THE ASTROS ALL-TIME TEAM - THIRD BASE

Starter: Ken Caminiti (tie)

(c) Houston Astros
Seasons: 1987-1994,1999-2000
103 HR, 546 RBI, .264 AVG

Key comments:
"He had all the tools... power at the plate, and a rocket arm at the hot corner"

"No other Astro third baseman has ever possessed such a cannon"

"A wizard with the glove, a gamer and a clutch hitter by the time he returned from San Diego"

Starter: Doug Rader (tie)

(c) Houston Astros
Seasons: 1967-75
128 HR, 600 RBI, .250 AVG

Key comments:
"The most games played at the position by an Astro and, more important, five consecutive Gold Gloves "

"May be the most under-rated and underappreciated Astro of all-time"

"The best defensive third baseman in club history, and he was hitting 20 homers a season when that was a big deal"

Other mentions : Phil Garner, Bob Aspromonte, Enos Cabell, Bill Spiers, Denny Walling

Full comments:

Gene Elston: Ken Caminiti & Doug Rader .

Bill McCurdy:
Starter: Ken Caminiti. The guy was a complete gamer with the best arm Iíve ever seen on a third baseman. Backup: Doug Rader was close to Caminiti in his defensive skills and he had good pop in his bat. He simply wasnít in the same league with Cami as a hitter.

Michael Nash:
Doug Rader & Ken Caminiti. Call me biased since he was my first and only Astros Buddy, but Doug Rader may be the most under-rated and underappreciated Astro of all-time.

Darrell Pittman:
Ken Caminiti & Phil Garner. Caminiti was the best rookie phenom in Astros history. He had all the tools... power at the plate, and a rocket arm at the hot corner. Garner, along with Jose Cruz, embodied all the best of the Astros clubs of the mid-to-late 1980s... scrappiness, good work ethic, and a never-say-die attitude.

Bob Hulsey:
Starter - Ken Caminiti (S): A wizard with the glove, a gamer and a clutch hitter by the time he returned from San Diego. Backup - Bill Spiers (L): What a versatile player and clutch hitter he was. Is it any coincidence that every championship teams we've had included somebody like Spiers or Walling coming off the bench?

Greg Lucas:
Ken Caminiti is my choice but not without a LOT of thought regarding Doug Rader who gets my #2 vote. Ken, like Joe Morgan, had his biggest years elsewhere, but his numbers are a bit better than Rader as an Astro. Bob Aspromonte manned the post for a number of years, but not quite on the level of the other two. If he had played as the regular as the spot for a longer period I might have gone with Bill Spiers. And Enos Cabell played too many places for me to consider him a regular third baseman for this exercise.

Ray Kerby:
Doug Rader & Phil Garner. Doug Rader was likely the best defensive third baseman in club history, and he was hitting 20 homers a season when that was a big deal considering that he played in the Astrodome. While I enjoyed watching Ken Caminiti give it his all, his seasons as an Astro in hindsight are not as impressive as the potential we always expected. In the end, the backup spot on my team goes to Phil Garner, a scrappy player who could play tough without getting injured, could steal bases and play second in a pinch, and did it all drug-free.

Jeff Burk:
Doug Rader & Ken Caminiti. The Astros have featured a group of third basemen who made comparable offensive contributions and played about 1,000 games. Rader (OPS+ 112) stands out among these with the most games played at the position by an Astro and, more important, five consecutive Gold Gloves. Denny Walling is the best hitter among Astros third basemen (OPS+ 121), but he never played full-time, so Caminiti (OPS+ 110) gets the nod.

Andy Tomczeszyn:
Doug Rader, Phil Garner. The Red Rooster was a gold glove level hot corner, and was offensively underrated, playing his prime seasons in the extremely cavernous Astrodome. Garner was exactly the kind of player that the Astros need now. Not fancy, but extremely smart and effective. One of the better team leaders in Astros history (how could you have the nickname Scrap Iron and not be a kick-ass kind of guy?), he wasn't afraid to get in the faces of his teammates and "encourage" guys to play hard. It's hard for me to leave Ken Caminiti off the team, as he is probably my favorite position player, but in my memory, his time in Houston was spent waiting for him to start hitting or to stop being hurt during his return trip.

John Lauck:
Doug Rader & Ken Caminiti. Third base is, once again, a position whose selection of a player will ignite some controversy, but my case for Rader over Caminiti is a sound one. I saw both men play during all of their careers as Astros and have vivid memories of that experience. Rader had the tougher challenge as a young player, I believe. He had to replace a very popular third baseman in Houston history, Bob Aspromonte, but he did so with enthusiasm and hustle that captured the hearts of fans almost immediately in 1967. Rader was never a great hitter for average, but he was more productive than you might realize, wherein lies some my argument for picking him over Caminiti. Caminitiís Total Player Rating in Total Baseball was 18.9 through the 2000 season. Most of that rating was accomplished in Caminitiís three extraordinary seasons with the San Diego Padres from 1995 through 1997 (4.0, 7.3., and 4.8). If one puts those San Diego numbers aside, Caminitiís TPR as an Astro is 2.8. Raderís TPR was 10.5, compiled over eleven seasons, the last two of which Rader split between San Diego (doing double duty as a short-order cook and a third baseman) and Toronto. His TPR as an Astro is 7.4, a figure normalized to take into account different baseball eras and, most particularly, the different configuration of the Astrodome in the 1960s. The Astros had terrific offensive teams from 1972 through 1974. Lee May, Jim Wynn, and Bob Watson got most of the attention in those years, but if you looked for him, there was Rader, whacking away in or near the middle of the order, driving in runs and keeping the machine going. Rader could never be described as a classic fielder. (I lost count of the number of balls he knocked down with his chest.) But his reflexes were good around the bag, and his throws were true.

A case could be made that his backup, Caminiti, was a better athlete. (In fact, Caminitiís defensive athleticism is, it seems to me, beyond dispute.) But this is not to say that Caminiti was a better player than Rader. As an Astro, I donít think he was. Defensively, Raderís reflexes were less quick, but he was more fundamentally sound in his positioning and throwing. If I lost count of the number of balls that caromed off Raderís chest, I also lost count of the number of throws from Caminitiís powerful arm that either got away from first base or made that first baseman work much harder than he should have had to to dig the ball out of the dirt. Caminiti was a good RBI man for the Astros, but he never, ever, manifested for Houston the kind of power he eventually showed for the Padres. We now know why he became such a power threat for the Padres, with his recent admission of steroid use during those seasons, but even after two different stints with the Astros, Caminiti wonít be remembered most for his feats as a hitter. Heíll be remembered as a defensive player. For all of the inaccuracy of his arm, no other Astro third baseman has ever possessed such a cannon.