The All-Time Astros Team
The All-Time Astros Team

"All-Time Greatest" teams are always a popular topic among fans, especially during the off-season after another season has been committed to the history books. Not only does it provoke a lot of debate and discussion, it is a good way for newer fans to learn about some of the superstars that the previous generations cheered for.

Like everyone else, the contributors of The Astros Daily enjoy these discussions as well. As a result, we have come up with our list of the All-Time Great Astros at each position. There is little debate over some positions, and considerable debate over others. For each player, you can read each contributor's comments and add your own. If you're feeling nostalgic, don't hesitate to let us know some of your favorite memories about the players.

Our ground rules were simple: pick eight position players, four starting pitchers, and a closer. Sentimentality and statistics were considered equally valid reasons for choosing a player. The only criteria was the players should be selected for their overall careers as Astros, not particular seasons or performances with other clubs.

Only three of the thirteen players were selected unanimously, so they will be presented first. The remaining players will be listed by position. Enjoy!

Unanimous picks:

(c) Houston Astros

Jeff Bagwell, first base

Honorable Mentions: Glenn Davis, Bob Watson, Lee May

John: If this guy doesn't make it to the Hall of Fame, it will be a crime, but if he keeps going, he'll make it easily. There's absolutely nobody else in Astros' history as good at his position. Bob Watson, Glenn Davis and Lee May are a distant second, third, and fourth respectively, although Watson was a pure hitter, and a mighty good player.
Steve: Bagwell is another no-brainer (over Glenn Davis).
Ray: Will go down at the greatest 1B in National League history. Since the Astros have never been in the American League, there's really not much more to say about this pick.
Ron: Only a player of Bagwellian proportions could make Glenn Davis take a back seat here.
Matthew: There is no discussion here. The best player in Astros history deserves to be on this team, and there is little competition at first to begin with. He holds the club record in each of the triple crown categories, and is basically assured a first-ballot HOF induction.
Todd: Best hitter in the history of the team. Rookie of the Year. MVP in 1994, when he had the greatest season of any hitter in the history of the Astros. The only member from the Astros' first forty seasons that will go into the hall of fame on the vote of the baseball writers. The perfect player.

(c) Houston Astros

Craig Biggio, second base

Honorable Mentions: Joe Morgan, Bill Doran

John: a tougher call than you might think, here. Biggio is, by most estimates, the best all-around player in Astros history. He'd have to be, to make many of us who saw Joe Morgan play in Houston twice forget about him. Morgan was not quite a superstar when he played for the Astros the first time, but he was an All-Star. Anyway, Biggio has stuck it out with the Astros, and has given the club the kind of numbers Morgan might've provided had he stayed. He's a man of high character, and absolutely nails on the field. Word is, he's already got a leg up on Comeback Player of the Year for 2001. If that's the case, it just might solidify the argument for putting him into the Hall of Fame along with Bagwell at the end of his career.
Steve: yet another no-brainer (over Joe Morgan, Bill Doran).
Ray: Craig Biggio was arguably the Most Valuable Player in 1997, and followed up with another great year in 1998. Will end up neck and neck for the best overall career for an Astro.
Ron: All-Franchise team? This guy belongs in Cooperstown.
Matthew: Little competition here, either, as Joe Morgan did not play with the club long enough to merit inclusion (in my opinion). MVP-caliber year in 1997, and he and Roberto Alomar are generally considered the best two second basemen of the 1990's.
Todd: Along with Bagwell, Biggio is the heart and soul of the 1990-2000 Astros. One of the toughest players ever to wear the uniform. Goes in on grit (and the pine tar on his helmet) alone, but his stats are tremendous as well. Arguably the best second baseman of his generation along with Roberto Alomar Jr.

