Houston Astros

From BR Bullpen

Houston Astros Logo 2013-

Previously known as Houston Colt .45's (1962-1964)

Franchise Record: (through 2023) 4,921-4,892-5 (.501)

Post Season Record: 83-76 (.522)

World Series Titles: 2 (2017, 2022)

National League Pennants: 1 (2005)

American League Pennants: 4 (2017, 2019, 2021, 2022)

Postseason: 17 (1980, 1981, 1986, 1997, 1998, 1999, 2001, 2004, 2005, 2015, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023)

Franchise Players: José Altuve, Jeff Bagwell, Lance Berkman, Craig Biggio, Alex Bregman, César Cedeño, Carlos Correa, José Cruz, Sr., Larry Dierker, Bill Doran, Joe Morgan, Joe Niekro, Roy Oswalt, Terry Puhl, Nolan Ryan, Mike Scott, George Springer, Bob Watson, Don Wilson, Jim Wynn

Retired Numbers: 5 Jeff Bagwell; 7 Craig Biggio; 24 Jimmy Wynn; 25 Jose Cruz; 32 Jim Umbricht; 33 Mike Scott; 34 Nolan Ryan; 40 Don Wilson; 49 Larry Dierker; 42 Jackie Robinson(Retired by Major League Baseball)

Ballparks: Astrodome (April 12, 1965-October 9, 1999) (54,816), Minute Maid Park (April 7, 2000-) (40,950)

Houston Astros Logo 2000-2012
Houston Astros Logo 1995-1999

Team History[edit]

Created in the 1962 Expansion, the Houston Colt .45's changed their name to the Houston Astros as of the 1965 season, when they moved into the Astrodome. They are the only team to have moved from the National League to the American League, doing so after the 2012 season.

Houston Astros Logo 1994

Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell are the franchise's career leaders in virtually every batting statistic. Biggio is the club's leader in games played, runs, hits, and doubles, and Bagwell is tops in home runs and RBI. The team first made the postseason in 1980, when it lost a tightly fought National League Championship Series in five games to the Philadelphia Phillies. They won the second-half title in the strike-shortened 1981 season, only to bow out to the Los Angeles Dodgers in another tightly fought five game series in the NLDS. In both years, the team that defeated the Astros went on to win the World Series. The team was built around pitching, with starters Nolan Ryan, Joe Niekro and Ken Forsch leading the way; OFs Jose Cruz and Cesar Cedeno were the most dangerous hitters. They made it back to the postseason in 1986, the year when Mike Scott emerged as one of the National League's top pitchers but lost to the New York Mets - them too eventual World Series winners - in the NLCS. That series featured a 16-inning nail-biter in Game 6 that is considered one of the most thrilling games ever played.

The Astros were marred by tragedy in their early years. Pitcher Jay Dahl was killed in a car crash before reaching the age of 20 while playing in the minor leagues. Two players, Jim Umbricht and Walt Bond, died of cancer at a young age. Pitcher Don Wilson died due to a gas leak after the 1974 season; ace pitcher J.R. Richard suffered a debilitating stroke shortly after pitching in the 1980 All-Star Game, never returning to the majors afterwards. SS Dickie Thon, an emerging star at the time, was beaned early in the 1983 season and saw his promising career derailed, even though he did manage to come back and play a number of seasons after his injury.

Houston Astros Logo 1975-1993
Houston Astros Logo 1965-1974

Like the Mets, the Astros (and the Colt .45s before them) were terrible for most of the 1960s until joining the pennant race in 1969. They settled into a .500 team for a number of years after that, then took a big step forward in 1979, when they had the best pitching staff in the major leagues and emerged as a contender. The Astros' stars of the period were OFs Jimmy Wynn and Cesar Cedeno, 1B Bob Watson, 3B Doug Rader, and Ps Larry Dierker, Wilson, Richard, Ken Forsch and Joe Niekro.

