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- Minute Maid Park
- AAA Oklahoma City RedHawks, AA Corpus Christi Hooks, Advanced A Lancaster JetHawks, A Lexington Legends
- Drayton McLane, Jr. (92%) / Minute Maid (8%)
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All-Time Team – Houston Astros
Since the inception of the franchise in 1962, the Houston Astros have compiled a winning percentage slightly under .500. Still, Houston has the best record of any of the four expansion teams that entered the major leagues during the early 1960s, and only Arizona, with a .503 winning percentage, has a better record of the 14 total expansion teams that entered the majors after 1961. The Astros usually field a competitive team, but they always seem to be a player or two short. While Houston’s Astrodome served pitchers well, the Astros’ new ballpark has proven to be a hitter’s paradise. The Astrodome enabled many of the team’s hurlers to have career years; pitchers such as Joe Niekro, Bob Knepper, Vern Ruhle, and Mike Scott had their finest seasons pitching in Houston. Meanwhile, sluggers such as Jim Wynn, Rusty Staub, Glenn Davis, and Lee May had their offensive numbers adversely affected by the dome’s cold air mass. Possibly one of the worst playoff teams in history the Astros have won only two postseason series since their inception, failing to capture a world championship in their 49-year history.
Best Team 1998
Catcher - Brad Ausmus
First Base - Jeff Bagwell
Part of one of the most one-sided trades in baseball history, Bagwell won N.L. Rookie of the Year and league MVP honors after being dealt to the Astros for 37 year-old reliever Larry Andersen. The slugging first baseman appeared to be on pace for one of the greatest seasons in baseball history in 1994, when the players’ strike cancelled the remainder of the campaign. Still, he finished the year with 39 HRs, a league-leading 116 RBIs and 104 runs scored, and a .368 batting average in only 110 games. Although he never again quite matched that prolific offensive output, Bagwell had many other outstanding seasons for Houston, including years in which he hit as many as 47 homers, knocked in as many as 135 runs, and batted as high as .320. His 448 career home runs and 1,529 RBIs are both Houston records.
Second Base - Craig Biggio
Rivaling Bagwell as the best player in team history, Biggio is another future Hall of Famer. Underrated career numbers are impressive. Houston’s all-time leader in runs scored, hits, doubles, and stolen bases. How many All-Star catchers become Gold Glove second basemen?
Third Base - Doug Rader
Five Gold Gloves and a decent power bat (20+ homers three times).
Shortstop - Dickie Thon
The Astros are not loaded at this position. The left side of the infield is a little challenged. Decided to go with Dickie Thon since he appeared to be headed towards stardom before a serious beaning derailed his career. Prior to that, though, Thon began to establish himself as one of the senior circuit’s top shortstops.
Left Field - Lance Berkman
Moises Alou had two of the greatest offensive seasons in team history, but he spent only three years in Houston. Therefore, Berkman, who also had some huge years for the Astros, is the clear-cut winner here. He surpassed 30 homers and 100 runs scored five times each, topped 100 RBIs six times, and batted over .300 four times. Hit 42 homers and knocked in a league-leading 128 runs in 2002, before posting even better numbers four years later, when he hit 45 homers, drove in 136 runs, and batted .315.
Center Field - Cesar Cedeno
Tough decision here. Jimmy Wynn posted some exceptional power numbers for the team during the 1960s, despite playing in the cavernous Astrodome. He topped 30 homers and 100 runs scored twice each, while also driving in more than 100 runs once. Wynn’s 37 homers in 1967 remained the club record for more than two decades. But Cesar Cedeno was a superior all-around player. Back-to-back .320 seasons in 1972 and 1973
established him as one of the National League’s best young hitters. He also hit more than 20 homers three times for Houston, surpassed 50 stolen bases six straight times, and played a brilliant center field. Only Cedeno’s troubles off the field prevented him from becoming an even better player.
