Tagged: adam everett

The Legend of Dickie Thon

With a rare mid-series off-day today, we have an opportunity for reflection. Of course, reflecting on the Astros’ just-passed Memorial Day weekend performance is likely to induce too much gnashing of teeth, so instead we’ll look a little farther back.

Everyone knows by now that this is Houston’s 50th anniversary season. In celebration, the Astros are doing what franchises often do to celebrate such milestones, and allowing fan voting throughout the year to help determine the club’s official All-Time Team. Voting in April was for the starting position players; voting this month is for the next five best positional guys, to fill out the bench. If there was an announcement of the winners for the starting 8, I missed it, but we can deduce from the names left on this month’s ballot that the lucky 8 are:

C: Alan Ashby
1B: Jeff Bagwell (duh)
2B: Craig Biggio (also duh)
SS: Craig Reynolds
3B: Doug Rader
OF: Jose Cruz
OF: Cesar Cedeno
OF: Lance Berkman

I more or less agree with those choices; I voted Brad Ausmus for catcher and Ken Caminiti for third base, but I’ll concede that those arguments could go either way. The biggest trouble spot for Astros fans whenever assembling a list like this, however, always comes down to the man standing left of second base. You’d expect, in 50+ years of history, that a club would feature at least one standout performer at each position. But it seems that shortstop has almost always been a sinkhole for the Houston lineup.

I get the Craig Reynolds choice. I do. He’s the club’s #2 all-time in games played at the position with 926 (behind only Roger Metzger’s 1007), and popularly regarded as their best long-term two-way player there. He’s a Houston native, a member of the Astros’ first three playoff teams, and by all accounts, a super nice guy. You could argue for Metzger and his Gold Glove, or for Adam Everett and the Gold Gloves that should have been his; Everett even has better career offensive averages than Reynolds, though over 4 fewer seasons. I believe Astros fans swung and missed on this one, though, as Houston does have a historical standout at short. My vote indisputably goes to Dickie Thon.

Astros die-hards are no strangers to Thon’s story – promising youngster in 1982, caught fire in 1983, then had his path to stardom tragically jerked from beneath his feet by a fastball to the face five games into 1984. At least Houston’s other great “what if?” tragedy, J.R. Richard, had more time to write himself into the record books before his career reached a too-early end. Thon only had two full seasons as Houston’s SS1 before his career-altering injury, and that is no doubt the core of the argument against his place on the Astros’ All-Time team. But Astros fans adore J.R. Richard not just for what he was, but also for what he could/would/should have been. Dickie Thon deserves the same kind of recognition.

Even in spite of his tragic circumstances, Thon still ranks #5 on Houston’s list of career games played at shortshop with 505. Here’s a side-by-side statistical comparison of those top five:

Roger Metzger (1007 G, .229/.291/.291, 3.1 WAR)
Craig Reynolds (926 G, .252/.286/.345, 8.3 WAR)
Adam Everett (632 G, .248/.299/.357, 11.4 WAR)
Rafael Ramirez (534 G, .257/.290/.335, -1.9 WAR)
Dickie Thon (505 G, .270/.329/.395, 15.3 WAR)

It’s pretty obvious from those numbers that Reynolds, Everett, and Thon are your three best candidates. Of those three, it’s obvious that Thon has the best numbers, too – even with three post-injury seasons dragging his averages down. From ’81-’84, he posted an even more robust .282/.336/.424 line. Reynolds ONLY advantage is that he played in almost twice as many games as Thon, but Thon still managed to post almost double the career WAR in only half the time.

Thon is also the only Astros shortstop to rank in their top 50 for single-season WAR, and he did it twice – 5.9 in ’82, and a monster 7.2 in ’83. Only Messrs. Bagwell, Biggio, and Cedeno have ever had higher single-season WAR totals among ALL Astros position players. In comparison, Reynolds best two seasons were 2.8 in ’84 and 2.3 in ’79; Everett posted 3.2 in ’06 and 3.0 in ’04. Metzger never topped 1.4 for a season, Ramirez peaked at 1.2. Even Miguel Tejada, by far the biggest name ever to man shortstop for Houston, only managed a WAR of 1.7 and 1.6 in his two years here, as his career was already in decline before he ever arrived.

Jed Lowrie’s hot .280/.354/.484, 1.7 WAR to start this season has him on pace to post by far the best overall season by any Houston shortstop since ’83, which has brought Dickie Thon back to mind. Many Houston fans – myself included – will argue that J.R. Richard’s #50 and Cesar Cedeno’s #28 deserve a place in the Minute Maid Park rafters alongside the other Astros elite; I wouldn’t take the argument for Thon (and his #10) that far. But absolutely, unquestionably, as the Astros are honoring their greats throughout this year, Dickie Thon deserves his place among them.

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Crazy Eight

After eight tries, the Astros finally beat the Giants, though a day too late for Jason Castro’s debut, but c’est la vie. Castro got his first 0-fer and first passed ball, but he did work a walk and score another run. Chris Johnson was the star rookie for Houston on this night, going 2-4 with a double, a RBI, a stolen base and a run scored. 

