Career Astros Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell have cemented their legacies in Astro lore by being the first Astros elected into the Hall of Fame. Biggio was inducted in 2015 and Bagwell will be inducted alongside Tim Raines and Ivan Rodriguez later this year at Cooperstown.
This begs the question, “Who is next for the Astros?”
First let’s look at players who have worn an Astro uniform that have made the Hall of Fame and the time they spent with the Astros:
- Ivan Rodriguez (2009)
- Jeff Bagwell* (1991-2005)
- Craig Biggio* (1988-2007)
- Randy Johnson (1998)
- Don Sutton (1981-1982)
- Nolan Ryan (1980-1988)
- Robin Roberts (1965-1966)
- Joe Morgan (1963-1971, 1980)
- Eddie Matthews (1967)
- Nellie Fox (1964-1965)
*Entered HOF as an Astro (Credit: Astros.com)
All of these players played in at least 15 major league seasons, and with the exception of Bagwell, Biggio, Nolan Ryan, and Joe Morgan; no player on this list spent more than 2 seasons with the Astros.
We know that Bagwell and Biggio spent their entire careers in Houston, so them being inducted as Astros is a no-brainer.
But what about Morgan and Ryan, what was it that caused them to be inducted under caps other than the H?
In just eight seasons with the Reds, Morgan played in 122 more games, had 491 more plate appearances, 285 more RBIs, 183 more hits, 80 more Home Runs, and batted 27 points higher than he did with the Astros.
Morgan spent 10 years of his 22 year career with the Houston Astros. However he had far more success with the Cincinnati Reds, and ultimately was inducted into the Hall of Fame sporting a Reds cap.
Ryan on the other hand, played a majority of his career between the Astros (9 years) and the California Angels (8 years). He enjoyed great success with both clubs but was ultimately inducted into the Hall of Fame as a Texas Ranger, a team spent the final five - seasons of his career with.
Upon his Hall of Fame election Ryan said he would be wearing a Rangers Cap: “The reason for that is I feel those last five years with the Rangers, because of some of the things that happened there - the 5,000th strikeout, the no-hitters, the 300th win - brought my career and my presence in the game to another level. I feel those were very special years there.”
In the end The Hall of Fame has the final say into what cap their inductees will be enshrined in, taking into consideration the players preference, years played with that organization, and milestones achieved with that organization.
Will There Be Another Astro Hall of Famer Before The Current Core Begins Retiring?
Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve look to have Hall of Fame careers in the making, but it is still a long road plus five years before they can even enter the conversation for voters. This brings us to three retired players that I believe are on a short list of Astros that have the best chance of potentially getting the call from the Hall of Fame down the road.
Billy Wagner- “The Kid” is ranked sixth all time for saves with 422 and only second behind John Franco as a left-handed closer, Wagner was one of the best during his 16-year career. The only active player to have surpassed Wagner in career saves is Francisco Rodriguez (430), with Joe Nathan (377) and Jonathan Papelbon (368) trailing him. Wagner recorded 225 of his saves during his nine-year stint with the Astros.
There is only one “closer” as we know it to have been inducted into the Hall of Fame thus far, Dennis Eckersley. He who ranks 7 h behind Wagner with 390 career saves.
Because the traditional closer only appears in about half of a team’s games per season, and usually for just one inning, the closer seems to be brushed off when it comes to the Hall of Fame. However, as baseball has evolved, so should the Hall of Fame. Closers have their place in the game; Mariano Rivera and Trevor Hoffman have to be thought of as shoe-ins for induction. Given his all time ranking, should the Hall of Fame decide that closers play an integral part of the game, Wagner should be a serious consideration for the Hall of Fame and it should be as an Astro.
Lance Berkman- “The Big Puma” is an interesting option here. The six-time all star ranks #2 all time behind Bagwell in Home Runs for the Astros with 326 (366 for his career). A 15-year career spending 12 with the Astros, Berkman was one of the best power hitters in the game during the 2000’s, and still averaged an extremely respectable .293 lifetime batting average.
While Bagwell faced scrutiny for being a power hitter in the “Steroid Era”, Berkman seems to have avoided his name ever being mentioned in allegations. The career consistency that saw no fall off until Father Time and the injury bug began to catch up to him later in his career contributes to the lack of accusations.
In regards to hitting, I believe that Jeff Kent is a comparable option stat-wise for Berkman’s case. Kent’s 17 year career saw a lifetime batting average of .290 with 377 Home Runs. 2017 marked Kent’s fourth time on the ballot, obtaining only 16.7% of the needed 75%. Without digging too deep into numbers and comparisons, if Kent is eventually elected, this will help create a better case for Berkman.
Undoubtedly one of the all-time greatest Astros, and a true class act amongst baseball, I believe Berkman may come up short on Hall of Fame voting.
Roy Oswalt – “The Wizard” played 13 seasons in the MLB, and is another all time great Astro that I believe will come up short for Hall of Fame voters when it is all said and done. Oswalt is probably my all time favorite pitcher. An official MLB #44 autographed Jersey hangs as a centerpiece in my “Man Cave”, literally the first thing you see when you walk in that room.
Everything about Oswalt screamed consistency, barring injury, when the season started you knew that Oswalt was going to be an anchor, 30+ starts, 200+ strikeouts, a solid ERA, an All star with Cy Young considerations. For 10 years Oswalt was The Man in the Astros rotation (minus those few glory years with Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte sprinkled in the rotation)
Like Berkman, Oswalt comes in second place all time for the Astros in wins with 143 (163 for his career), just one win behind Joe Niekro, second all time for the Astros in strikeouts (1,593) behind only Nolan Ryan, and third all time for the Astros in innings pitched behind Niekro and Larry Dierker, Oswalt finished his career with a solid 3.36 ERA.
All of these statistics are great… For the Astros, while he was a great player for Houston, and as much as it pains me to say, I do not believe Oswalt has the career longevity or the statistics amongst his peers to warrant a call from Cooperstown.
In order, I think the possibility for Hall of Fame potential is:
- Wagner (unless the voters decide closers should be in the hall, in which case he is first)
In my opinion all three of these players deserve to have #13, #17, and #44 hung next to other Astro greats in Minute Maid Park, but it may be a very long time before we see another Astro with their bust forever enshrined in the Hall of Fame.
Do you agree with these thoughts? Who do you believe is another Astros for a potential Hall of Fame nomination?