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Astros All-Disappointment Team 1962-1999
February 9, 2000
Contributed by Historian

It would be fantastic if every ballplayer who played for Houston lived up to the hype and expectations surrounding their arrival. Some were high draft picks of which much was expected. Some came through the farm system with rave reviews. Some were free agents brought in to get the Astros "over the hump". Others were trade material for which Houston paid a great price to acquire. Alas, for every player who becomes a star, two or three just never pan out whether it be through injuries, failed opportunities, bad timing or they just weren't as good as somebody thought they were.

Players listed here actually made it to the Astros. The list is light on players from the 1960s because hype just wasn't as big then and a lot of players ran through town who were has-beens or never-wases. Players like Ken Lofton and Curt Schilling who established themselves after leaving Houston, are not listed here. Players who were successes before they came to Houston but washed out are here - if they were expected to perform at the same level and did not.

Now that you know the general guidelines, here's my 25-man Astros All-Disappointment Team:

Robbie Wine (1986-87). A first-round pick in 1983 who starred at Oklahoma State, this son of major-league IF Bobby Wine was tabbed Houston's "Catcher of the Future" in the club's constant attempt to improve on Alan Ashby during the 1980s. Wine received All-Star nods at minor league stops and got a late call-up during the 1986 pennant run. He appeared in nine games and hit .250. In 1987, he got into 14 games and hit .103 in 29 ABs. Soon another catching prospect, a kid named Biggio, was passing him by and the Astros realized he wasn't their future after all.
Skip Jutze (1973-76). Jutze was acquired from the Cardinals for two infielders after the 1972 season. Blocked by Ted Simmons from starting in St. Louis, Skip (born Alfred Henry Jutze) came to Houston with Johnny Bench-like raves. He caught 86 games in 1973 but hit only .223 with no HRs. Quick to discover this was no Bench, Houston acquired Milt May from Pittsburgh the next year. Jutze hit .192 in spot duty the next three seasons before being exiled to Seattle.

Mike Ivie (1981-82). Desperate to find a power-hitter to anchor their popgun attack, GM Al Rosen struck up a deal with San Francisco to get this veteran. OF Jeffrey Leonard and 1B Dave Bergman were dealt in an early April swap to get the former overall #1 pick. Ivie had a bumpy road as a catcher for San Diego. He was moved to the infield after developing a mental block about throwing back to the pitcher. The Giants figured that if he was put at 1B, he wouldn't have to throw much. Ivie's career blossomed. Now counted on to provide the long ball in Houston, Ivie failed while the defending NL West champs struggled. Further, his lack of speed in the middle of the lineup thwarted Bill Virdon's running game. Ivie hit .238 with no HRs and 6 RBI before checking into a hospital for "mental exhaustion". He was done for the year. Released early the next season, Ivie had a brief comeback with the Tigers as a DH before retiring.
Curt Blefary (1969). As a 23-year-old, Blefary burst onto the scene in 1967 with the Baltimore Orioles. The 1B/OF hit .242 with 22 HRs and 81 RBIs to take Rookie Of The Year honors. He stumbled to a .200 average the next year but that was still good enough for Houston to deal P Mike Cuellar to bring him aboard. While Blefary was mediocre in his one season as an Astro (.253-12 HR-67 RBI), Cuellar was huge as the Orioles won three straight AL pennants. Blefary was dealt to the Yankees in 1970 for the infamous Joe Pepitone.

Rob Andrews (1975-76). When the Astros traded slugger Lee May to the Orioles, this was the guy the Astros really wanted. Handed the starting 2B job, Andrews was average on defense and below average on offense. He hit .238 with no HRs and 19 RBIs in 1975. His average perked up to .256 the next year but with no power. The Astros dispatched him to San Francisco where he languished for three more seasons. By the way, the throw-in Houston got in the trade, a guy by the name of Enos Cabell, turned out to be pretty good.
Dave Campbell (1973-74). While little was expected from him when he came to the Astros late in 1973 for OF Tommie Agee, the utility player hit .158 in 38 ABs to close his major league career. He continues to disappoint us as color analyst for ESPN where his weak takes are continually nuked in the

Andujar Cedeno (1990-1994). It was just too easy to believe the hype on this guy. His name conjured memories of two former Astro All-Stars (Joaquin Andujar and Cesar Cedeno). We heard what a strong bat he had. We heard what a great fielder he was. He got his first cup of coffee in Houston at the tender age of 21 and we all believed this Dominican would be someone special. Two partial seasons built up expectations. Cedeno got the full-time job in 1993 and did well (.283-11 HR-56 RBI). Tailing off a bit the next year, pitchers discovered his poor plate discipline and exploited it. Sent to the Padres in the famed mega-deal with Ken Caminiti and Steve Finley, Cedeno hit just .210, lost his starting job, moved on to Detroit and is now back in the minors. (Astroland note: About a year after this was posted, Cedeno, by then out of baseball, was involved in a car accident in the Dominican Republic that took his life)

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Eddie Kasko (1964-1965). The skinny, bespectacled shortstop had anchored Cincinnati's infield for five seasons, hitting over .270 in four of them, when the Colt .45s got him in a trade. He hit .241 with no power as a Colt then blew out his knee the next season as an Astro. He was shipped to Boston for IF Felix Mantilla in 1966 in a deal that helped neither team.