Bad news for the other of Houston’s rookie trio, Tommy Manzella; he broke his finger in the 9th Tuesday night, and now he’ll be out for about six weeks. Signing Adam Everett didn’t make much sense when he was DFA’d by Detroit early this month, but he’s officially a free agent now and is still available, so is it time to bring him back? It would certainly make more sense now, with Tommy out until at least August, and it wouldn’t necessarily be a bad move… the Astros recalled Oswaldo Navarro from Round Rock to fill Tommy’s roster spot, and of course we’ve got Geoff Blum, but neither of those two are natural shortstops. I’d love to see Edwin Maysonet get another shot in Houston, but he’s been battling injuries this year and is primarily a second baseman himself. Jeff Keppinger could slide over to short, but he earned his starting job this year at 2B, and I’d rather not muck with that. Adding Everett would solve all of those difficulties, but it would introduce another problem, in the question of what do you do with him when Manzella returns? He refused minor league assignment in Detroit, so I doubt that he’d accept it here. There is also potential for intangible benefit by bringing in Everett, as he could help mentor Manzella and other young Astros players; he was evidently valuable in that role for Detroit. But ultimately, I still don’t think it makes enough sense for a struggling and rebuilding team to go out and add veteran parts when you already have younger guys like Navarro or Maysonet who are capable of filling the role. I would smile to hear that Adam was signed, but I don’t expect it to happen.
Other thoughts: It’s rumored that Delino DeShields, Jr. (or DDJ, from henceforth) is close to signing with Houston, and I hope that’s true. The Astros have already signed their other two first rounders this year, and 28 of 52 draft picks overall; I’d like to see DDJ added to that mix sooner than later. Taken at #8, he was of course greeted with the hype of being “Houston’s highest draft pick since Phil Nevin at #1 in 1992.” Jason Castro had that same hype two years ago when he was taken #10, although Chris Burke was also drafted 10th in 2001. The hope with both Castro and DDJ is that they’ll exceed the careers of Burke (currently with AAA Louisville) and Nevin, but only time will tell. Phil did put together a few good years with San Diego, but his Houston career was a bust, and his final totals were disappointing compared against the expectations for a #1 overall draft pick. Looking back, the gem of the ’92 draft was taken #6 by the New York Yankees… I know, hindsight is 20/20 and all that, and the Astros probably would have been criticized back in ’92 had they not picked Phil Nevin #1. But for a franchise whose career home run leader at shortstop is still the aforementioned Adam Everett with 35, just the possibility that Derek Jeter could have been an Astro all this time is a tantalizing “what if?” fantasy. Imagine Jeter in a Houston infield with Bagwell, Biggio and (pre-injury) Ken Caminiti… wow. I should stop now before I cry myself to sleep tonight.
Astros conclude their third Giants series this afternoon, and then they (and I) are off to Arlington for the weekend. In non-MLB news, how about that Landon Donovan? Go USA!! I was fortunate yesterday to catch both the last 25 minutes of the USA-Algeria game, and the last three innings of the TCU-Florida State CWS game, in which TCU scored 8 in the 8th to roar back from a five-run deficit and win 11-7. My (really cool) father-in-law is a TCU alum, so I’m behind the Horned Frogs all the way in Omaha. Go rally turtle!!

Sad day for Adam E., big day for draftees

So in Tigers news not about Armando Galarraga, Detroit designated ex-Astro Adam Everett for assignment yesterday. It’s sad in the way that Morgan Ensberg getting cut by the Rays last spring was sad – that was the end of Morgan’s playing career, and Adam is talking as if this is the end of his. Both guys were key cogs in the 2005 World Series team, and you always want to see old friends do well elsewhere if they can’t do well in Houston. Of course my immediate thought is that, if Everett is released or placed on waivers, the Astros should snatch him up; the buzz about Tommy Manzella all spring was that he “could be the next Adam Everett,” and a 33-year-old Everett couldn’t hit much worse than the 27-year-old Manzella has so far. But the reality is that Adam Everett would not have become Adam Everett if the Astros hadn’t let him go through his own growing pains as a big leaguer, and I think it’s still much too early to give up on Tommy yet. Everett would be a great insurance policy if he’s willing to accept a minor league assignment and if Tommy continues to struggle for another month or two. I’d love to see Adam back in an Astros uniform again. But if this is indeed the end of the road for him, he seems to have an admirable attitude about it. His own comments and those by Jim Leyland speak volumes about Adam’s character.

The Astros did indeed take two of three from the Cubs, so they’re still officially keeping pace with the 2005 squad, but they’ll have to sweep this four-game set in Colorado if they’re to keep that up. Houston dodges a huge bullet this week in that they get to face four Rockies starters not named Ubaldo Jimenez, but I still wouldn’t bet on a sweep. A more realistic goal is to climb out of the NL Central basement before the weekend set with the Yankees. Houston has won six of their last eight to pull within a game back of Milwaukee, so it would be nice to head to New York no longer cellar dwellers.
Of course the biggest news in Astroland today is the first round of the 2010 MLB Draft. As has already been often repeated, Houston has their highest pick this year (#8) since drafting Phil Nevin #1 overall back in 1992, and they have more first-round picks this year (3) than they have since 1994. For a farm system that has regularly been rated among the worst in baseball in recent years, this is huge, and probably the most important draft of Ed Wade’s & Bobby Heck’s Houston careers. Brett Eibner looks pretty good…