(c) Houston Astros

J.R. Richard, starting pitcher

John: Richard was the second pitching phenom in Astros history (Larry Dierker was the first). He struggled as a youngster to find control of his awesome stuff, but when he finally did, he was absolutely the most unhittable pitcher I have ever seen, and that includes Nolan Ryan. His fastball and slider were simply overwhelming. The Dodgers, in particular, had no chance against him--none. Many people don't remember now that the imposing Astros' staff of 1980 that had Niekro, Ryan, and Vern Ruhle on it also had J.R. Richard. Of this I have no doubt: had Richard been healthy and able to pitch in the 1980 NLCS, the Astros would have won the series easily.
Steve: Richard gets #2 because he was so nasty. Batters didn't like facing Nolan. But they FEARED facing J.R. He was a lot like Randy Johnson. So tall that he seemed to hand the ball to the catcher. And wild enough that you never knew if he MEANT that ball to almost hit you.
Ray: I think my feelings on Richard are pretty well known. Until he was felled by a stroke, Richard was arguably the greatest pitcher to put on an Astros uniform.
Ron: Total domination from the time he got in the rotation. One-third of his starts were complete games. More career strikeouts than hits. Wow.
Matthew: With all of the hype given to this man on this site, I'm pretty sure you've heard it all. I'll just give you one more thing: In his prime, opposing hitters were terrified to play against him. There hasn't been another player in club history that has equalled that.

Join the Honor J.R. campaign to get Richard's jersey retired by the team.
Read the Astros Daily Tribute to J.R. Richard.

The rest of the team:

(c) Houston Astros

Alan Ashby, catcher
4 - Alan Ashby   (Steve, John, Matthew, Todd)
1 - Brad Ausmus  (Ray)
1 - Craig Biggio (Ron)

Honorable Mentions: Johnny Edwards

John: tough call (Ashby) over Johnny Edwards and Brad Ausmus, but Ashby could both catch and hit more consistently than the other two.
Steve: Ashby is a no-brainer (over Brad Ausmus).
Ray: Ashby was a better hitter than Ausmus, but not by a lot. He also had a weak arm for a catcher, so I give the nod to Ausmus' superior defensive skills at this key defensive position.
Ron: Yeah, Biggio only played C three years, but name another HOU All-Star catcher. Who would you rather have? (note: Ron only considered Biggio's years as a catcher for this pick)
Matthew: My favorite player that I never actually saw play. Tough, determined, and a damn fine backstop for a solid team in the 80's. It's too bad he'll be remembered for his broadcasting.
Todd: Ashby played eleven seasons with the Astros and caught the most games in team history. 1987 might be the best season by any Astros catcher. Called a great game and managed a great pitching staff.

(c) Topps

Doug Rader, Third Base
3 - Doug Rader     (Steve, Ray, Ron)
1 - Ken Caminiti   (Matthew)
1 - Bob Aspromonte (John)
1 - Enos Cabell    (Todd)

John: the Astros have been blessed with several good third basemen in their history. Ken Caminiti, Doug Rader, and Enos Cabell all had standout careers at the position, but Aspromonte deserves recognition as arguably the first high-quality player the Colt45s had who hadn't already made a name for himself with some other club. He was a good fielder, and a sound hitter in the clutch. Not much for power, as I recall, but he could get you a single or double when you needed it. Second pick here for me would be Rader, who stopped as many balls with his chest as he did with his glove, and was a solid contributor to that murderer's row of Cedeno, Wynn, May, and Watson the Astros had going after 1971.
Steve: I chose Rader over Ken Caminiti and Bob Aspromonte. Rader was the only one of the three that had a decent TPR (per Total Baseball) as an Astro. Cammy had better offensive numbers, but only slightly. And Doug played in a more difficult Astrodome and when pitching dominated to a greater degree. Aspromonte had tradition and service on his side. The first real Astro 3B, but he just was not in the class of the other two as a player.
Ray: A close call. Most fans won't believe this, but Doug Rader was better defensively than Ken Caminiti in his prime. And, in comparison to the rest of the league, Rader was a better hitter with more power than Caminiti. Aspromonte and Cabell were also considered, but they are a notch below Rader and Caminiti.
Ron: I love Caminiti, but most of his fireworks were with San Diego. Rader had great glove and some pop in his bat.
Matthew: Very weak competition here. Aspromonte came close, as he was a cornerstone to some of the earlier teams, but Caminiti edges him out with his power and defense.
Todd: Another weak position on the team. My pick is Enos Cabell, the solid thirdbaseman for the Astros in the late 70s. Cabell was a personal favorite based upon the amount of times he scratched his privates during the game. But he also was a very solid performer. 1977 was his best year when he hit 16 HRs. He stole a lot of bases, rare for a third-baseman, but totally consistent with the Astros small ball of the time. He makes it over Ken Caminiti, who never fully blossomed with the team before being traded to the Padres and who because of injuries, never played up to his full potential with the team after resigning as a free agent.

