I’ve been following the Astros since 1990… actually, 1986. But from 1986 to 1990, everything was pretty much a blur and I had no real grasp of the game. (some would argue that I STILL have no real grasp of the game) As I got older, I started noticing traits in players that I really liked. Alas, It wasn’t talent, physical stature or guys who had names similar to mine, Andy Stankiewicz.
I quit investing so much time looking at the back of baseball cards. While I still care about statistics, I started putting stock into something that cannot be measured by stat-heads and pencil pushers.
It was effort.
I love baseball players that give a sh**.
“This guy works his ass off,” is one of the highest compliments you can give a professional. With money and the fear of injury, it is difficult to find quality players who really and truly give a sh** about whether or not their team wins or loses. We live in a world of Roger Dorns. Granted, you can still sign a fat contract and still bust your ass every single day – some guys still do it.
So, I’ve put together a roster of Astros players whom I feel embody what it means to give a sh**.
This is strictly my opinion - I didn’t compile any stats to determine who did and didn’t care as much as someone else… I just watched a bunch of baseball. I’m sure I left someone out (maybe a few a people) and if I did - let me know in the comments section or on twitter. You can even call me a name!
SP – Roger Clemens – There are very few players to ever wear an Astros uniform who gave more of a sh** than The Rocket. Say what you will about his recent troubles, but no one can question whether or not Roger Clemens really cared or really busted his ass during his tenure with the Astros. In Game 4 of the 2005 NLDS, Clemens, who pitched 3 days earlier in Game 1, got the win by holding the Atlanta Braves scoreless in 16th, 17th and 18th innings. NAILS! He brought a special je nais se quoi of badassery the Astros so desperately needed that got them over the hump in 2005. His right arm and his attitude played a HUGE role in the Astros journey towards their first (and only) NL pennant. Although his whole body of work may be marred due to steroid allegations, the man gave 110% each and every single day trotted out to the mound.
SP – Shane Reynolds – Shane Reynolds was Mr. Reliable for the Astros throughout the 90’s. Often overlooked, Reynolds was the anchor of a young pitching staff that ultimately found it’s way into the playoffs. In 1998, a year in which the Astros notched their franchise high in wins, Reynolds started 35 games and won 19 of them. Shane Reynolds was all business all the time.
It should be a crime the way this guy is lost in the shuffle – the man was the opening day starter for the Astros for five straight years (’96 - ’00) and some Astros fans don’t even know who the hell the guy is! For the record, he was 3-1 on Opening Days – so nerves didn’t get the best of The Shaner. But, Reynolds wasn’t loud or boisterous, he wasn’t a braggart, he didn’t complain when things went awry – he kept his damn mouth shut and pitched his ass off. …that’s why he is overlooked.
One a related note, does anyone know where I can find the Shane Reynolds / Billy Wagner commercial where they’re both dressed up as cowboys?
SP – Jose Lima – “It’s Lima Time!” is synonymous with “I give a sh**!” Lima seemed to always take each out or hit personally. In 1999, Jose Lima, along with Mike Hampton, closed the Astrodome down with dueling 20 win performances. In 2000, Lima lost his mojo. However, there was never a question on whether Lima cared or not. It was hard watching someone who cared so much have such a difficult time. In 2001, he was given his coup de grace and was traded to the Tigers for Dave Mlicki.
Lima was kind of the anti-Reynolds. Lima was loud and fun – he was like the guy at the party who always fell into the pool or the guy who insists on teabagging the first guy to pass out.
Jose Lima passed away in 2010. He was a lot of fun. He always gave 100% - even when his 100% wasn’t enough.
SP – Randy Johnson – The Big Unit’s time in Texas was brief. After a mid-season trade with the Mariners in 1998, Randy Johnson assumed the role as “team red-ass” and, by all accounts, did not disappoint. Since the days of the Ryan Express, the Astros hadn’t had a pitcher who brought true, unadulterated fear to Astros’ opponents in the fashion Randy Johnson did. The Big Unit threw hard, he threw inside and brought absolute terror to left-handed batters. Hitters, fearing for their lives, hated him. They hated when he pitched inside… but, ultimately, they were not going to charge the mound - because The Big Unit would have beaten their asses.
