuhl.
Years later when I was a producer on The Daily Show I struck up a conversation with Bob Costas, who was a guest.
I brought up bad trades and told him about Wuhl and I saying the Glenn Davis was as brutal a one sided trade in recent years that we could think of.
Costas didn't even blink. He didn't even pause to consider it. He just shook his head and said "Jeff Bagwell for Larry Andersen."
I was stopped in my tracks by the master.
And it hurt.
The Red Sox needed another arm for the bullpen and the Astros ponied up Andersen in exchange for a hitter. The Sox would not part with Scott Cooper so they sacrificed a third baseman from the suburbs of Boston.
And Bagwell wasted no time showing the Red Sox how bad a trade it was.
Andersen lost one of the four ALCS games against Oakland and skedaddled to San Diego.
Bagwell won the Rookie of the Year, won the MVP (and nearly won it again 2 more times) won a Gold Glove and several silver sluggers and became one of the most popular players in Astros history, finishing his career in the 2005 World Series.
Yup, that trade was worse than the Glenn Davis deal.
Who am I to argue with Bob Costas?
STARTING SECOND BASEMAN
In 2004, my wife was subjected to her second straight October of brutally tense games between the Red Sox and Yankees. And while she doesn't follow baseball, my lovely bride would tense up when she saw her husband turn into Rain Man, rocking back and forth and muttering softly, as the games kept going into extra innings.
When game 5 of the ALCS went 14 innings, my wife eventually went to bed saying "I'm not watching any more of this."
Papi singled home Damon and I went nuts.
Then I flipped over to the other game and I saw the Cardinals and Astros were in a scoreless tie going into the 9th inning.
I thought "Oh man, this can't go into extra innings as well!"
I threw in a tape and taped the rest of the game. (Remember tapes?)
When I woke up the next morning I had no clue who won the Astros/Cardinals game and I started watching the tape, wondering if this was going to go 14 innings as well.
It wouldn't even go extra innings. Jeff Kent would crush a mamouth walk off 3 run homer to give the Astros a 3-2 lead in the series.
Kent, who actually looked happy to see his teammates, kept holding up a finger and saying "One More!"
The Astros wouldn't get that one more win, but Kent would blast 3 homers and drive in 7 in the 7 game loss to the Cardinals.
I was able to see who won and get on with my day... or at least until the start of game 6, Red Sox vs. Yankees.
You know Mike Torrez was a good solid pitcher for most of his career and had the kind of highlight that most pitchers only dream of. He threw a complete game to clinch the 1977 World Series at home for the New York Yankees.
And yet Torrez isn't remembered for that. He's remembered for two things:
1) Serving up the Bucky Dent home run
2) Hitting Dickie Thon in the face and derailing his career forever.
Who know what Dickie Thon would have been if not for the fast ball to the face?
The Astros dealt long time fan favorite Ken Forsch for him and he blossomed into an All Star and an MVP candidate in 1983.
Then in the 3rd inning in a game against the Mets on April 8, Torrez hit him in the face and ended his season.
He would come back the next season, but his depth perception was impaired.
He played in the 1986 NLCS and eventually became the Phillies starting shortstop for three seasons.
But he could have been the National League answer to Cal Ripken.
What could have been.
STARTING THIRD BASEMAN
Part of the deal that sent Lee May packing to Baltimore (see Joe Morgan above) Cabell gave the Astros some stability at third, some speed in the line up and some MVP votes in 1978.
He also was one of the players caught up in the Pittsburgh cocaine ring during the 1980s, but hey! It was the 80s!
Cabell cleaned himself up and is now part of the Astros front office.
STARTING LEFT FIELDER
Like Alan Ashby, I've always associated Jose Cruz with the Astros and forgot that he wasn't actually a product of their farm system.
He was a two time All Star for the 'Stros and the perfect line drive in the gap power hitter for the Astrodome.
He had his number retired by the Astros in 1992.
STARTING CENTER FIELDER
Who knows what kind of power numbers Wynn could have put up in a hitters ballpark.
He managed to hit as many as 37 in a year.
Wynn never was among the league leaders in batting average but always walked a lot and hit for a high slugging percentage.
In other words if he played NOW, OPS geeks would be praying for him to be available in their fantasy draft.
He just played in the wrong era!
The Astros retired his number too.
You know for a franchise with a grand total of zero World Series titles, they sure have a lot of retired numbers!
STARTING RIGHT FIELDER
Kevin Bass' number is retired too.
At the Menlo School, the high school Kevin Bass attended in Atherton, California.
I am a member of the Menlo School class of 1990.
The year I graduated was the first year he played for the Giants and a lot of my teachers were buzzing that he was coming home.