(c) Houston Astros

Dickie Thon, Shortstop
4 - Dickie Thon    (Steve, Ray, Matthew, Todd)
1 - Craig Reynolds (John)
1 - Roger Metzger  (Ron)

John: I could just as easily have picked Roger Metzger for short, or Dickie Thon, who put up wonderful offensive numbers before being beaned by Mike Torrez. Metzger was a defensive whiz, but Reynolds was consistent with the glove, too, and better at the plate. He was the best bunter I ever saw, and he was the heart and soul of my all-time favorite Astros team in 1979. The fact that Reynolds went to high school with my oldest sister is completely irrelevant, and it had no bearing whatsoever on his selection.
Steve: I chose Dickie Thon over Reynolds and Metzger. This is my most controversial pick. But Thon is the only real offensive threat we've ever had at short. His OPS was 100 points over Craig or Roger. And he's the only one that had a positive TPR. Had his career not been cut short by the blow to his eye, Thon might have been the first of the modern-day power hitting shortstops. "Those triplets of Jeter, ARod and Nomar are today's Dickie Thon!"
Ray: Thanks to the beaning, there is no stand-out for this position. But, despite his shorter career, Thon gave more career value to the team than any other SS. He had a combination of power, defense and speed that is rarely seen at this position, and at age 22 was head and shoulders over any other SS to ever play for Houston.
Ron: Perhaps my most difficult call. Metzer was good enough defensively for long enough to deprive Reynolds of this spot.
Matthew: Sadly, not one of the greater shortstops to play the game, but the 6-hole has generally been a weak spot on all Astros teams. However, Thon was a mainstay during the 80's, and was a fairly good hitter with good defensive skills. An all-around good career, with a sad ending.
Todd: In a lousy position, Dickie wins my vote. The Astros have had a lot of players cut down short by injury but Dickie might have been missed the most and the name Mike Torrez still cannot be mentioned in my house. In addition to being a leader, he would have been a lock to hit 20+ HRs per year, which would have placed him among the elite shortstops in the game. He deserves to make the list based on his 1987 season. I cringe to think how many championships the Astros might have won in the 80s with Thon at short.

(c) Houston Astros

Cesar Cedeno, Outfield

John: People will say Cedeno never quite reached his potential, but you can't prove it by me. Who's to say what our potential really is? Cedeno did pretty well with what he had. He had tremendous speed and, in fact, was one of the first players who was given the designation a "five tool player"--run, hit, hit with power, steal bases, and play defense. Cedeno could do all those things. When he broke his ankle in the 1980 playoffs against the Phillies, it marked a turning point in that epic five-game struggle and became, for me, one of the great "what if" debate questions in team history. What if he had been able to play the whole series?
Ray: After a superstar start, Cedeno cooled down to merely stardom. In retrospect, his chief failing was not being able to live up to overhyped expectations. Still, his 1972-73 seasons were among the best in Astros history.
Ron: 20 home runs and 50 stolen bases was typical for this four-time All-Star.
Todd: Cedeno was the first great all-around player on the Astros. He hit for average, batting .320 twice. He hit over twenty home runs three years in a row, a remarkable statistic considering that he played in the dome. He played stellar defense. And he is the greatest stolen base leader in team history. I only got to see Cedeno play towards the end of his tenure with the Astros and still he was impressive.

(c) Houston Astros

Jose Cruz, Outfield

John: Gene Elston thought (and may still think) of Cruz as the best all-around player Houston has ever had, and I can't say I disagree, even knowing the career that Biggio has had. Cruz hustled, hustled, hustled all the time, and after a rocky start, made himself into a good outfielder. He was a terrific hitter at the plate to all fields. Cruz was a class act off the field, too. He never complained, never caused trouble for others or for himself. Of all the players on that fine 1986 Astros team that played so well against the Mets and lost, I felt for Cruz the most, and I still do.
Ron: two-time All-Star with good speed and some pop.
Matthew: One of the most complete players in club history, and a mainstay in the 70's and 80's. Statistics aside, he is the single player that has meant the most to the Astros in their history, and that alone merits inclusion onto this team.
Todd: Maybe the most popular member of the team of all time. Great stats for his time. He batted .400 in his one post-season appearance in 1980. Bill James is a big fan. The saddest thing that I ever saw was watching Jose Cruz end his career with the Yankees.

