Houston Astros: Picking Their All-Time Best Team Position by Position
The Houston Astros' organization is relatively young for baseball. They weren't established until 1962 as the Houston Colt .45's.
Now, I've been tasked with picking the Astros' all-time greatest team, and I had to dig deep for this one. Because the Astros I know best have Carlos Lee and Wandy Rodriguez leading the way.
But their franchise, despite just one World Series appearance, has its fair share of historic names attached to it. Legendary pitchers like Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens have graced the mound for the 'Stros, and hitters like Joe Morgan and Ken Caminiti have crowded the batter's box.
To be fair, you won't find any of those names on this list. My criteria for picking any all-time team is that they play a significant amount of time with the organization and put up absolutely stellar numbers in their Houston careers.
Name recognition means nothing. This is about putting together the best team possible with all Astros players.
If I do say so myself, I believe the following 10 ball players would be pretty formidable in the playoffs.
Catcher: Brad Ausmus
I might catch some flak for this one, right off the bat (that sentence is so punny I don't even know what to do with myself!). I was torn between Ausmus and Alan Ashby here but made my choice based on defensive numbers.
Ashby had a slight edge in offensive numbers, but Ausmus threw out six percent more of the baserunners who tried to steal. Plus, anyone who has watched him knows about his defense.
Both catchers were the heart and soul of their respective teams, but you also have to throw a couple points at Ausmus for helping lead the 'Stros to their only World Series appearance in 2005.
Honorable Mention: Alan Ashby
First Base: Jeff Bagwell
Come on. This one is a no-brainer. I will quote a statistic from my previous article, on why Bags was snubbed from the Hall of Fame this year, to unnecessarily justify this selection: Mickey Mantle's average season over his career was .298/36/102. Bagwell's line was .297/34/115.
I think it's generally accepted among Astro fans that Bagwell is the greatest player in franchise history. From his Rookie of the Year season, to his 1994 MVP, to his eventual and already-overdue induction into Cooperstown, he has proven over and over why he's worthy of that title.
The only reason I even threw in an honorable mention on this slide is consistency with the rest of my article. But if there was ever a unanimous selection for a franchise's all-time team, Bagwell is the man.
Honorable Mention: Lance Berkman
Second Base: Craig Biggio
This one was also an easy choice.
Biggio, a member of the 3,000-hit club, is probably the only other player who rivals Bagwell in terms of being the face of the franchise.
Biggio was the most scrappy, hardworking, gritty player in the league for a large chunk of his career. He helped the Astros to that 2005 World Series and was a spark plug for Houston and Houston only, from 1988 until 2007.
You have to think, with Biggio's numbers, he will be another shoo-in Hall of Famer.
In my opinion, he was the closest clone to Pete Rose when it came to hustle that the game has seen since.
Honorable Mention: Joe Morgan
Shortstop: Craig Reynolds
This was another tough call. Shortstop isn't exactly loaded with talent in Astro lore.
Things might have been different if Dickie Thon hadn't been smashed in the eye by a fastball five seasons into his promising career.
Unfortunately, the baseball gods had different plans for Thon, leaving this spot for Reynolds. He wasn't overwhelmingly great, but Reynolds was definitely an important part of the 'Stros teams in the 1980s.
In 11 seasons with the club, his average hovered around .285—a very serviceable number. His defense was a shade above decent, but because of a lack of star power, he'll get the nod here.
Honorable Mention: Dickie Thon
Third Base: Doug Rader
Yes, kids. There was an Astros third baseman before Ken Caminiti. And he mashed. Possibly even more impressively than Caminiti (before the San Diego days).
Rader never had huge offensive numbers, but he put up double-digit home run totals in every full season he played in Houston. He reached an RBI high of 90 in 1972. But a third baseman also has to be able to wield the mitt in the hot corner.
Good thing Rader won five straight Gold Gloves at third base for the Astros.
When you take into account the full body of work in Houston, you've got to go with Rader here.
Honorable Mention: Ken Caminiti
Left Field: Jose Cruz
This is not the frustratingly inconsistent Jose Cruz, Jr. of the modern era. This is his father—the Jose Cruz who terrorized opposing pitchers as a member of the Astros in the 1970s and 80s.
In 13 years in Houston, Cruz hit .292, drove in runs in bunches and was a sneaky base stealer. He led them to the playoffs three times and was named to two All-Star Games.
Cruz was no slouch on defense, compiling a .973 fielding percentage as a left fielder in his career. Despite the big bat and quirkiness of this position's honorable mention, pissing on your own hands just isn't quite enough to get bumped to the starting lineup.
Honorable Mention: Moises Alou
Center Field: Cesar Cedeno
I think the three starting outfielders are pretty clear-cut choices. But I'm having trouble selecting honorable mentions. I mean just recently, the Astros have developed Hunter Pence and Carlos Lee, who put up tremendous numbers.
Luckily for me, nobody pays attention to the backups. So we'll focus on the guys who actually earned a starting role. Guys like Cedeno. Check out this offensive stat line: In 12 years as an Astro, Cedeno hit .289/163/778 and stole 487 bases.
Cedeno was a four-time All-Star in Houston and won five Gold Gloves in a row.
There's no doubt that Cedeno was the best overall center fielder in Astro history.
Honorable Mention: Richard Hidalgo
Right Field: Jim Wynn
Wynn was a close second to Cedeno as the greatest center fielder in Houston Astro history.
So instead of omitting him completely, I'm forcing him to change positions. It would have been a travesty not to include the should-be Hall of Famer Wynn in this starting lineup.
In 11 seasons with the Astros, Wynn averaged 20 home runs and 65 RBI. His best season as a 'Stro, when he was an All-Star in 1967, he put up 37 and 107.
He played most of his time in center field but got a taste of each outfield position, holding a pretty snazzy .981 fielding percentage for his career in the outfield.
Honorable Mention: Terry Puhl
Starting Pitcher: Mike Scott
Yeah, that just happened.
Nolan Ryan, Roy Oswalt, J.R. Richard, Larry Dierker and Joe Niekro are all left duking it out on the sideline. Those are some pretty impressive names to beat out. But Scott's time in Houston was so incredible, I had to give him the nod.
Scott was a three-time All-Star with the 'Stros and absolutely destroyed opposing hitters in his Cy Young season of 1986. That year, he went 18-10 with a 2.22 ERA and 306 strikeouts. Also, in 1989, he racked up 20 wins and finished second in the Cy Young voting.
What really clinched it for me was Scott's postseason performance. All the other pitchers listed above who had postseason experience in Houston were good too. But Scott was simply lights-out in the '86 NLCS. He went 2-0 with two complete games, eight hits and one run allowed, one walk and 19 strikeouts in that series. Unbelievable.
Honorable Mention: Nolan Ryan
Closer: Billy Wagner
Just by a hair. But Wagner was one of the most dominant closers in baseball when he played, especially in his glory days on the Astros.
In nine seasons in Houston, Wagner managed to save 225 games and maintain a 2.53 ERA.
Don't get me wrong, the guy was dominant everywhere he pitched. But he got his start and made his name with the Astros. And he retired with over 400 saves—a very rare feat. More than half of his career saves came with Houston.
Wagner was a three-time All-Star with the Astros and averaged a steady 25 saves per season in his career there.
The honorable mention was a helluva closer too, but Wagner and his electric left arm is the guy I want shutting the door for this team.
Honorable Mention: Dave Smith