Houston Astros: 50 Greatest All-Time Players, Part 2 of 10
The Houston Astros recently completed their 50th Major League season. The team was known as the Houston Colt .45's from their inaugural season in 1962 through 1964. In 1965 the team adopted the moniker "Astros."
The Astros have been to the postseason nine times, winning the National League pennant in 2005. Houston only hit .500 once in its first ten seasons, and did not post a winning record until 1972. Their first postseason appearance was in 1980, as the team took home their first NL West title.
They again made the playoffs in the following season, the strike-shortened 1981 campaign. Again, the Astros did not make it past the first series. Until 1986, the Astros did not repeat as contenders. In that season, they again were eliminated in the first round.
From 1997 through 2005, the Astros made the postseason six times. They won their first ever series in 2004, against the Atlanta Braves before losing the NLCS to the St. Louis Cardinals. In 2005, the team advanced to the World Series by first beating the Atlanta Braves then the St. Louis Cardinals. The team was defeated in four games by the Chicago White Sox.
In the six seasons since that time, Houston has posted a winning record twice, and in 2011 finished 50 games under .500, their worst season ever. The Astros can only go up from here. As we reflect on what next season may hold, let's take a look back at the Astros Top 50 players of all-time.
This list was compiled with resources available at www.baseball-reference.com, namely the "Wins Above Replacement" statistic.
45. Denis Menke (1968-1971, 1974, WAR: 10.6)
Menke, an infielder, signed a free agent contract with the Milwaukee Braves in 1958 and made his Major League debut with them in 1962. He played his first six seasons with the franchise.
He was traded to Houston after the 1967 season.
He made the all star team for the first time in 1969, hitting .269 with 10 home runs and 90 RBI's.
Menke again made the squad in 1970, posting his best career average, .304. He also hit 13 home runs and 92 RBIs.
He would play for the Cincinnati Reds in 1972 and 1973 before rejoining the Astros for a cup of coffee in 1974, his final season.
Menke totalled a .266 average in 634 Houston games. He would go on to a minor and major league coaching career, most recently as the Cincinnati Reds bench coach from 1997 through 2000.
44. Phil Garner (1981-1987, WAR: 10.9)
Garner was selected with the Oakland Athletics' first pick in the 1973 amateur draft. He would play with Oakland and later the Pittsburgh Pirates before a trade brought him to Houston midway through the 1981 season.
1982 was Garner's best offensive season for the Astros, as he hit .274 with 13 home runs, 83 RBIs and 24 stolen bases.
Garner played second and third base for the Astros over his seven seasons with the club. He would total a .260 average in 753 games, hitting 49 home runs and 320 RBIs, along with 68 stolen bases.
After his playing career ended, Garner went into the managerial ranks, eventually logging time with the Milwaukee Brewers, the Detroit Tigers and Houston. In 15 major league seasons, Garner accumulated a 985-1,054 record.
43. Derek Bell (1995-1999, WAR: 11.1)
In 1995, Bell posted a .334 batting average, fourth best in the NL. He also hit eight homers and 86 RBIs to go along with 27 stolen bases.
1998 was another good year for Bell, as he cracked 22 homers, hitting .314 with 108 RBIs.
Bell would play a total of 683 games over five seasons with the Astros. He hit .284 with 74 home runs, 444 RBIs and 102 stolen bases.
He would join the New York Mets in 2000 and the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2001 before hanging it up to live on his Yacht.
42. Ken Johnson (1962-1962, WAR: 11.2)
Johnson, a right hander, was signed as an amateur free agent by the Philadelphia Athletics in 1952. He would stay with the team through their move to Kansas City, and later played for the Cincinnati Reds before being selected by the Colt .45s in the expansion draft.
He went 7-16 with a respectable 3.84 ERA in Houston's first season. He posted an 11-17 record with a 2.65 ERA the next season, tenth best in the NL.
Johnson accumulated a 32-51 record for a relatively bad team with a 3.41 ERA. He kept Houston in a lot of games despite lack of run support.
On the 23rd of April, 1964, Johnson took a 1-0 loss against the Cincinnati Reds despite giving up no hits in a complete game.
41. Moises Alou (1998-2001, WAR: 11.8)
Alou, an outfielder, was selected with the second pick of the 1986 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates. He only played two games with the Pirates, in 1990, before joining the Montreal Expos. Alou also made a stop with the Florida Marlins before a trade made him a Astro.
For Houston, Alou put up great numbers in three really good seasons.
In 1998, he hit .312 with 38 home runs and 124 RBIs. He made the all-star team and won his second career silver slugger.
He missed the 1999 season after tearing his ACL on a treadmill during the offseason. In 2000, he placed second in the NL batting race with a .355 average. He also hit 30 home runs and 114 RBIs.
In 2001 Alou again made the All-star team by hitting .331, third best in the NL, and 27 home runs with 108 RBIs.
Alou accumulated 95 home runs and 346 RBIs in 421 games for Houston, his Astros batting average was .331.
In 2002, Alou joined the Chicago Cubs, and later played for the San Fransisco Giants and the New York Mets.
Check back tomorrow as we continue to countdown the Top 50 Astros of All-Time.