I was a little pissed when the Astros couldn’t sign him - but The Big Unit’s heart was in Arizona. And although his tenure here was only a few months, his pissed-off demeanor has earned him a spot on this roster.
SP – Brandon Backe – Brandon Backe lacked the velocity and control that you’d want out of a starting pitcher – but he willed himself onto a major league roster, willed himself into the starting rotation and willed himself into a Houston Astros playoff hero.
Brandon Backe is a badass. In Game 5 of the 2004 NLDS, Brandon Backe gave up 1 hit in 8 innings in an eventual win over the St. Louis Cardinals. That masterful performance against the Cardinals was enough to garner “give a sh** status,” but that’s not all…
In 2005, only a day removed from a root canal, Brandon Backe beat the Cubs in Chicago, snapping a 7-game losing streak. After the effort, he provided one of my favorite I-Give-A-Sh** quotes of all-time. “I’m a sore loser. I can’t stand it. I lose sleep. It just basically sucks. Losing was more painful. I don’t care about my root canal… I don’t love my tooth as much as I love baseball.” In April of 2008, Backe and Albert Pujols had a pre-game run-in in which Backe bowed up to the slugger for what he felt was an unnecessary hit on catcher JR Towles in the previous game. “We don’t like each other. That’s OK. There are plenty of people that I don’t like in this game.”
(Editor’s note: I’m adding one extra pitcher to the GAS pitching staff – I know, that makes 6 pitchers. I don’t care, I didn’t want to leave someone out who I thought absolutely deserved to be recognized. If you don’t like it – get your own blog and make up your own list!)
SP – Mike Hampton – I had a hard time putting Hampton on this list because I felt he left for greener pastures and I’ve never quite gotten over it. In the long-run, it worked out best for the Astros that he didn’t care to re-sign and had to be traded… but that’s neither here nor there. Ultimately, it isn’t fair to discount Hampton’s efforts. This is why there is 6 pitchers instead of 5… I just couldn’t stomach leaving him off.
Fact is, Hampton was a tough son of a bitch. And he did give a sh**. A bulldog on the mound, Hampton was fearless and uber-competitive. At the plate, he was far from an easy out. In 1999, he was 3rd on the team in triples and considered, throughout his tenure, one of the faster (if not the fastest) guy on the squad. Also in 1999, during a game in Milwaukee, Bill Spiers was attacked by a fan who ran on the field. Hampton, (oddly enough) not giving a sh** about his own personal safety (or the safety of Spiers’ attacker) shot off the mound like a bullet, made a bee-line to the altercation and opened up a monumental can of whip-ass. After the game, when asked about the altercation, Hampton declared, “My instincts took over. My rage took over. I was furious.” …my advice, don’t ever mess with Mike Hampton.
RP – Doug Brocail – Doug Brocail is a hard ass. Not much you can really say other than that. He gets pissed - often. It just seems too easy for Brocail. He just seems constantly uncomfortable with his inner rage. He’s a bottle of fizz shaken up. By the way, to add to his naturally pissed off disposition - he has to deal with 5 daughters. Yes, you heard correct.
Is there one example of Brocail going above and beyond? Probably not. But, he gets the nod in the bullpen just by the pissed off look on his face.
RP – Dan Wheeler – Two days after Dan Wheeler was traded to the Astros, in his first appearance with the club, Wheeler was ejected after intentionally plunking Derek Lee, clearing the Chicago and Houston benches. There is hardly anything in the world (aside from going toe-to-toe with Albert Pujols, nod to Brandon Backe) that will endear you to Houston fans like pegging a member of the Chicago Cubs square in the back.
I’m happy he did it.
RP – Pete Munro – Why Pete Munro you ask? Or, who is Pete Munro you ask? Pete Munro was a pitcher who was on and off with the Astros for 3 years between 2002 and 2004. Munro pitched, as you might remember, a whopping 2.2 innings in the Astros June 11, 2003 no-hit effort in Yankee Stadum. Although, Munro didn’t get the win that night, he did pitch more than any other Astros pitcher in that effort… in my opinion, he deserved the win. Munro was a guy, like Backe, who lacked talent but made up for it in give a sh** and testicular fortitude. Far from “just a guy,” he managed to stay in the big leagues despite having average stuff.