Read the Astros Daily Tribute to Jose Cruz.

(c) Houston Astros

Jim Wynn, Outfield

Ray: Vastly underrated, Wynn is arguably the greatest outfielder in the history of the franchise. He had power, speed, and a great right arm and would have been a perennial all-star for any other team.
Ron: Power, speed, a great arm, and a million walks.
Matthew: The holder of every power mark on this team before Bagwell came around, and played in a much tougher environment. If he would have been a Cub, this is a first ballot HOFer. As it stands, he's on the outside looking in, and it's a damn shame.
Todd: I never saw Wynn play. This vote is based on reputation and stats alone. But I don't see how he can be left off the list based on his home run numbers.

Read the Astros Daily Tribute to Jim Wynn.

Total outfield voting:

5 - Cesar Cedeno      (Steve, John, Ray, Ron, Todd)
5 - Jose Cruz         (Steve, John, Ron, Matthew, Todd)
5 - Jim Wynn          (Steve, Ray, Ron, Matthew, Todd)
1 - Moises Alou       (Matthew)
1 - Richard Hidalgo   (Ray)
1 - Terry Puhl        (John)

Other comments:
John (on Puhl): I was going to put Richard Hidalgo in this spot. He may get there one day, but if your criteria include longevity with the club and excellence of performance on both offense and defense, then Puhl deserves a spot. Puhl had a loping, graceful stride in the outfield that I just loved to watch, whether he was playing RF or CF and he was a remarkably consistent hitter. He put on one of the great hitting shows of all time in NLCS play in 1980 by going 10-19 or something like that against Philadelphia.
Ray (on Hidalgo): Very tough pick over Cruz. Cruz has the longevity, but Richard is a better hitter, can play CF, and has a rifle arm that Cruz only dreamed of. Richard's 2000 season was much better than any Cruz accomplished, even considering Enron and the current era of high-octance offense. In my opinion, Cruz has been dethroned from the all-time outfield. If you don't agree now, you will after the next two seasons.
Matthew (on Alou): I know I'm going to get some major heat for this one. But you know what? 1998 and 2000 far overshadow any other years that an outfielder (besides Wynn and Cruz) ever had on this team. Assuming he's healthy, there's not another outfielder I'd pick over him for this team.

(c) Houston Astros

Larry Dierker, Starting Pitcher

John: it would be criminal to leave this guy off. He *is* the Astros, in every meaningful sense of the term, and has been since 1964. He came up to pitch for the Colt45s on his 18th birthday in '64, and worked only 39 innings in the minor leagues, in an era when good major league pitchers toiled for years down there before getting a call up. The man had everything--a blazing fastball, a sharp curve, control of both pitches, and poise, both on the field and off. I swear, you could set a bomb off in the stands and Dierker wouldn't blink an eye out there. He was unflappable, whether he was pitching for a team that sucked (10-8 in 1966, I believe) or a team that was pretty dadgum good (20-13 in 1969, and good teams from 1972-74). He always, always, gave the Astros a chance to win.
Steve: Dierker is number three on my list. He was really the first young pitcher to become really dominant as an Astro. And he was so important in the clubhouse. Not only does he lead in so many career pitching stats for the club, but he "makes a fellow proud to be an Astro."
Ron: Very tough call over Niekro.
Matthew: Led the team in ERA four different years. Not overly dominant, but a great mind for the game. Also, his accomplishments as a manager give him the final push onto my team over Niekro and Hampton.

