Once Carlos Pena and Lance Berkman step onto the field at Minute Maid Park on Opening Day to face each other, they will be the 63rd and 64th players to play for both the Texas Rangers and Houston Astros. Some of the players included on this list were all-stars with long careers for both teams. Others may have played for one team for several years and then had a very short appearance with the other team, while still, others may have had nothing more than a cup of coffee with each team. With the Astros moving into the American League West division this season, the in-state rivalry between these two teams should heat up. So before the hatred for each other starts to spew out, let’s take a look at some of the shared property.
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The most obvious of these shared players is Nolan Ryan who started 282 games between 1980 and 1988 with the Astros, and 129 with the Rangers between 1989 and 1993. Ryan is the head of the current ownership group of the Astros AA affiliate, Corpus Christi Hooks. Also, before he was hired by the Rangers as Team President and later took over as owner, he was the Special Assistant to the General Manager for the Astros. Because he was always a hero of mine (to the point that I named my daughter “Ryan”), it is somewhat crushing to me that he ended up buying the Rangers shortly before the 2010 season, then Drayton McLane decided to put the Astros up for sale shortly after the 2010 season. I guess I’ll just have to accept that I named my daughter after the Prime Minister of the enemy!
- Danny Darwin, also known as “The Bonham Bullet”, pitched in 220 games for the Astros and 224 games for the Rangers and had two stints with each team. In 1990, as a starter with the Astros, he lead the National League with a 2.21 ERA and a 1.027 WHIP. Darwin pitched as both a starter and reliever for 20 years and 8 different teams before retiring in 1998 with the San Fransisco Giants.
- Mike Lamb played in 357 games with the Rangers before coming to Houston in 2004. He played in 487 games for the Astros and averaged a .281/.342/.464 line in his 4 seasons with the club.
- The hot-headed Carl Everett, or “C Rex”, played for 2 seasons with each the Astros and Rangers. He batted .310 with 40 HRs and 42 stolen bases during the 1998 and 1999 seasons with Houston. He was an All-Star in his 2000 season with the Boston Red Sox, and then again in 2003 with the Rangers
- The strong-jawed Astros pitching coach, Doug Brocail, spent 15 years in the league including two stints with the Astros and one with the Rangers. Brocail pitched during the 1995, 1996, 2008 and 2009 seasons in Houston to the tune of 15-14 with a 4.24 ERA in 151 games as both a starter and reliever. He spent the 2004 and 2005 seasons as a relief pitcher for the Rangers, and went 9-4 with a 4.94 ERA between the two seasons.
Some of the Astros’ most popular players in their history had short stints with the Rangers, including: Richard Hidalgo, Ken Caminiti, Rusty Staub, Dickie Thon, Carlos Lee and most recently, Roy Oswalt, who struggled for most of his shortened 2012 season with the Rangers and ended 4-3 with a 5.80 ERA as both a starter and reliever. A couple of the Rangers’ most popular players, Buddy Bell (1988) and Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez (2009), spent less than a season in Houston with moderate success before returning to Arlington.
A few of the Astros’ least favorite players also have a history with the Rangers. Jason Jennings, who was the Rookie of the Year with the 2002 Colorado Rockies, was brought to Houston as part of a 5-player trade in 2007 to take the place of Andy Pettitte. He started 18 games with the Astros and rewarded them with a 2-9 record and a 6.45 ERA. The highlight of his Astros “career” came in a game against the San Diego Padres, where he gave up 11 earned runs on 8 hits and 3 walks in just two-thirds of an inning. Jennings pitched in 50 games with the Rangers over the next two seasons, with a 2-9 record and a 5.50 ERA as both a starter and reliever. A popular Ranger, Francisco “CoCo” Cordero, spent 7 seasons (2000-2006) in the bullpen and finished his Texas career with a 3.45 ERA and 117 saves. He came to Houston last season as a throw-in guy in the 10-player trade with the Toronto Blue Jays. Cordero made 6 more appearances than he should have for the Astros and finished 0-3 with 3 blown saves, a 19.80 ERA and an amazingly high 3.40 WHIP before going on the Disabled List to finish the season.
The Astros and Rangers share so much in common: the players, coaches (Jackie Moore), analytical front office staff, geography and even some fans. It only makes sense for there to be a healthy rivalry. Until the Houston Astros are competitive again, it is up to the fans to build this rivalry up from the outside. So, the first time you see someone wearing a Texas Rangers “Berkman” t-shirt jersey, give them a high-five to the face from me!