RP – Chris Sampson – A true professional in every sense of the word. If I had a daughter, I’d want her to marry a man like Chris Sampson. He was the type of guy who played hard and always left everything out of the field. Injuries have set him back in the last few years and he’s found himself on the Marlins, attempting a comeback. Chris Sampson is a guy who cares deeply about his image as a hardnosed, no-nonsense ball player.
RP – Brad Lidge – Brad Lidge got a raw deal. I’ll readily admit that I went sour on Lidge. But, despite having serious mechanic and mental issues, Lidge always took his criticism like a man. He refused to hide under the skirts of the more veteran players and instead stood in front of his locker and answered each and every question over and over again. Although he had these issues that ultimately led to him being traded to Philadelphia, no one ever questioned whether or not Brad Lidge genuinely gave a sh** day in and day out. Each save situation was like game 7 of the World Series for Brad. Now, things weren’t always bad. Looking at the numbers, Lidge had a pretty decent tenure with the Astros. My favorite Lidge moment was after the Astros clinched the 2005 Wild Card and was being interviewed by Greg Lucas. The excitement of his voice and the gravity of the moment caused Lidge to drop the “F” bomb on live TV. Brad Lidge never gave canned answers.
CP – Jose Valverde – Chances are, if you are in the opposing dugout, you hate Jose Valverde. And, you’re probably justified, too. Jose Valverde is a rich man’s Carlos Perez. After every strikeout and every save, he makes a big production out of it. He’s a dancer. He’s emotional. He’s Rebecca Sealfon in cleats.
C – Humberto Quintero – The Astros have been blessed over the years with catchers who give a sh**. Other than Mitch Meluskey, I can’t think of an Astros catcher who failed to give a sh**. Damn, I hate Mitch Meluskey.
Sometimes I think being a catcher and giving a sh** are almost one in the same. Except for Mitch Meluskey - that dude didn’t give a sh**. Rick Wilkins gave a sh** and so did Scott Servais. Brad Ausmus who, if he played any other position, probably gets a starting job on the all-time Give A S**t team… but, in my opinion, no one gives a sh** more than Humberto Quintero. Quintero takes a beating day in and day out. He’s not the most talented guy on the field, but you can tell by his face that he’s always trying and always busting his ass. He will proudly stand in the way of a Mack truck in order to keep it from scoring. Quintero will take 96mph heaters off the inside of his leg, shoulder, neck, balls, foot or wherever it finds him.
Perhaps he’s not the defensive magician Brad Ausmus was. Perhaps that’s why Q is always getting the business end of elbows, bats and fastballs - but, the fact that Q knows it is coming and STILL decides to get out of bed each morning is a testament to Q’s give a sh**.
1B – Jeff Bagwell – Let’s not confuse silence with not caring. Bagwell wasn’t an outspoken guy. He was the undisputed leader of the greatest era in Astros history. I think many of Bagwell’s critics wanted him to be more excitable and more outspoken, they wanted to see Bagwell publicly abuse non-give a sh**ters. But that’s just not who Jeff Bagwell was. Bagwell is a guy that leads by example and, in my book, not only has he earned a spot on the Give A Sh** team, but he’s also reserved a spot in the Give A Sh** Hall of Fame.
Bags wanted to be an expert at every facet of the game. BBWAA would probably fail to realize, but Jeff Bagwell was one of the best baserunners in his era. He cared about growing as a player - he cared about getting better.
Watching him get hurt and sit the bench in 2005 stung me. I knew he wanted to be out there badly - probably more than anything! But Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio played the biggest part in most (if not all) of modern-day Astros success.
Jeff Bagwell gave a sh**.
2B – Jeff Kent – Jeff Kent is probably the biggest a-hole to ever wear an Astros uniform – and I say that endearingly. Before he played for the Astros, I hated the guy. He just seemed like a huge jerkoff to me. At the plate, he would have a smile on his face while muttering obscenities to the umpires. I could tell he wasn’t well liked around the league. But then something happened, he signed a free agent contract with the Astros.
He became the infamous “he’s still an a-hole, but he’s OUR a-hole.”
Jeff Kent was strictly business.
While he may not be the obvious choice at 2nd base, there is no disputing that Jeff Kent was hard-nosed and wanted to win. Kent was a hungry player. Jeff Bagwell once said, “Nobody wanted to win baseball games more than Jeff Kent.”
