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Sporting a New Look
Steve Wulf
April 04, 1994
The sign above the locker-room door in Kissimmee, Fla., reads THROUGH THESE DOORS PASS CHAMPIONS. Actually, through those doors pass comedians.
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April 04, 1994

Sporting A New Look

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THE LINEUP

RF

James Mouton

Pacific Coast League MVP last year

CF

Steve Finley

National League leader in triples, with 13

2B

Craig Biggio

21 HRs, most ever by Astro middle infielder

1B

Jeff Bagwell

Career highs in '93: .320 BA, 20 HRs and 13 SBs

LF

Luis Gonzalez

Hit in last at bat gave him .300 season

3B

Ken Caminiti

Only three have more games (822) at 3B and 3B only

C

Ed Taubensee

He and Scott Servais totaled 20 HRs, 74 RBIs

SS

Andujar Cedeno

Brothers in minors: Eduardo, Astros; Domingo, Jays

Ace

Pete Harnisch

Opponents hit league-low .214 against him

Closer

Mitch Williams

What homer? 43 saves are 43 saves

INSTANT ANALYST

The Astros' number-4 hitters did the least cleaning up in the majors last season. Their total of 82 RBIs was a major league low, with the other 27 teams averaging 110 RBIs at cleanup. Since then, Houston has traded Eric Anthony, its best cleanup hitter. Here's the breakdown of Astro cleanup hitlers in 1993.

Cleanup Hitter

Starts

Avg.

Slug.

OBP

HR

RBI

Eric Anthony

86

.272

.453

.346

12

49

Other Astros*

76

.260

.347

.318

4

33

*Ken Caminiti, 46 starts; Luis Gonzalez, 15; Chris James, 10; Jeff Bagwell, 4; Jim Lindeman, 1.

PREDICTED FINISH: SECOND

The sign above the locker-room door in Kissimmee, Fla., reads THROUGH THESE DOORS PASS CHAMPIONS. Actually, through those doors pass comedians.

"So tell me, Mitch," says mock journalist Jeff Bagwell, "what was that last pitch you threw in the ninth inning of the sixth game of the World Series?"

"It was a fastball," says interview subject Mitch Williams, "and Joe Carter hit the——out of it."

"Will the effects of that pitch linger on into this season?"

"Yes, as a matter of fact, they will. I'll probably be back on my ranch by July."

So much for the theory that Williams will never get over the pitch he threw to Carter that decided last year's Series. That's the reasoning that prompted the Phillies to trade him to the Astros during the off-season for another disfavored closer, Doug Jones, and starter Jeff Juden. But this spring Wild Thing showed that his psyche is healed and his fastball is back in the 90's; he won't be retiring to the 3 & 2 Ranch in Hico, Texas, any time soon. "New start, new town, new duds," says Williams.

Houston does indeed have new clothes to go with their new closer. The latest logo—a gold star that appears to be going to its left like third baseman Ken Caminiti—is a decided improvement on the Astros' old rainbow color scheme. More significant, Houston also has a new manager, former Pirate coach Terry Collins, who replaces the fired Art Howe.

Whether the fiery, gung ho Collins is an improvement on the quiet, well-liked Howe remains to be seen, but he certainly is a change of pace. The bantamweight Collins wears a T-shirt that says SECOND PLACE IS THE FIRST LOSER, and this season—you read it here first—he will lead the league in ejections.

In the off-season, owner Drayton McLane Jr. told general manager Bob Watson that he wanted the payroll down to about $30 million a year and that he didn't want to keep players who might have been decommissioned by the Boy Scouts. So the Astros lost portly free-agent starter Mark Portugal (18-4, 2.77 ERA) to the Giants and virtually gave away arbitration-bound setup man Xavier Hernandez (101 strikeouts in 96⅔ innings] to the Yankees and mercurial right fielder Eric Anthony (15 homers, 66 RBIs) to the Mariners.

The Astros, consequently, spent the latter part of the spring looking for a third outfielder to go with Steve Finley and Luis Gonzalez; they had rookie James Mouton, a Triple A second baseman last year, and minor league third baseman Phil No in chasing fungoes in right. Mouton finally won the starting job.

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