With the cooling down of the Hot Stove during the holiday season, my mind began to wander to some of my favorite all-time Astros. With a little more thought, I put together a loose collection of my favorite Astros to watch play. Please be advised that this may not be the best team ever assembled, or the most valuable. My collection of players showcases the ones I have most enjoyed watching play in all the years I have followed the Hometown Nine. Here goes nothing. Feel free to reminisce. I begin today with position players:
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First Base – Jeff Bagwell. Anyone that can hit while straddling an imaginary cactus is going to make my list. Plus, he could pick it on defense. I still hurt because his career was cut short, maybe in the same way that Sandy Koufax fans hurt for him back in the day.
Second Base – Craig Biggio. The thing I most loved to watch about Biggio is the way he ran out every ground ball. Sure, he achieved longevity and some gaudy numbers on offense, but the mental toughness it took to run out every ball every night for 162 games a year for 20 years is indescribable. That is what I remember and admire the most.
Shortstop – Adam Everett. One of the smoothest fielders I have ever seen. I loved watching him go up the middle and make a play, or charge the slowly hit grounder. To be sure, I liked watching him on defense way more than watching him hit.
Third Base – Ken Caminiti. Again, it was defense over offense for me, though he was no slouch at the plate. I was hooked just watching him warm up between innings. What a cannon to first base.
Catcher – Tony Eusebio. What can I say? Big guys doin’ stuff. As much as I enjoyed watching Brad Ausmus handle pitchers, Big Tony tops my list. I just liked him, and was happy when he had success. Let us not forget the 51-day, 24-game hitting streak in the 2000 season, either.
Left Field – Jose Cruz. I must admit, I began to follow Jose Cruz when he first came up with St. Louis. A Cardinal fan at the time (since reformed), I was not thrilled when he was traded, as the Cardinals were not awesome at that time. But what a career he had in Houston.
Center Field – Cesar Cedeno. What a gifted player. Called by Baseball Digest in 1978 “Baseball’s Best All-Around Center Fielder.” He was for me, for sure.
Right Field – Hunter Pence. There was some stiff competition here, with Lance Berkman and Terry Puhl in the running. Puhl was my wife’s favorite player, but this is my list, not hers. To me Pence is out of the same mold as Biggio, hustling out every ground ball. He gets it. I am happy for his success, and will be a fan of his no matter who he plays for. He also looks like he has fun playing baseball, which you don’t always see. One of my favorite players ever, and possibly my all-time favorite Astro.
I will do pitchers on the second and final installment next week – get your list ready and let’s compare.
What about you? Who were/are your all-time favorite Astros players? Anyone get left off the list that you think should be gimmies? State your case!