Sorry, everyone, for going silent on these. Blame prep football for stealing a bit of my soul over the past two weeks. I should be back on track with these, and we'll revisit a couple of notable events that we missed in the past few days. Today, though, we hit a milestone in the franchise unlike many others. On this day, 21 years ago, Jeffrey Robert Bagwell was traded to Houston for reliever Larry Andersen in what would become one of the most lopsided trades of the past few decades.
Let's rewind the clock for those of you who haven't heard this story and set the stage. In August of 1990, the Houston Astros were coming off a surprising 86-win season, but still finished in third in the NL West. They fell off the ledge in 1990, however, winning just 75 games for manager Art Howe.
There were plenty of young stars on this team, including Ken Caminiti (who wasn't that young at 27), Craig Biggio (still playing catcher), Luis Gonzalez (who only hit .190 in 23 plate appearances) and even a 20-year old Andujar Cedeno, though he only saw eight PAs.
Mixed in with those rising stars were vets like Bill Doran, Rafael Ramirez, Glenn Wilson, Terry Puhl and Glenn Davis. On the pitching side, the Astros had a very veteran staff with guys like Jim Deshaies, Mike Scott, Bill Gullickson, Dave Smith, Danny Darwin, Juan Agosto and, of course, Andersen.
Andersen was clearly having the best year in the bullpen, despite not pitching in a particularly high leverage situation most of the time (just 30 percent of the time). His ERA of 1.95 was sterling and his strikeout rate was at 8.3 K/9. Oh, and he was going to be a free agent at the end of the season.
With the Boston Red Sox preparing for a playoff push and up 6 1/2 games over Toronto in the AL East, they thought Andersen is what they needed to get over the hump in the playoffs. After trading for him, Boston quickly lost its lead, seeing things dwindle down to a first-place tie with Toronto by Sept. 18 before the Sox pulled away and won the division by two games.
Bagwell was a good prospect at the time, but was not going to stick at third base, so his value was diminished some. When Houston was setting up the trade, then-GM Bill Wood was given a choice of players: Bagwell or Scott Cooper. I think there may have been another player in there, but I can't seem to find that list. At any rate, they certainly made the right selection.
The footnote to this deal is that Andersen didn't pitch badly for the Red Sox. He struck out 25 in 22 innings over 15 games, posted a lower ERA than he had in Houston and pitched in three games during the ALCS loss to Oakland. He gave up three runs in three innings, but also had three strikeouts. That may not seem like a lot of production to get for a future Hall of Famer, but it's still decent.
This trade will go down as one of the worst deadline deals ever, but many people don't remember this was an August deadline deal and didn't happen in July.