I met him at a Menlo School function and he couldn't have been more gracious, especially when Ron Bryant the head football coach introduced me as "A guy who knows everything about baseball."
He was an All Star with the Astros who hit for average, had speed and displayed about as much pop as you could expect in the Astrodome. Alas his good fortune didn't follow him to Candlestick where he was a bust. But he had a second stint with the Astros and found his stroke again.
Who knew someone could FIND their stroke in the Astrodome.
TOP PINCH HITTER OFF OF THE BENCH
When the Marlins had their first fire sale after the 1997 World Series, the Astros stole Alou away and plugged a World Series hero into left field.
He didn't disappoint hitting .312 with 38 homers, 124 RBI and an OPS of .982 to finish third in the MVP voting behind Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire.
They saved baseball.
After the 1998 playoffs Alou hurt himself on the treadmill and missed all of the 1999 season.
It affected him so much that when he returned in 2000 he hit .355 with 30 homers, 114 RBI and an OPS of 1.039.
Maybe more players should have a mishap on the treadmill!
THE STARTING ROTATION
Doesn't it seem in retrospect that Nolan Ryan was always pitching in Texas?
I mean when we look back, isn't it odd that he called any other state home?
But there he was, winning a World Series in New York and throwing no hitters and striking out record numbers of hitters in Southern California.
Nolan wasn't a New York guy or a California dude.
He belonged in Texas so much that he actually didn't even look stupid in the uniform.
I will stand by my stance that Ryan should have won the Cy Young Award in 1987.
But look at the categories he lead the league in that year.
Earned Run Average.
Strikeouts per nine innings.
Strikeout to Walk ratio.
And was among the league leaders in WHIP and Innings pitched.
He was punished because he didn't have run support. He lost a pile of games where he only let up 1 or 2 runs and on September 9th in a key game against San Francisco... Ryan got the win but had to knock in the winning run himself.
He was the best starter in the bigs that year.
He deserves some hardware.
His number is retired too.
Are you surprised?
Remember how controversial his scuffed pitches were in the NLCS?
Doesn't that controversy seem so quaint when you compare it to injecting cow hormones into a slugger's butt?
His 1986 was so magical. What better way to clinch a division than to throw a no hitter?
And his winning the NLCS MVP in 1986 despite being on the losing side shows the voters knew what the Mets also knew:
If the series was going seven games it was going to be won by the Astros.
Surprise! His number is retired!
Oh was I supposed to NOT include Clemens?
The guy won a Cy Young Award in 2004 his first year in Houston and then in the 2005 pennant winning season finished with a sub 2.00 ERA.
Yeah sure he had some help, but he was doing it against juiced hitters... and he was in a hitters ballpark.
Besides, I can't be holier than thou about all of this 'roids stuff.
I have to do one of these lists for the A's and if I eliminated the juicers I'd have a thin list!
Between Clemens injecting stuff and Mike Scott scuffing balls, there are a bunch of cheaters on this list.
Better include Joe Niekro who was caught with a file in his pocket while a member of the Twins.
The brother of Hall of Famer Phil Niekro, Joe had his best seasons in Houston. He won 20 games in back to back seasons and in 1979 finished second to Bruce Sutter in the Cy Young voting.
He pitched 10 shutout innings in game 3 of the 1980 NLCS.
His reward? A no decision.
My decision to put Mike Hampton on the acquired team for the Mets was kind of controversial.
I am almost afraid to put him here!
But his 22-4 record in 1999 was one of the best seasons in Astros history and he finished second in the Cy Young voting that year.
Plus he was both a Gold Glove caliber pitcher who won the Silver Slugger award in 1999 when he batted .311 with 10 RBI.
HE BATTED .311 WITH 22 WINS!!!!
No doubt I will get trashed for putting him on this list!
According to Darwin's Baseball-Reference page he had two nicknames:
The Bonham Bullet
Please write in to email@example.com if you EVER used those names in reference to Darwin.
He split his time between the rotation and the bullpen, winning 11 games and saving 7 with a 2.36 ERA all in relief in 1989.
The next year he won 11 games again, with 31 relief appearances and 17 starts and barely qualified for the ERA title by less than an inning. He won it with a 2.21 ERA and the Red Sox rewarded him with a huge contract.
When he was with the Red Sox I don't recall the names Bonham Bullet nor Dr. Death.
It just makes the Bagwell trade even more cruel that I would list him here.
He was cut by the Phillies and the Andersen took a flier on him.
And he became an effective set up man for Dave Smith, pitched in the 1986 NLCS and won 9 games out of the pen out in 1987.
He had a sub 2.00 ERA in 1989 and 1990, which made the Red Sox think "Hey! Let's give up Jeff Bagwell for him!"
