That moment for which Houston sports fans have been eagerly awaiting ever since Craig Biggio was thrown out trying to stretch his 3,000th hit into a double has finally arrived. A player from the Houston Astros is finally being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame.
Biggio, unlike Joe Morgan and Nolan Ryan, will proudly wear an Astros cap on his hall plaque. Randy Johnson, who spend about three magical months in Houston in 1998, was also inducted, but he'll wear the cap of one of his other teams.
It's an honor well-deserved for Biggio, one of the greatest players in franchise history, and one of the greatest second baseman in major league history. He got over 3,000 hits, was a doubles machine, won gold gloves for his defensive play, and was also an All Star while playing at catcher, his original position.
The odds are increasingly in favor of Biggio's teammate Jeff Bagwell, the greatest player in team history, making the Hall of Fame in the next three years. And there's also the chance that another teammate of Biggio's, pitcher Curt Schilling, could be inducted.
Lots of voices have been heard from all over the baseball world talking about Biggio. Former teammates and coaches have talked of his greatness and about what he meant to the team. Former owner Drayton McLane was given credit for keeping Biggio in Houston and for helping to turn him into a local icon. Former GM Gerry Hunsicker praised Biggio, as did former managers Larry Dierker and Phil Garner. Plenty of ink has been spilled about former coaches Matt Gallante and Yogi Berra helping Biggio make the move from catcher to second base, a position switch that likely prolonged his career.
But there's been one man whose name has not been mentioned. And that name is Bill Wood, the Astros' general manager from after the 1987 season through the 1993 season. He was also the Astros farm director from 1979-1985 and the Astros' assistant GM in 1986 and 1987. It was Wood, after all who suggested that Biggio make the position switch. It was Wood who was instrumental in Biggio's development as a minor leaguer. And not to be forgotten, it was Wood who first did for the Astros what Jeff Luhnow's attempting to do now. Build a winning team from the bottom up, trading off vets for young talent, drafting wisely, and building a deep farm system. Without Wood there is no Biggio-Bagwell connection. Without Wood there is no 1990s team that contended from 1994-2005 or that repeatedly made the playoffs from 1997-2005. Yet Wood's name has seemingly disappeared from the history of the Astros.
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Ordered by owner John McMullen to lower payroll (in hopes of selling the team), Wood disposed of fan favorites like Glenn Davis, Billy Doran, Larry Anderson, and icon Nolan Ryan. Through deft trading and drafting, Wood was able, in 1992, to give to new owner Drayton McLane a team that included Biggio at second, Jeff Bagwell at first base, Ken Caminiti at third, Luis Gonzalez, Steve Finley, and Eric Anthony in the outfield, a rotation that include future All Stars Pete Harnisch and Daryl Kile, and Curt Schilling was in the bullpen.
Shane Reynolds, Bobby Abreu, and Richard Hidalgo were working their way up the minor league system. Billy Wagner would be drafted by Wood in 1993. Kenny Lofton had been in the Astros system, but because the team liked Finley and had a hole at catcher due to Biggio's move to second base, Wood dealt him to Cleveland for Eddie Taubensee (it's a bad trade in hindsight, but it was defensible at the time).
Various players from that mix would move in and out of Houston, but Biggio (drafted by Wood) and Bagwell (stolen from Boston by Wood) formed a foundation that lasted until 2005. Gerry Hunsicker didn't build the team that went to the World Series, he just shored up the work of Wood. Yet Wood is never credited when praising the Astros of that time period.
Craig Biggio deserves every accolade he is receiving. So will Jeff Bagwell and Curt Schilling. But as we cast a look back at some of the greatest players in Astros history from so-far the greatest period in Astros history, let's not forget to throw a few praises towards the man who built the foundation of that team and decided that, hey, maybe it would be better for Craig Biggio's career if he were moved away from catching every day. So please join me in appreciating the work of Bill Wood. May he not be soon forgotten.