After the 1986 season, the Astros settled into mediocrity for a decade before their next successful period. Under manager Dierker, an early pitching star with the team, they made four postseason appearances in five years from 1997 to 2001, but never made it further than the Division Series. They finally won their first postseason series in 2004, only to be defeated by the St. Louis Cardinals in the NLCS. In addition to Biggio, Bagwell and Berkman, OF Carlos Beltran was a star of that team, having a tremendous postseason after being acquired in a mid-season trade with the Kansas City Royals. Not surprisingly, the Astros of that period were nicknamed the "Killer B's". In 2005, the Astros finally reached the World Series, only to be swept in four games by the Chicago White Sox. The four games were close, but the White Sox came out on top each time. Following that appearance in the Fall Classic, the Astros fell back into mediocrity, and then went through the worst stretch in franchise history at the start of the 2010s.

After the 2011 season, the Astros were purchased by a syndicate led by Jim Crane. As part of obtaining approval from fellow Major League Baseball owners for the sale, Crane was forced to accept the move of the team from the National to the American League, to become part of the AL West next to the Texas Rangers. Crane was reportedly offered $70 million in compensation for agreeing to the move, which gave the two leagues an equal number of teams beginning in 2013 and created six five-team divisions, allowing for a more balanced schedule for all teams. The move was not welcomed with enthusiasm by everyone; former Astros star Lance Berkman stated: "I feel basically like the commissioner extorted Jim Crane into moving the Astros." Unfortunately, the team set a franchise record for losses with 107 in its last season in the National League; the previous worst of 106 had come in 2011 and those were the only two seasons with over 100 losses in team history, their previous high having been 97 losses, on two occasions.

When the Astros moved to the American League West in 2013, they assumed a new visual identity, with a modernized version of the cap insignia from the 1960s and 1970s (a capital H over a star) being reintroduced as the team's logo. On the field though, the Astros had their third straight horrendous season, once again topping 100 losses and setting a new franchise record for losses. However, the Astros were busy piling up a stash of promising young players during those years of losing, and by the second half of the 2014 season, they were playing better, even finishing out of the AL West cellar that year. 2B Jose Altuve had a great season that year, becoming the first Astros player to win a batting title. Then in 2015, the Astros got good all of a sudden, with Aluve, Rookie of the Year Carlos Correa and OFs George Springer and Colby Rasmus providing the offence and Dallas Keuchel, who won the Cy Young Award, and Collin McHugh the pitching. They took an early lead in the division race, and while they were eventually caught and passed by state rivals the Rangers, they won a wild card berth. Behind Keuchel's pitching, they shut out the New York Yankees on the road in the Wild Card Game, then were on the brink of eliminating the Kansas City Royals in the Division Series before collapsing in the 8th inning of Game 4. The strategy of enduring a string of poor seasons in order to rebuild from within, with a bevy of young players, had worked just as planned.

The Astros finally won their first championship in 2017, grinding out a tightly fought World Series win over the Los Angeles Dodgers in seven games. The same group of players who had brought them to the postseason two years earlier were again leading the charge, with the addition of 3B Alex Bregman, one of the top draft choices that were obtained thanks to the team's controversial "tanking" strategy earlier in the decade. Another key addition was veteran starting pitcher Justin Verlander, obtained in a trade just before the September 1st deadline, who proved invaluable down the stretch and in the postseason. Veteran OF Carlos Beltran had also been brought back for a last go-round. They then returned to the postseason the next two years, bowing out in the ALCS in 2018 after adding another prominent name, starting pitcher Gerrit Cole and returning to the World Series in 2019. That season, Verlander and Cole finished 1-2 in the voting for the Cy Young Award, DH Yordan Alvarez was the Rookie of the Year, and Bregman finished second in the MVP Award vote. They made another big mid-season acquisition, this one P Zack Greinke, whose huge contract made him unaffordable to most teams, but not to Houston. Once again, the World Series went seven games, but the Washington Nationals came out on top as the visiting team won every game in a completely unprecedented development.

