Only 143 wins as an Astro? No wonder the fans forgot about Roy Oswalt.
Only 143 wins as an Astro? No wonder the fans forgot about Roy Oswalt.
By SBoyd via Wikimedia Commons

Who Are Top 4 Players of the Astros Franchise?

There's a new MLB contest going around, one in which fans of teams are being asked to select the top four players in the history of each Major League franchise. The voting ends on May 5, and the four winners from each team will be honored at the All Star Game in Cincinnati.

The Astros are, of course, part of this contest. And MLB has selected eight former Astros for the voting public to choose from. The standard, expected names on the list, primarily those of Craig Biggio, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman and Nolan Ryan. The other four nominees are Mike Scott, Jose Cruz, J.R. Richard and Jimmy Wynn. There's also a blank spot where voters can put down a write-in candidate.

While it's the list, for the most part, that should have been expected from MLB dealing with the Astros, it's also rather infuriating. Sure, it's nice to see J.R. Richard getting some kind of official recognition as being one of the greatest players in baseball history, but damn it, Mike Scott? Jose Cruz? Jimmy Wynn? And what the hell is Nolan Ryan doing on this list? If a player's in the Baseball Hall of Fame wearing the cap of the Texas Rangers, then there's no way that he should ever be considered one of the top four players of the Houston Astros.

But what's worse is that MLB (or the people with the Astros who suggested the names) forgot multiple players who either meant more to Astros history, were just better players than some of those listed, or who will forever be identified as members of the Houston Astros. Players like Roy Oswalt, Joe Niekro, Larry Dierker and Cesar Cedeno. Players who, while maybe not among the top four players in franchise history, are more deserving of being honored as top players in Astros history than Scott, Cruz, Ryan and Wynn.

It's amazing that Oswalt's not on this list, and his exclusion is probably the best definition of the "how quickly they forget" phenomenon. He's second all-time in both career wins (143) and career strikes-outs (1593) in his ten seasons with the Astros. He was the best pitcher on a rotation that included Roger Clemens and Andy Pettitte, and there can be no doubt that he's the best starting pitcher in the history of the Astros. Then again, he's not a former team owner, his son's not the president of the team, and he's not in the Hall of Fame wearing the cap of the Texas Rangers.

Also forgotten -- although this could be expected, seeing as how the team's never really made much of an effort to honor him -- is Joe Niekro. Niekro owns the team record for career wins (144), and had two 20-win seasons in two of the franchise's most important seasons (1979 and 1980), just when the Astros were making the push for national relevancy and the playoffs -- his win in game 163 over the Dodgers in 1980 pushed the Astros into the playoffs for the first time in team history. Then again, unlike Mike Scott, Niekro did actually get caught scuffing the ball when he was with the Twins, and he never won a Cy Young.

And until Biggio and Bagwell came around, there was never a player more identified with the Astros than Larry Dierker. His career with the team began when he was just 18. He joined the ticket office when he retired, then he worked as a beloved broadcaster before going back to the dugout and managing the Astros four times in his five seasons behind the helm. He won 137 in 13 seasons with the Astros, tossing a no-hitter, throwing 106 complete games and striking out 1487 batters.

Then finally there's Cesar Cedeno, perhaps the most gifted player to ever don the Astros uniform, and someone who's topped only by Bagwell when it comes to being the best ever Astros player. Cedeno won five Gold Gloves for his defensive excellence in patrolling the huge vast wasteland that was the Astrodome centerfield. He was the second player in baseball history to hit 20 homers and steal 50 bases in a season -- something he did three times. Cedeno had the misfortune on playing on some bad Astros team before nearly non-existent crowds and before all games were on television, so there's a huge bunch of people who never saw him play. But during the barren years of the early and mid-1970s, Cedeno was the Astros franchise.

Look, there's no stopping people from rightly voting for Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, but it's insulting to the history of the Astros that some of the others were included on the ballot while Oswalt, Niekro, Dierker, and Cedeno have been left off. So make use of that write-in option and make sure that one of these guys is also recognized (rightfully) as one of the top four players in Astros history.

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