Euan Leith | May 1st, 2020
The Houston Astros have been around since 1962, but only have three pennants and one World Series championship to their name. Despite the lack of team accolades, the franchise has had a ton of talent grace the fields of the Astrodome and Minute Maid Park.
Be sure to check out all of our Mount Rushmore articles here.
Nolan Ryan, Roger Clemens, and Carlos Beltran are just a few of the more prominent names that have had some time with the Stros, but they wouldn’t go into the Hall of Fame with a Houston cap on their heads. That honor has only been given to two players, and they both make the Mount Rushmore for the Houston Astros.
Craig Biggio (1988-2007)
The first player to sport the Houston Astros cap in Cooperstown, New York, was Craig Biggio. Drafted by the team as the 22nd overall pick in 1987, “Bidge” would go on to play his entire 20-year career with the franchise. By the time he called it a day in 2007, he had collected 3060 hits, 1844 runs, 1175 RBI, 291 home runs, and 414 stolen bases. The only other player to reach all of those marks: Ricky Henderson.
Many fans remember Biggio as a second baseman, but he started his career behind the plate as a catcher. That is where he collected one of his five Silver Slugger awards and made the first of his seven All-Star appearances. Biggio won a total of five Silver Slugger awards and four Gold Gloves.
He was recognized for his individual talents frequently, but he will always be remembered as the heartbeat of the team that led Houston to their first National League pennant in the 2005 season. His team would go on to lose the World Series to the Chicago White Sox, but Biggio was the leader of the franchise’s first appearance on the big stage.
Jeff Bagwell (1991-2005)
Jeff Bagwell quickly followed his fellow “Killer B’s” teammate Craig Biggio as the second Houston Astro inducted to the Hall of Fame in 2017. Although he “only” played 14 years in the major leagues, he registered enough stats and awards to get him into the Cooperstown. Bagwell may also be the first modern-day cautionary tale of trading away prospects.
In 1990, the Boston Red Sox were desperate for some reinforcements in the bullpen and traded away Bagwell for a 37-year old reliever that helped them make the postseason only to get swept by the Oakland A’s. Now sometimes trading away a prospect doesn’t come back to bite you, but this did not work out well at all. “Baggy” went on the win National League Rookie of the Year in 1991, and the awards didn’t stop there. He was consistently in the conversation as one of the best players in baseball. From 1992- 2003, he received MVP votes in 10 of the 12 seasons, with six top-five finishes, and won the National League MVP in the strike-shortened season of 1994. That year, he led all of baseball with 116 RBI, a .750 slugging percentage, and 300 total bases.
At the end of his 14 seasons, Bagwell had a career line of .297/.408/.540 with 449 home runs, 1529 RBI, and 202 stolen bases. He is one of 11 players in MLB history to reach 440 home runs and 200 stolen bases. His inclusion in the baseball Hall of Fame is well deserved, and it makes him (along with Biggio) the most straightforward selections for the Houston Astros Mount Rushmore.
Jose Cruz (1975-1987)
This may be a controversial choice, but I’ve always enjoyed Jose Cruz’s highlights and his steady consistency. It would’ve been easy to put Lance Berkman or Roy Oswalt in this third spot, but there’s just something about Cruz that I will always appreciate.
He played in St. Louis for the first five years of his career but never played more than 132 games in a season for the Cardinals. Then he spent the next 13 years in an Astros uniform, and he averaged 144 games per season to go along with some outstanding production. He played all over the outfield in his first two seasons with Houston but settled in as the full-time left fielder in 1979 and started to collect individual hardware. From 1979-1985, Cruz had three finishes inside the top-eight for the NL MVP voting, made two All-Star games, and won two silver sluggers.
He holds the franchise record with 80 triples and is top five in several other categories, including games played, runs scored, hits, stolen bases, and Wins Above Replacement. After Cruz hung up his cleats, he returned to the franchise as a coach and special assistant to the General Manager. In 1992, the Astros retired Cruz’s number 25 and voted him to the All-Astrodome team. Although his numbers don’t pop off the page like Biggio, Bagwell’s, and the next member of the Mount Rushmore, Cruz has been such a massive part of the franchise that it doesn’t seem right to omit him.
Jose Altuve (2011-Present)
Jose Altuve is one of two Houston Astros to win an MVP award. The other was his fellow Mount Rushmore inductee: Jeff Bagwell. When I moved to Houston in 2005, it was toward the end of the Biggio, Bagwell, Berkman era. After that season mediocrity followed and then there were some downright awful years.
One of the bright spots in those terrible years was Jose Altuve. He made his debut in 2011 and has gone on to win to a World Series, an MVP, one gold glove, three batting titles, five Silver Sluggers, and make six All-Star appearances. He led the American League in hits four seasons in a row from 2014-2017, and at 30-years old, he is right on pace to achieve the Hall of Fame benchmark of 3,000 hits. Injuries have slowed him down over the past two seasons, but if he can stay on the field, he will come very close to passing the mark.
For his career, Altuve is averaging .315/.354/.463 through nine seasons, but he has seen a massive uptick in power the last four seasons. After averaging nine home runes per 162 games from 2011-2015, Altuve has hit the gym and is averaging 26 home runs per 162 games from 2016-2019.
Nine years seems like a short amount of time to make it onto a team’s Mount Rushmore, but Tuve has already earned it. Leading the Astros to their first World Series and collecting their second MVP award will always be remembered by their fans. It would not be surprising to see him as the third Houston player inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in 15 years.
Check out our Houston Astros Team Preview for the 2020 season while we wait for baseball to get back on the field.
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