Phil Nevin (1995). Taken by the Astros with the #1 overall pick in the June 1992 draft, the third baseman had led Cal-State Fullerton into the College World Series. He was taken by Houston over some other prospects because he was considered "signable". Signable, yes. Manageable, no. Nevin fumed at the front office first because they wouldn't move Ken Caminiti off 3B to accomodate him and then for keeping him in the minors longer than he wanted. Maybe if he'd played better, the Astros would have found a spot for him but his angry tirades quickly landed him in the organizational doghouse. He hit only .117 in brief action during the 1995 season, unable to wrest the 3B job even from the likes of Dave Magadan and Chris Donnels. When the Astros traded with Detroit for reliever Mike Henneman, guess who became the Player To Be Named Later? Having tried his hand at LF, 1B, C and DH with four teams, Nevin is now the classic illustration of the word "journeyman".
German Rivera (1985). The Astros made a surprise move in 1985, sending popular Enos Cabell to the hated Dodgers for Rivera and a pitching prospect. Young phenom Rivera was supposed to blossom after two partial seasons in L.A. Phil Garner and Denny Walling shared third base instead while Rivera hit just .194 in 13 games. Banished to the minors, he never found his stroke and never came back to the majors.

Brian Hunter (1994-1996). Say, weren't you supposed to make Astros fans forget we traded Kenny Lofton? A slender 6'-4" gazelle, Hunter's PCL-inflated numbers had scouts drooling. He hit .250 during a brief call-up during 1994 then got the full audition in June the next season. He hit .302 with 24 SBs and looked like our CF for the next decade. But two things happened. Pitchers found the holes in his swing and he was prone to defensive lapses in the field. Sent to Detroit in the mega-deal for Brad Ausmus and Jose Lima, Hunter wore out his welcome quickly and was dealt to Seattle where he remains a weak-hitting speedster and defensive liability.
James Mouton (1994-1997). The PCL's MVP in 1993 with Tucson, Mouton was handed the starting RF job in 1994. With cries of "Mooooo" echoing through the Dome like the "Cruuuuuuz" of old, the converted second baseman had a decent rookie campaign hitting .245 but progress was minimal and he soon found himself reduced to bench duties. Dealt to San Diego, he found work in Montreal in 1999 but seems destined to never achieve the fame many predicted when he first arrived in Houston.
Gerald Young (1987-1992). Similarities to Brian Hunter are striking. Tall and skinny, the young Honduran made a splash as a rookie in 1987 with a .321 average and 26 SBs in half a season. The next year, the average dipped to .257 then .233 and soon he was just another fast OF who couldn't get on base to save his life. As a smart career move, he took his golf swing to Denver when the Rockies were born but even Colorado's thin air couldn't produce a better average than .053. If Don Baylor couldn't straighten him out, the cause was hopeless.
Omar Moreno (1983). The speedy ex-Pirate was a free agent signing that was suppose to solve our CF woes. Instead, he hit like Rita Moreno and Houstonians remembered why his nickname in Pittsburgh became "Omar the Outmaker". After batting .242 through August, the Astros suckered the Yankees into taking Moreno and his fat contract for the equally suspect Jerry Mumphrey.
Eric Anthony (1989-1993). Godzilla didn't inspire the fear that this guy did in the minors. Fly balls took a long time coming to rest after he hit them and Houstonians fantasized about the moonshots he could hit for Houston. On one night, at least, he didn't disappoint. Anthony swatted a mammoth blast into the Astrodome's upper deck beyond right field against the Cubs. Alas, this didn't happen nearly enough and the best he could achieve was a .239-19HR-80RBI season in 1993. The Astros managed to get their money's worth when he was traded to Seattle for Mike Hampton. Anthony failed to generate much in stops with Seattle, Cincinnati and Los Angeles and is still kicking around the high minors in search of another tryout.