Richard Justice said that the Astros have never “had a player who was more singularly focused on winning.”
That sounds like my kind of player. That sounds like a guy who gives a sh**.
3B – Ken Caminiti – Cammy was one of the first baseball players I saw and said, “I wanna be like him.” Caminiti had really broad shoulders, he was like a goalie at third base. I remember watching him dive at a hot shot down the line, stopping it, rotating to his knees and gunning the runner out at first - by a few steps. He cared about winning. It bugged him to lose. Of course, he went the extra step to ensure that he stayed at the top of his game, unfortunately. I was heartbroken when he was traded to the Padres for Derek Bell and a bunch of other guys who didn’t give a sh**. Cammy embodied everything I thought a pro athlete should be. He fooled me.
Ken Caminiti cared so much that he cheated. He cared so much that it ended up costing him his life.
It still bothers me… the whole thing. I still can’t believe he’s gone.
SS – Bill Spiers – For 6 years, Bill Spiers was the James Brown of the Houston Astros. He was the hardest working baseball player in America. Spiers did everything ever asked of him, he made starts at SS, 3B, 2B, 1B, LF, RF and CF. He called balls and strikes. He scanned tickets at the gate, sang the National Anthem, sold peanuts and beer in between innings, correctly guessed which Goya can was hiding the baseball, shot off fireworks after the win and could be seen playing the saxophone on the corner outside of the stadium. When I think of people who really give a sh**, Bill Spiers always comes to mind.
LF – Craig Biggio – I tricked you, huh? Did you really think I would leave Craig Biggio off of this list? Biggio’s gave a shit for the better part of two decades. From the moment he arrived to the time he left, Biggio gave a sh**. I think the best example of him giving a shit was how he selflessly gave up his position, put his team before his Hall of Fame ambitions and accepted a position move to left field. His second significant move in his career.
Biggio, as you might remember, started out as a catcher. And as I stated earlier- catchers always give a sh**.
Biggio’s nickname was Pigpen because he was always dirty. He was dirty before games and even dirtier after. The Astros even gave out Craig Biggio dirty shirts for a promotion.
Have you ever seen Craig Biggio get plunked by a fastball? If not, you probably haven’t watched much Astros baseball.
287. That’s how many times Craig Biggio has been hit by a pitch. That’s a record. Anything to get on base, I guess.
And no one has ever been plunked as many times as Biggio has… he gave a sh** about the Astros and gave up his body for the team. Craig Biggio cared so much that he’d gladly take a fastball off the thigh, elbow, back or head - just to get on base.
God, I love Craig Biggio.
CF – Carl Everett – Carl Everett might be a little crazy. Okay… let me rephase that: Carl Everett is a f-ing lunatic. In 2 seasons with the Astros, Everett put up monster stats. He was on the 1998 team, with fellow badasses like Randy Johnson, and brought an attitude the Astros hadn’t seen up to that point and hadn’t seen since then. Carl Everett invested 100% of himself in winning. He might have been crazy (no - he was!) and, towards the end of his career, detrimental to his team, but there is no getting around the fact that Carl Everett cared until it hurt.
Is there a line? Can someone be too crazy? Carl Everett teetered the line - he was passionate and insane. He was a coked-up linebacker playing centerfield.
RF – Hunter Pence – I’m a big fan of Hunter Pence. I don’t think Pence is an elite player and I think the Astros treated him unfairly marketing him as such. Pence, though, is an excellent teammate who cares deeply about winning. He’s dumb as f**k, though. While he may take bad routes and overthrow cut-off men, he is always running as fast as he can or throwing as hard as he can. Granted, some will argue that it is hard to say that you give a sh** whenever you neglect to do the little things – but I chalk it up to Hunter Pence being goofy like a cocker spaniel. Like a cocker spaniel, he is very passionate about everything he does, he may piss on the rug, but it isn’t because he doesn’t care whether or not that it makes you angry – it’s because he just can’t help himself. He’s just too excited.
