1991 - Season Recap
(c) Bob Hulsey
The veterans were purged, partly for youth and partly to dump high salaries while McMullen tried to sell the team. Mike Scott appeared in just two games then retired with an injured shoulder. Jim Clancy was traded in June, suddenly leaving 31-year-old Jim Deshaies as the old man on the pitching staff. The bench was similarly thinned of veterans.
What was left was a youth movement not seen in Houston since the Colt .45s. They turned in a Colt-like 65-97 record to finish at the bottom of the Western Division. It was never a question where they would finish.
New blood and fresh faces were seen all over the roster. When Jeff Bagwell came to camp, he found himself still unwelcome at third base. Ken Caminiti held down that job so the rookie would have to adjust to playing at first base.
Bagwell showed he belonged, leading the club with 15 homers and 82 RBIs. Not known as a power hitter in the minors, Jeff surprised the Braves on April 15th with his first major league homer. As for average, the .294 clip was just a point behind Craig Biggio for the club leadership. With his peculiar batting stance, Jeff also led the league in getting hit by pitches. Bagwell became the first Astro to be named National League Rookie of the Year by the BBWAA.
Steve Finley also responded well to his first season as an Astro. He batted .285, led the team in hits (170) and steals (34). In addition, he made acrobatic catches in center field.
Ken Caminiti had a breakout season with 13 homers and 80 RBIs. Biggio swiped 19 bases and batted .295. He got his first taste of playing second base late in the season, a tryout that would be important for his career. Outfielder Luis Gonzalez had an impressive rookie season , slugging 13 home runs and driving in 69. Andujar Cedeno, Karl Rhodes, Tony Eusebio, Scott Servais and a lightning-quick outfielder named Kenny Lofton all had call-ups from the minors. Lofton would be dealt to Cleveland in the off-season for catcher Eddie Taubensee, a trade Houston fans would come to regret.
The pitching staff also became a year-long tryout. Pete Harnisch led the club with a dozen victories and fashioned a 2.70 ERA. Curt Schilling, the third guy in the Davis trade, was tried as a closer, saving eight games. Lefty Al Osuna let the squad with twelve saves. Others to make their Houston mound debuts were Darryl Kile, Ryan Bowen, Jimmy Jones, Brian Williams, Rob Mallicoat and Jeff Juden. Even Art Howe must have needed a scorecard to keep track of all the new faces.
The kids showed their potential when they ran off a seven-game winning streak, capped on August 4th with a 2-1 triumph over the first-place Dodgers to sweep the series. To add to the insult, the Astros pulled off their second triple play of the season.
Critics accused McMullen of being cheap. Optimists found reason to hope the new players would gel into the foundation for future championships. Both were right. In truth, the Astros cleaned house and slashed payroll and did so with just a ten-game drop off from the crew of grizzled veterans who came in fifth the year before. Some of the new kids stayed throughout the decade. Others had good careers elsewhere. Some would never make much of a career anywhere. The trick was knowing who was which. The Astros didn't make all the right calls and the proof was how the team struggled to return to the postseason for the next five years.
Last place, NL West
Nov 5 1990 - granted free agency to Rich Gedman(C). Gedman signed with StL-N on Feb 15
Nov 5 1990 - granted free agency to Juan Agosto(P). Agosto signed with StL-N on Dec 14
Nov 5 1990 - granted free agency to Terry Puhl(OF). Puhl signed with NY-N on Dec 13
Nov 5 1990 - granted free agency to Franklin Stubbs(IF). Stubbs signed with Mil-A on Dec 5
Nov 5 1990 - granted free agency to Glenn Wilson(OF). Wilson signed with Atl-N on Feb 13
Nov 7 1990 - granted free agency to Danny Darwin(P). Darwin signed with Bos-A on Dec 19
Dec 3 1990 - Winter Major League Draft
Dec 7 1990 - granted free agency to Dave Smith(P). Smith signed with Chi-N on Dec 17
Jan 3 1991 - signed Jimmy Jones(P) from NY-A as free agent
Jan 3 1991 - signed Dwayne Henry(P) from Atl-N as free agent
Jan 5 1991 - signed Mike Capel(P) from Mil-A as free agent
Jan 31 1991 - signed Jim Corsi(P) from Oak-A as free agent
Jan 31 1991 - signed Mark McLemore(IF) as free agent
Apr 24 1991 - returned Dean Wilkins(P) to Chi-N
May 20 1991 - signed Oscar Henriquez(P) as a non-drafted free agent
Jun 25 1991 - released Mark McLemore(IF)
Jul 2 1991 - signed Richard Hidalgo(OF) as a free agent
Jul 27 1991 - released Ken Oberkfell(IF)
Jul 31 1991 - traded Jim Clancy(P) to AtL-N for Matt Turner(P) and Earl Sanders(P). Hou received Sanders on Nov 15 1991
Sep 25 1991 - paid waiver price to SF-N for Eddie Tucker(C)
Oct 15 1991 - granted free agency to Terry Clark(P)
Oct 16 1991 - granted free agency to Mark Davidson(P)
Oct 16 1991 - granted free agency to Terry McGriff(C), who signed with Cal-A on Jan 27
Oct 16 1991 - granted free agency to Carl Nichols(C)
Oct 16 1991 - granted free agency to Dean Wilkins(P)
Oct 28 1991 - granted free agency to Jim Deshaies(P), who signed with SD-N on Jan 27