Right Field - Jose Cruz
Although he played left field a lot as well during his career, Cruz gets the nod here as Houston’s all-time right-fielder. Perhaps the team’s finest player ever before the arrival of Bagwell and Biggio, Cruz batted over .300 six times for the Astros, while also knocking in more than 90 runs three times and surpassing 30 stolen bases on five separate occasions. Only playing in the Astrodome prevented the multi-talented Cruz from posting even more impressive numbers over the course of his career.
Starting Pitcher - Nolan Ryan
After establishing himself as a dominant pitcher with the Angels, Ryan starred in Houston for nine years, leading the league in ERA and strikeouts two times each. Ryan won a total of 116 games for the Astros, topping 200 strikeouts for the club on five separate occasions.
Starting Pitcher - Mike Scott
Scott had arguably the greatest season of any Houston pitcher in history in 1986, when he won 18 games, struck out 306 batters, captured the N.L. Cy Young Award, and almost pitched an inferior Astros squad past the eventual world champion New York Mets in the NLCS. He also finished runner-up in the Cy Young balloting another time for the Astros.
Starting Pitcher - Joe Niekro
Niekro is Houston’s all-time leader in wins (144), and he posted back-to-back 20-win campaigns in 1979 and 1980, when he finished in the top five in the Cy Young balloting both times. A journeyman until picked up by Houston, Niekro spent 11 of his 22 major league seasons with the Astros, compiling at least 15 victories for the club on five
Starting Pitcher - J.R. Richard
Probably the most intimidating pitcher in team history, Richard appeared to be paving a path to Cooperstown when a stroke ended his career. The overpowering right-hander won a total of 74 games between 1976 and 1979, while also striking out more than 300 batters in two of those four seasons. However, after going 10-4 with a 1.90 ERA during the first half of 1980, Richard’s career suddenly ended.
Starting Pitcher - Roy Oswalt
Several other pitchers merited consideration for the fifth and final spot in the starting rotation, including Larry Dierker, Roger Clemens, Mike Hampton, Don Wilson, and Ken Forsch. In the end, though, the spot clearly belonged to Oswalt, whose 143 wins with the Astros place him just one victory behind Niekro on the team’s all-time list. Oswalt surpassed 20 victories twice as a member of Houston’s starting staff, while also winning at least 14 games five other times in his nine full years with the team. He also posted a
4-0 record in postseason play.
Closer - Billy Wagner
Pick your poison: Billy Wagner, Dave Smith, or Brad Lidge . . . a nasty group! Although all three men were worthy contenders, Wagner’s 12.85 strikeouts per nine innings earn him the close decision. The fire-balling left-hander also compiled a team record 225 career saves during his nine years in Houston.
Bullpen - Dave Smith
Right-hander Dave Smith serves as the perfect complement to Wagner as the team’s set-up man. Smith saved more than 20 games for the Astros in six straight seasons at one point, while compiling an ERA below 2.00 in two of his 11 years in Houston.
Manager - Larry Dierker
After spending all but one of his 14 major league seasons pitching for the Astros, Dierker managed the team for five years. During that time, he recorded four first-place finishes. Although Houston failed to advance past the first round of the playoffs in any of those seasons, the Astros posted three of their best records in franchise history.
- Albert Pujols, Astrodome, Bob Aspromonte, Bob Watson, Buddy Bell, Carlos Beltran, Cesar Cedeno, Craig Biggio, Cy Young Award, Denis Menke, Dickie Thon, Don Wilson, Drayton McLane, Eddie Mathews, Glenn Davis, Houston Astros, J.R. Richard, Jeff Bagwell, Jeff Kent, Joe Morgan, Joe Niekro, Jose Cruz, Kenny Lofton, Kevin Bass, Lance Berkman, Larry Andersen, Larry Dierker, Lee May, Leo Durocher, Mike Scott, Minute Maid Park, New York Mets, Nolan Ryan, Roberto Clemente, Roger Clemens, Roy Hofheinz, Roy Oswalt, Rusty Staub, Sandy Koufax, Tal Smith, Willie Mays
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