BN – Casey Candaele – Casey Candaele was an everyman playing baseball. Candaele was one of my favorites as a child – which is probably because we were both the same size. Candaele used every inch of his 5’9” frame and every ounce of his 165lbs body to will his way into the major leagues. A utility man who could play anywhere, Candaele found the brunt of his time at second base – but he had the arm and range to play 3rd, SS and OF. Physically, Candaele shouldn’t have been able to stick around for as long as he did – but with a huge heart, a balls-to-the-wall mentality and a hunger to kick ass, he managed to stick around the bigs for 9 seasons.
Casey Candaele popularity hit an all-time high in 1993 when Rudy came out – unfortunately that was his last season with the Astros.
BN – Tony Eusebio – How old is Tony Eusebio? I stay awake wondering that sometimes. His Wikipedia page says he is 44 - but is this really to be believed? His baseball-reference page says that he weighs 180lbs… and we know that stat is horseshit.
There’s a lot of misinformation going around about Tony Eusebio.
He’s like what Santa Claus is to other countries - in some countries, Santa Claus isn’t fat or doesn’t travel by sleigh.
I’m a conventionalist. My Tony Eusebio is damn near retirement age (65) and weighs 270lbs.
Throughout his career, there has been a lot of questions regarding his true age, true weight and the vehicle he uses to deliver toys - but one thing that has never been questioned is the amount of sh** that he gave during his 9 seasons as the reserve Astros’ backstop.
There is a website devoted to Tony Eusebio. At 24 games, Tony Eusebio held the Astros record for the longest hit streak.
He could fit a whole bag of Redman in his mouth at one time.
I think what sets Tony apart, though, is that it was easy to see that Tony Eusebio felt grateful. He was happy to be a part of the team and truly enjoyed playing baseball.
BN – Darin Erstad – Darin Erstad has absolutely no problem with running into walls, diving for lazy pop-flies and doing whatever it takes to catch the baseball. Erstad consistently put baseball before body.
I’ve always liked the guy. At the time he signed with the Astros, he was nothing more than a reserve outfielder/1b, but the guy still gave 100% and he still gave a sh**.
BN – Matt Downs – Matt “Freaking” Downs earned a lot of respect in 2011 for his strong effort and clutch performances. Although Downs proved that he wasn’t much of a starter, Downs provided a spark off the bench and brought the house down with his epic bombs and strong defensive efforts.
BN – Jose Vizcaino – Viz was a guy who was willing to do anything. He played 1B, 2B, 3B and SS during his 5 year stretch in Houston. He wasn’t fiery nor did he have Doug Brocail’s pissed off demeanor - he just came to the ball park, did his job, worked hard to stay afloat and came back for more. In my mind, he was one of the smartest players I’ve seen come through Houston. He was a great role player and, I think, he’d make an outstanding manager someday.
BN – Eric Bruntlett – Another common theme to the GAS roster is guys who did a lot with little. The list would be incomplete without Bruntlett. Bruntlett was a guy who came in towards the end of the game as a defensive replacement or a guy who could spot start at multiple positions. In 2005, Bruntlett got time at 7 different positions and was a key player in the World Series run.
BN – Adam Everett – This was the second most difficult decision of the bunch. I wanted to make Everett the starter, but in the end, Bill Spiers was just too much of a badass to be overtaken. I suppose I could have incorporated a utility position and put Spiers there, but ultimately, I was too lazy and, in the end, did not give a sh**.
At .242 lifetime hitter, Everett was a lanky, rangy shortstop who showed Astros fans that games could be won with the glove and not with the bat. I was at the game in 2007 when El Culo de Caballo lumbered into Adam Everett, breaking his leg and subsequently ending his career with the Houston Astros.
Manager – Terry Collins – This was the most difficult decision of the bunch. At first, I chose Jimy Williams and then I thought, “No, Terry Collins is the man.” Then I reconsidered my position and thought I’d choose Scrap Iron. But when I think about Terry Collins I always seem to think about him screaming at umpires, getting red in the face and veins protruding from his neck – I am genuinely shocked that Collins never had an on-field heart-attack.
Granted, yelling and screaming doesn’t necessarily equate to the amount of GAS you possess, but it goes along way. Terry Collins was an intense manager – he referred to the player’s strike of 1994 as “the saddest experience of my life.” I’m sure Collins has had family members die at some point – but still, missing out on a chance to go to the playoffs was the “saddest?”
Terry Collins gives a sh**.
So, there you have it –