Not a bad bounty for a guy they took a flier on.
Woodeshick's name kept popping up when I was looking at Astros fans listing their All Time teams, so I decided to check him out.
He was a starter on the original Colt .45 team in 1962. The next season shifted to the bullpen and a trip to the All Star Game. He won 11 games and saved 10 for a team that only won 66. He kept his ERA down to 1.97 that year and followed it up with a 23 save season the next year.
He finished his career with the 1967 World Champion Cardinals but clearly made an impression on Houston fans.
And it is only right we honor a few Colt .45s here!
Another tragic figure in Astros history, Umbricht was developing into a solid middle reliever with an ERA in the 2.00 range.
He was a member of the original Colt .45 team and along with Woodeshick was turning the pen into a strength for the young team.
However he had tumors in his leg and was found to be suffering from lymphoma.
He died just before the 1964 season and the Colt .45s honored him by retiring his number.
A lot more tragedy and retired numbers than I was expecting to write about.
I think the rest of this blog entry will be cheery.
Gladding came over from Detroit in a trade involving Hall of Famer Eddie Mathews.
No I didn't know Mathews played in Houston either.
The things you learn putting these crazy lists together.
Gladding led the National League with 29 saves in 1969.
That was the year that the Seattle Pilots sent Jim Bouton to Houston to finish the season.
If you don't know what I am talking about, please read Ball Four and thank me later.
A steady infielder during the 1970s, Art Howe seemed to have put it all together during the strike shortened 1981 season. He got a little bit of MVP consideration and kept his average around .300 all year.
He helped the Astros in their post strike run to a playoff berth, including a 5 run batted in game on August 26 in Shea Stadium.
His time managing the Astros was... well let's just say wasn't considered to be "the good times" in Houston.
A valuable infielder, Menke found a way to drive in 90+ runs in back to back seasons at the Astrodome.
No easy feat!
He made back to back All Star teams in 1969 and 1970 before being shipped off with Joe Morgan and company to Cincinnati.
He had bad luck in terms of winning a ring.
The Reds traded him back to the Astros in 1974 and the Reds would win it in 1975.
That crazy extra inning game 6 of the 1986 NLCS got even crazier when Billy Hatcher came up with the Astros losing 4-3 in the bottom of the 14th.
The Mets were 2 outs away from the World Series with Jesse Orosco on the mound.
Hatcher homered off of the screen on the left field foul pole sending the place into hysterics and keeping alive the hope of a Mike Scott pitched game 7.
It didn't happen, but don't blame Hatcher who went 3-7 with 2 RBI in the game.
Oh boo him all you want now, Houston fans.
And go ahead... remind me he was only in Houston for 1/2 a season.
What a half a season, folks!
He smacked 23 homers in only 90 games for the Astros in the regular season... but he turned the playoffs into a one man salary drive.
He hit 4 homers with a .455 average and a 1.591 OPS in the Division Series against Atlanta.
He followed that up with a .417 average and 1.521 OPS and 4 more homers in the NLCS.
And sprinkle in a few sparkling catches as well and you have a Hell of an October.
Admit it Houston fans... you boo him because you want him back!
Brad Ausmus is a free agent now and watch him go to the Tigers.
He's had two stints with the Tigers and two with the Astros.
For a while it seemed like he was on the Detroit to Houston shuttle.
He's spent the last 8 seasons in Houston winning 3 Golden Gloves and hitting a key game tying homer in the 18 inning Division Series marathon against the Braves.
He'll end up somewhere... and then no doubt come back to Houston.
Oh there are probably a bunch of players I could put into the 25th man spot... but who was more fun than Jose Lima?
Seriously he pitched like a lunatic.
He was animated.
He said things like "It's Lima Time!" and when he couldn't make the starting rotation of a dreadful Tigers team declared "I must be the worst pitcher on Earth."
He had a pair of terrific seasons with the Astros including a 21-10 season for the 1999 Division Champs.
He's out of baseball after being kicked around the bigs (and throwing a complete game shutout for the Dodgers in the 2004 Division Series) and playing in Korea.
He's supposedly going to start a singing career.
I'd buy his CD.
No doubt it would be animated!
WHO WOULD WIN A HEAD TO HEAD SERIES?
The home grown team has the deeper bullpen, but the acquired team has the Ryan express, Bagwell, Cheo Cruz and just about everyone else you'd ever think of in an Astros uniform.
Plus put Jimmy Wynn in the field formerly known as Enron and you'll see some sickening home run production.
VERDICT: THE ACQUIRED TEAM WOULD WIN... PROVIDED THE BULLPEN CAN HOLD THE LEAD