It should have been the best of times for the Astros, but cracks were starting to show. Their success had been built on trying to work every little edge through the use of analytics but also less savory tactics. The team developed an organizational culture in which they considered themselves better and smarter than anyone else and were very smug about it. This grated people the wrong way, as did moves like acquiring disgraced relief pitcher Roberto Osuna in a trade while he was still serving a lengthy suspension for domestic violence. Things came to a head during the celebration of their win over the New York Yankees in the 2019 ALCS, when Assistant GM Brandon Taubman made disparaging comments to a group of female reporters, bragging about how right the Astros were to have acquired the controversial Osuna. When these became public, the team claimed the reporters had made it all up, only to see a number of corroborating witnesses come forward. They were forced to fire Taubman unceremoniously during the World Series. Then, a short time after their loss to the Nats, former pitcher Mike Fiers revealed that the Astros had implemented a sophisticated system to steal their opponents' signs during their run to the 2017 championship, even though all teams had been specifically admonished by the Commissioner's office that this was unacceptable and would lead to significant punishment. Major League Baseball immediately launched an investigation, which confirmed everything. The report to the Commissioner, issued on January 13, 2020, was scathing and blamed an organizational culture that had lost its moral compass. The team was fined $5 million - the maximum allowed under MLB rules - and they had to forfeit their top two picks in the next two amateur drafts. General Manager Jeff Luhnow and manager A.J. Hinch were both suspended for a year, while bench coach Alex Cora and Beltran, who had both become managers in the interim, were individually fingered. Owner Jim Crane immediately reacted by firing both Luhnow and Hinch, and the team's 2017 title was now irremediably tainted.

The Astros bounced back from the sign-stealing scandal in large part thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic which meant that they never had to face angry fans from opposing teams during the shortened 2020 season. Hiring Dusty Baker as a manager also helped, as he was one of the most beloved and respected figures in the game. They managed to sneak into the postseason in 2020 in spite of playing below .500, thanks to its expansion in light of the pandemic, and once there played like champions, making it all the way to Game 7 of the ALCS. They then returned to the World Series in both 2021 and 2022, in spite of losing major figures George Springer and Carlos Correa to free agency. They were upset by the Atlanta Braves the first year but defeated the Philadelphia Phillies the second, riding an incredibly strong pitching staff led by the veteran Verlander, back at 39 from missing a year following Tommy John surgery while pitching a combined no-hitter in Game 4. Correa's replacement, rookie SS Jeremy Peña made himself a household name the second year by showing poise beyond his years and being named MVP of both the ALCS and World Series, while Yordan Alvarez hit a mammoth home run in Game 6 to put the Phillies away. They made the postseason again in 2023, with Alvarez now the team's top player, and made it to Game 7 of the ALCS which they lost to their cross-state rivals, the Rangers, who went on to claim their first-ever World Series title. Baker announced his retirement as manager shortly afterwards.


Famous Feats[edit]

Further Reading[edit]

  • David Barron: "McLane era represents Astros' most stable ownership", Houston Chronicle, January 18, 2010. [1]
  • Adam Darowski: "The Houston Astros Hall of Stats", in Cecilia Tan, ed.: Baseball in the Space Age: Houston since 1961, The National Pastime, SABR, 2014, pp. 86-92.
  • Evan Drellich: Winning Fixes Everything: How Baseball's Brightest Minds Created Sports' Biggest Mess, HarperCollins, New York, NY, 2023. ISBN 978-0063049048
  • Will Flaherty: "Wooing Women Fans: The Houston Astros", in Cecilia Tan, ed.: Baseball in the Space Age: Houston since 1961, The National Pastime, SABR, 2014, pp. 18-27.
  • Gabe Lacques: "Injured parties, defiant execs and a tainted title: Houston Astros' sign-stealing scandal checks all the boxes", USA Today, January 15, 2020. [2]
  • Brian McTaggart: "Astros' title 56 seasons in the making: Magical postseason run featured victories over Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers", mlb.com, November 2, 2017. [3]
  • Michael Shapiro: Bottom of the Ninth: Branch Rickey, Casey Stengel and daring scheme to save baseball from itself, Times Books, Macmillan, New York, NY, 2009.
  • Gregory H. Wolf, ed.: Dome Sweet Dome: History and Highlights from 35 Years of the Houston Astrodome, SABR, Phoenix, AZ, 2017. ISBN 978-1-943816-33-0


  • Peter Filichia: Green Cathedrals: The Ultimate Celebrations of All 273 Major League and Negro League Ballparks Past and Present, Addison Wesley Publishing Company (March 1993)
  • John Thorn: Total Baseball, Total Sports Publishing, 1989, 1995



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