And here I have been, staring at the screen for too long, trying to put my thoughts and feelings into words.
I guess, first props to Jeff’s parents – his mothah and fathah, reluctantly converted Red Sawx fans. The boy looks like his mama and I think she’s a tigah too.
Next, I gotta thank Jeff for thanking us, the fans. I know our Nation is a lot smaller than Red Sox Nation, but we LUUUVVVVV our guys just the same.
I was going to re-post all his stats, all his numbers, explain why he should be elected to the HOF, but Zachary Levine has already done that in the Chronicle. Besides, sometimes, I think we focus too much on numbers and not enough on the human side of the game. It is true that his numbers say that he is the best player the Astros ever had, but it’s more than that.
From the original Colt 45s in 1962 to 1980, the Astros had very few real stars on 18 years of losing teams – Larry Dierker, Jimmy Wynn and JR Richard. Larry had really only 3 good years, Jimmy had the misfortune to hit during the pitchers’ era in the Dome and unfortunately, his numbers seemed to fall as short as his stature and JR Richard was betrayed by the Organization (and still has not really received the recognition he deserves) and his 6 year career tragically felled by a stroke. But they were good players on bad teams.
There were a few more stars in the 80s – Nolan Ryan, who spent 8 years of his 25 year career as an Astro, and Mike Scott, who wasn’t an Original Astro either – he was obtained in a trade with the Mets for Danny Heep after he had finished his 4th year in a Mets uni, and he pitched 8 years for the Astro, having one spectacular year and 4 decent years.
By the time the 80s ended, the good players of the 86 championship years were approaching the end of their careers. In 1990, the Astros were starting to integrate new young players Craig Biggio, Ken Caminiti, Eric Yelding, Eric Anthony and Gerald Young (back in the days when this team still WELCOMED Negro-Americans) with fading stars Bill Doran, Glenn Davis and Terry Puhl. At the trade deadline, they made The Trade – Larry Anderson, an excellent relief pitcher (who, by the way, did an OUTSTANDING job for his new team) to the Red Sox who were in a tight pennant race, for a AA third baseman named Jeffrey Robert Bagwell.
Bagwell had a great glove, a great batting eye and he sprayed doubles all over the field. The Red Sox believed that Scott Cooper, their AAA 3B was going to be a superstar and Bagwell wasn’t (just judging by minor league numbers, I do NOT get this.) Baggy had a .333 BA, .422 OBP and .487 SLG in AA. The previous year in AA, Scott Cooper had a .247 BA, .339 OPS and a .363 SLG and his 1990 stats in AAA were virtually identical.
Anyway, Baggy made the switch to first because it looked as if Cammy would be at third for the next 15 years, and the rest was history. Over the next few years, Baggy, Bidge and Cammy were joined by Luis Gonzalez and Steve Finley and the young team gelled and started winning, though never quiiite enough to win the division, let alone the WC.
Astros fans were stunned after the 94 season when Cammy, Finley and a few other guys were traded to the Padres for Derek Bell, Ricky Gutierrez and a few other guys and Luis Gonzalez and catcher Scott Servais were traded to the Cubs for Rick Wilkins. But Baggy and Biggio stayed. And stayed.
Through all the trades and acquisitions the Astros made over the next 12 years, Baggy and Biggio were a constant. Every year, every game it was #7 at leadoff and #5 in the 3-hole. No matter who else was on the team, no matter whether the pitching was bad, good or great, Baggy and Biggio held it together and could be counted on for great year after great year. And now it is really over. Baggy is gone and in a month, Biggio will follow.
It is really the end of an era. Well, actually, the era should have ended with the WS, but I digress.
This year, we’ll end up at or near the very bottom of the National League. The Astros have been there before, but unlike 1990, it’s different now because there is no core of good young players coming up to start the cycle, there are only a bunch of mediocre utility players plus a star LF who can barely field and a first baseman who is playing RF and an ace pitcher. I can’t see the Astros putting a good, let alone great, team on the field for years.
Baggy and Biggio are in a great part responsible (and make no mistake about it – Roger Clemens joining the team in 2004 easily doubled that fan interest) for the increase in the popularity of Astros baseball in Houston since Baggy joined the team in 1991. The fans came, not just to see winning baseball, but to see them. It will be interesting to see how long the fans will keep coming to the park, will stay interested in the team now that they are gone and they will have taken the remnants of the team’s long standing excellence with them…
Tags: Houston Astros