Spurred by Jose Jesus Ortiz' most recent blog entry, in which he not only gives Wandy some measure of needed love, but also quotes McTaggart as saying that Cesar Cedeño--back in baseball with the Gnats this year--is the fifth greatest player in Astro history, I figured I'd weigh in with my own top five list.
1. Craig Biggio - Like Bagwell, spent some time as the best player in his league, but also has had 25% more at bats as an Astro. Leads Bagwell (and everyone else who's ever worn an Astros uni) in simple runs created, (R + RBI - HR), which tells you how many unique runs the player was involved in. Franchise leader in games played, runs, hits, singles, doubles, total bases, and extra base hits. Franchise leader in power/speed number, for whatever that's worth. Seasonal record holder for the franchise in hits, doubles and three-hit games. Only player for Houston to have scored five runs in a game, and he's done it three times. Three-time club MVP. Has hit for the cycle as an Astro.
While Bagwell made his vast contributions from the top of the defensive spectrum, Biggio did what he did from the bottom. Holds the NL record for leadoff home runs, holds the modern day record for hit by pitch, and is very likely this year to become the first Astros with 3000 hits, and 1000 extra base hits. He should also become the second with 300 homers.
2. Jeff Bagwell - If I pick Biggio number one, then there's only one guy who could be number two. 1991 Rookie of the Year, 1994 MVP, owner of the highest seasonal OPS in team history. Franchise leader in home runs, slugging, RBI and walks. One of only nine players in baseball history to have had at least eight seasons with 30 home runs, 100 runs scored and 100 RBI.
Holds seasonal franchise records in home runs, extra base hits, and total bases. Second to Biggio in games played, runs, simple runs created, power/speed number, hits and extra base hits. Second to Berkman entering 2007 in career batting average and career on base. Only Astro to have ever hit four doubles in a game. Six-time team MVP. Hit for the cycle as an Astro. NL Player of the Month five times. Third to Alou and Berkman in career OPS and bases per plate appearance. Played Gold Glove-caliber defense.
3. Jose Cruz - Number one on this list as recently as 1997, perhaps. Franchise record holder for career triples and homers by a lefty. First on the franchise hits list after Bidge and Bags. Third all-time also in at bats, total bases, RBI, and those simple runs created things. Fourth (behind Cedeño in addition) in franchise doubles, runs, and career batting average. Tied for the league lead in hits in 1983. Astro MVP four times. Third Astro player (and first hitter and first living person) to have his number retired. With 13 seasons as a player and ten more as a coach, and pending what Biggio and Bagwell do with the rest of their lives, you can say that no athlete save Larry Dierker has contributed as much to the Astros franchise as Jose Cruz.
4. Cesar Cedeño - Undoubtedly more talented than Cruz, and perhaps moreso than any other player in organizational history. Played 90 games and hit .310 for the Astros at the age of 19. Became the first player in major league history to hit 20 homers and steal 50 bases in 1972. Did it again in 1973, and then again in 1974. He'd accomplished the feat three times before anybody else did it even once. Think who didn't do it: Tris Speaker, Ty Cobb, Willie Mays, Bobby Bonds: all pretty fast guys with power, but none were able to do even once what Cedeño did three times.
His 1972 season (.320/.385/.537) was good for the sixth highest normalized seasonal OPS in team history, after Bagwell's 1994, Wynn's '68, Berkman's 2001, Wynn's 1969, and Bagwell's '96. Third after Bagwell and Biggio in career runs, extra base hits and doubles. Fourth to Bagwell, Biggio and Cruz in at bats, hits, simple runs created, and total bases. Fifth all-time in career onbase, and normalized slugging. Hit for the cycle while in Houston. Played Gold Glove caliber defense.
5. Jimmy Wynn - Owner of the second- and fourth-highest normalized OPS seasons in team history. Co-holder of the franchise's longest consecutive onbase game streak at 52. First Astro to homer three times in a game, and the only one besides Bagwell to have done so at the Astrodome. Held the team single-season home run record for 27 years; held the career record for 26. Still only behind Bagwell and Biggio on the career home run list. Third in franchise walks received. Sixth in franchise history in career OPS; third if you normalize. Owner of the second-highest walk total in any one season. Fifth in career runs scored and simple runs created, and sixth in RBI, behind those above and Bob Watson. Team MVP in 1965.
I haven't seen McTaggart's full list, but expect that he's got Bagwell first, and Berkman fourth. I also imagine many readers would have Lance fourth as well, maybe even above Cruz.
When I vote Biggio over Bagwell, in fact, in all my rankings, I am weighing contributions to the organization. Playing well for a long time is what's needed to impress me here. Otherwise, I'd have Moises Alou and Luke Scott on this list, right?
And while I can recognize that Bagwell was probably possessed of more pure talent than Craig has or had, if it were all about talent, then Cedeño would be at the top of the list.
And Eric Anthony would be somewhere not far behind.
As far as Fat Elvis--also no slouch in the talent department: while I expect Berkman to pass Wynn and maybe even Cedeño in 2007, I don't have him there yet. Despite the fact that his career OPS so far is better than Bagwell's, despite the fact that he may be the greatest pure hitter in Astros history, and despite the fact that he is already one of the greatest 25 switch-hitters in major league history, I'm not quite ready to go there just yet.
His career numbers in most cumulative categories are just below top five placement, and more importantly, the era he plays in pushes his achievements downward slightly. He may end up the greatest of all Astros before he's done, but in my book he's not Top Five yet.
I guess I'll post my pitchers tomorrow. Those of you who know me can guess who'll be number one. . . .