(c) Houston Astros

Mike Scott, Starting Pitcher

John: The Astros absolutely stole this guy from the Mets in early '83. I can remember a few games where he got pounded, but dang few. Most people think that if the Astros had been able to force a game seven with the Mets in the 1986 NLCS, Houston would have won, and perhaps they would have, with Scott pitching. All I know for sure is that, like Dierker, when Scott went out there, I knew the Astros had a great chance to win, and that's all you can ask.
Steve: Scott gets the nod over Richard because of my fond memories of his pitching carrying us to a division championship. If we scratched out one run, you felt like he could hold'em. And the no-no to clinch is one of the best pressure performances in Astro's history.
Ron: Total domination in his '86 Cy Young year.
Matthew: We could just put the entire 1986 rotation on here if we wanted. Scott was a perennial Cy Young candidate with his wicked splitter in the mid 80's, and was a workhorse, leading the team in innings twice and wins five separate times.

(c) Houston Astros

Nolan Ryan, Starting Pitcher

Ray: Like many fans, I've always loved strikeout pitchers and Ryan was no exception. What separated him from other good pitchers was that, he not only gave you a chance to win, but he gave you a chance to see a no-hitter! For a fastball pitcher, he was never expected to pitch more than a few years with the Astros, but spent more seasons with Houston than with any other team.
Ron: One of the hardest pitchers to hit in history.
Matthew: One of the most dominant pitchers of our generation, and played some of his finest years in an Astros uniform.

Total starting pitcher voting:

6 - J.R. Richard      (all)
5 - Larry Dierker     (John, Steve, Ron, Matthew, Todd)
5 - Mike Scott        (John, Steve, Ron, Matthew, Todd)
4 - Nolan Ryan        (Ray, Ron, Matthew, Todd)
3 - Joe Niekro        (John, Steve, Ray)
1 - Mike Hampton      (Ray)

Other comments:
John (on Niekro): simply Mr. Excellent for the 'stros in 1979 and 1980. Shoulda won the Cy Young in '79--he was 21-11 that year. Lost a little personal respect for him when an ump caught him with a nail file in his hip pocket while he was pitching for the Yankees late in his career, but his work for the Astros was exemplary.
Steve (on Niekro): The guy was a witch. With a 144-116 record, I just had to put him on the list ahead of Ryan. Listening to the Astros at that time, he was so often the stopper... If the bullpen had been under a lot of pressure in recent games, you knew Joe'd come in and give you a quality start, soaking up innings.
Ray (on Niekro): The only Astros pitcher to win 20 twice, Niekro seemingly toiled in obscurity behind Richard, Ryan and even his brother. Would have won more games if he had been moved to the starting rotation earlier by the Astros.
Ray (on Hampton): Traitor II may get no respect, but compared to the scoring levels of the years he played, no Astros pitcher prevented more runs from crossing the plate. Give him some decent run support and he goes 22-4 in a 5-man rotation. His 150+ starts equate to five full seasons of pitching for the team.

(c) Houston Astros

Dave Smith, Closer
3 - Dave Smith     (Steve, Ron, John)
2 - Billy Wagner   (Matthew, Todd)
1 - Joe Sambito    (Ray)

John: Dave Smith was simply lights out as a closer on the '86 Astros, and he pitched really well in '80, too, but hear me: Hal Lanier should never, ever have gone to him in the ninth inning of Game Three against the Mets in '86. Oh, it was awful. Still, Smith was remarkably consistent over a long career.
Steve: Well this might be controversial... But it shouldn't be. If you have to choose one, it has to be Dave Smith. Year after year, game after game, the guy was awesome. He holds all the team records. He's #2 in career ERA. He's #1 in career appearances. He's the all-time Astros closer.
Ray: A GREAT closer until he blew his elbow out, Sambito once went 27 games and over 40 innings without allowing an earned run. Dave Smith is neck-and-neck with Sambito, but I gotta go with the fellow lefty.
Ron: Smith had six straight years in NL Top 10 for saves.
Matthew: He's (Wagner) my hero, so I won't even consider anyone else. However, no Astros closer has even come close to the dominance that he's accomplished over his short tenure.
Todd: Billy Wagner. The Astros have had some great relief pitchers -- Joe Sambito and Dave Smith to name a few. But Billy Wagner is the most dominating relief pitcher that the Astros have ever had. Blows away batters at an alarming pace. If he remains healthy and if the Astros can afford to keep him, he will eventually lead the team in saves.