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Floyd Bannister (1977-1978). Houston's luck with overall #1 draft picks seems to be all bad. Besides Ivie and Nevin, the Astros chose this southpaw from Arizona St. as the reward for their horrible 1975 season. Rushed to the majors, Bannister had decent rookie numbers (8-9, 4.03 ERA) but fell off the next year (3-9, 4.83) and was yanked from the rotation. He was traded to Seattle for SS Craig Reynolds. Although he pitched in the majors for another 13 years and had two 16-win seasons in that other league, Bannister never achieved the status his draft position suggested.
Jack Billingham (1969-1971). Part of the infamous "compensation" in the Rusty Staub - Donn Clendenon fiasco, Billingham joined Houston from Montreal after being claimed in the 1969 expansion draft from Los Angeles. Used out of the bullpen (6-7, 4.23) the first year, Jack worked his way into the rotation (13-9, 3.97 in 1970, 10-16, 3.35 in 1971) with little distinction. He was dealt to Cincinnati as part of the Joe Morgan trade where he benefitted from the Big Red Machine offense to notch 87 wins and two World Series rings over then next six seasons. As part of two of the worst trades in Houston history, Billingham deserves to be on this list - coming and going.
Ryan E. Bowen (1991-1992). The only other Bowen to pitch in the majors went by the name of "Cy". This one wasn't a Cy. He wasn't another Ryan either. Though producing a 6-4 record in his rookie year for a bad ballclub, Bowen bombed the next season (0-7, 10.96) and was left exposed in the expansion draft. Picked by the Marlins, Bowen did reasonably well for an expansion pitcher (8-12, 4.42) in 1993 but soon floundered and was released. He is now in the low minors trying to restore what was once a promising career.
Jim Clancy (1989-1991). After twelve workhorse seasons in Toronto, the Astros inked this free agent righthander when Nolan Ryan unexpectedly signed with the Rangers. Clearly, the task of replacing a legend was too much. Clancy's numbers (7-14, 5.08 in 1989, 2-8, 6.51 in 1990) don't reflect how badly he often pitched. His worst performance came when Cincinnati torched him for the first seven runs in a record-setting 14-run first inning in 1989. Clancy was shipped to Atlanta for two minor-leaguers who never surfaced in the bigs.
Tom Griffin (1969-1976). Griffin won rookie honors in 1969 when he struck out 200 batters en route to an 11-10 debut. Control and arm troubles plagued him from then on. In 1970 (3-13, 5.36) and 1971 (0-6, 4.74), he had nightmare seasons. Griffin joined the bullpen as mop-up man and spot starter for two years. Finally healthy again in 1974, he showed flashes of his old self (14-10, 3.54) only to relapse in 1975 (3-8, 5.35). Griffin was sold to San Diego the following year. He kicked around with the Padres, Giants and Pirates through 1982 but injuries and inconsistency had stolen the best years of his life.
Jeff Juden (1991,1993). Big things were expected of this big guy (6'-7", 250 lbs.) when he was selected in the first round by the Astros. The righthander struggled with control and his two cups of coffee (0-2, 6.00 in 1991, 0-1, 5.40 in 1993) were unremarkable. Management lost confidence in him and he was traded to Philadelphia along with closer Doug Jones for closer Mitch Williams (see below) in 1994. He has yet to establish himself as a big leaguer despite some success in Milwaukee a few years back. When you get traded for Mike Benjamin, you know the bloom is off the rose.
Scipio Spinks (1969-1971). Here was a pitcher that could never quite break the lineup. Regarded with great potential by the Houston brass, he only appeared in 45 innings while an Astro (1-1, 5.40) during three seasons. He was traded to St. Louis for P Jerry Reuss where he had his best year (5-5, 2.67) and was later shipped to the Cubs for OF Jim Hickman.
Greg Swindell (1993-1995) The former All-Star was one of two Texans inked to big-dollar free agent contracts when Drayton McLane bought the Astros from Dr. John McMullen. The lefty had come off a good season at Cincinnati (12-8, 2.70) after pitching well for some awful Cleveland teams in the 1980s. Each year in Houston seemed worse than the year before (12-13, 4.15 in 1993, 8-9, 4.37 in 1994, 10-9, 4.47 in 1995) until he was bumped to the bullpen. It didn't help matters that he and Doug Drabek, the other Texan, were constantly criticized for their underachievements. He's kicked around places like Minnesota and Arizona and continues to find employment as a lefthanded set-up man.
Mitch Williams (1994) The "Wild Thing" was living the best of times and the worst of times in Philadelphia. He had established himself as a top-notch closer in leading the Phillies to the National League pennant in 1993. He also stunk in the World Series that year, giving up the Series-winning homer to Toronto's Joe Carter. Phillie fans had seemingly formed a lynch mob and the Phils tried to trade him without looking like they were caving in to public pressure. They found a willing taker in the Astros who got less than they bargained. Williams surrendered three runs on Opening Day and was booed constantly at the Dome. He retired to his ranch in Hico, Texas, after just 20 innings with a 1-4 mark. A brief comeback with the Angels failed the next season.
Jim York (1972-1975) Impressing GM "Spec" Richardson after a 5-5, 2.90 season in Kansas City, York and a minor-leaguer were sent to Houston for 1B John Mayberry and IF Dave Grangaard. With closer Fred Gladding slipping, York was proclaimed Houston's future closer. He struggled in his first season (0-1, 5.26) but improved the next year (3-4, 4.46, 6 saves). York saw limited work as a set-up man and spot starter the next two seasons (2-2, 3.32, 1 save in 1974, 4-4, 3.83 in 1975) before being sold to the Yankees. It wasn't like anyone else established themselves as the closer during this time. York just couldn't live up to expectations, much like many of the players you find listed here.

Dishonorable Mention: Rick Wilkins C, Jim Gentile 1B, Pete Runnels 1B, Ernie Fazio 2B, Orlando Miller SS, Gary Woods OF, Leon Roberts OF, Derrick May OF, Doug Drabek P, Jason Grimsley P, Mike Madden P, Claude Osteen P, Brian Williams P.

Will Adam Everett, Octavio Dotel or Richard Hidalgo someday join this lineup? Hopefully not, but odds are good that at least one of them will.

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