Their retirement brought up an interesting point about the Astros and their “storied” history. Brian McTaggart tweeted this a little over a week ago:
My take: Based on numbers Astros have already retired, they have to retire Oswalt and Berkman. But they've been too liberal retiring numbers
— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 11, 2014
I thought that was an interesting thing to say so I checked into the liberality of the Astros’ retired numbers.
The Astros have retired the numbers of ten players so far, including the universally retired 42 of Jackie Robinson.
They are as follows:
#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
I checked into each one to see if any of these players were truly unworthy of the honor that had been bestowed on them. Glancing at their stats and the number of years each played with the Astros my initial reaction was, “Ok yeah, they were pretty good. I don’t really disagree with any.” The only two that seemed a little iffy were Don Wilson and Jim Umbricht.
Umbricht was a relief pitcher that had only played 5 seasons in the MLB, but was part of the first two years of the Houston Colt .45s. He had very respectable numbers but nothing mind blowing. He had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 1963, survived a taxing operation and then returned to the field. He passed away six months after the surgery, and Houston retired his number to honor him. Another cool footnote is that he had his ashes spread over the construction site of the Astrodome. I say it’s iffy because he was just barely part of the Colt .45s/Astros, I obviously don’t have a problem with honoring him but maybe there was another way to do it.
Don Wilson played for Houston from 1966-1974. The highest honor he gathered was an All-Star selection in 1971. Career ERA of 3.15, SO/9 of 6.6, BB/9 of 3.3. He gathered a WAR of 27.7 in 9 years of work on the mound. The guy was pretty good; but number retirement good? Probably not.
Alright so McTaggart’s statement was starting to come into focus. There are at least two that I understand probably didn’t need their numbers retired. But the rest of these guys were all the best Astros that ever wore the uniform, so what’s the problem with that? Well that was exactly the problem with that. The Astros have been retiring all the best Astros, but the best Astros weren’t nearly the best players in the league during their respective time periods.
Of the nine retired players only one of them is in the Hall of Fame; Nolan Ryan. Nolan Ryan was a fantastic player for the Astros all nine years he was here but those nine years still only make up a third of his entire career. So how much of an “Astro” is Nolan Ryan really?
Many of us believe Biggio will make it into the Hall but Bagwell doesn’t seem near as likely. So even if we say Biggio makes it, that’s 2 out of 9 players in the HOF. Once again on its own, it doesn’t seem so bad, but in order to give the Astros’ actions some context, I looked at what other teams around Major League Baseball had been doing in terms of retiring numbers.