Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Mets And Astros Celebrate 50 Years Together

If you read this admittedly Mets-centric blog, you already know that the Mets are celebrating their 50th Anniversary this year.  I've already done a Mets at 50 Tribute, a Top 25 Greatest Mets, as well as a more ignominious All-Time Met busts.

What shouldn't be forgotten in all the hoopla, is that in 1962, when the Mets came into being, they were joined by another team -- the Houston Colt '45s, who changed their name to the less violent and more cosmic Astros when they moved into the Astrodome -- the first domed, artificial turf sports stadium.

The Astros were not as spectacularly bad as the Mets in those early days.  In an attempt to appeal to erstwhile Dodger and Giant fans whose teams fled to California, the Mets stocked their team with over-the-hill but recognizable players like Gil Hodges, Don Zimmer and Duke Snider.  The result was an awful, but loveable team.  The Astros focused more on young talent and fielded such exciting players as Joe Morgan, Rusty Staub and Jim Wynn.  But it was the Mets who made the World Series first, winning it all 1969, and making three more appearances in the Fall Classic before the Astros finally made it in 2005, when they were swept by the White Sox.

The overall records of the two teams are pretty close, with the Astros/Colt 45s (3958-4044) having won just 129 more games than the Mets (3829-4162) over the 50 years.  In head-to-head competition, Houston has the edge as well, 304-256.  But the Mets have those two World Series wins (1969 and 1973), and came out ahead in their epic 1986 playoff contest.

Which team has the better All-Time roster?  Again, it's pretty close.  (The Mets I can do off the top of my head; I got help on the Astros from this cite.)

At first base, both have had great players, but Houston's Jeff Bagwell has the numbers over Keith Hernandez.  And at second base, Craig Biggio was the far better player than the Mets' Edgardo Alfonso.  The Astros never had a really great shortstop.  Neither Dickie Thon, whose promising career was cut short by a beaning, or Roger Metzger were as good as Jose Reyes.  An at third base, David Wright gets the nod over Ken Caminiti or Doug Rader. 

The Astros have had some truly great outfielders, led by Cesar Cedeno and Jimmy Wynn ("Toy Cannon"), as well as Jose Cruz, Lance Berkmann, and Moises Alou  This is a better collection than the Mets' best of Darryl Strawberry, Cleon Jones, Mookie Wilson, Lenny Dykstra and Carlos Beltran.

Catcher easily goes to the Mets.  The best catchers in Astros history, Alan Ashby and Brad Ausmus are not close to the great Met catchers, Mike Piazza and Gary Carter.

And then there's pitching.  The Mets franchise is known for their fabulous arms, starting with Tom Seaver, and including Dwight Gooden, Jerry Koosman, Jon Matlack and Ron Darling.  But the Astros are pretty impressive too.  The Mets gave up on Nolan Ryan early, and he later excelled for Houston  Add J.R. Richards (one of the most intimidating pitchers ever), Mike Scott (another ex-Met), Larry Dierker, and Joe Niekro, and you have a pretty formidable rotation -- just as good as the Mets.

How about intangibles?  Astroturf was an abomination (as Dick Allen once said, "if a cow don't eat it, I don't want to play on it") and the cavernous Astrodome was a horrible place to play ball.  Mr. Met -- the first and remains the greatest mascot,  in my objective opinion.  The Astros mascot is now something called Junction Jack, who replaced their prior mascot "Orbit," when the team moved from the Astrodome to Minute Maid Park.  The fact that I couldn't tells you what Junction Jack or Orbit look like tells you what you need to know.  And, finally, I would be remiss if I didn't mention that the Astros once wore the ugliest uniforms in baseball history.

The Astros will be moving to the American League next year as part of a re-alignment that will even the number of teams in each league and allow for a slightly expanded playoff system.   For the Mets and Astros, it will never be the same.

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