Friday, May 17, 2013

#328 Craig Reynolds - Houston Astros

This is Craig Reynolds' 6th Topps card and he looks happy in the inset and upset in the action photo.  Perhaps he just pulled a grounder to 2nd or 1st base in a spring training game.
Player: Craig Reynolds was a first round pick of the Pittsburgh in 1971 but never really got much of a chance with the Pirates.  After parts of five seasons in the minors they gave him 76 at bats in '75 and he batted just .224.  In 1976 he hit .290 as he repeated AAA, but received just seven games of action with Pittsburgh.

Reynolds got his break when the Mariners traded their 11th round selection in the expansion draft, Grant Jackson, to the Pirates for the left-handed infielder.  The Mariners starting shortstop in their inaugural game, Reynolds was a mainstay at shortstop playing 135 games in in '77.  He rarely struck out or walked and showed little power.  He hit .248 that year but improved to .292 the next season and made the AL All-Star team in '78.

The M's traded Reynolds to the Astros in December of '78 for Floyd Bannister.  Reynolds assumed the starting job at short for Houston.  Although Reynolds' numbers weren't eye popping, when the Cardinals Garry Templeton infamously turned down his All-Star invite with his "If I ain't starting, I ain't departing" line, it opened the door for Reynolds and he was named to the NL All Star squad.  He led the NL in sacrifice bunts with 34 while batting an empty .265.

Reynolds slumped to .226 in 1980 but rebounded with a better season in '81.  He batted .260 and strangely led the NL in triples with 12, including three in one game.  He pulled off the rare feat of hitting more three-baggers than doubles (12/10).  It was about this time that Reynolds began to battle problems with vertigo.  That along with the emergence of Dickie Thon led to Reynolds playing a reduced role.  Batting less than 150 times in both '82 and '83 hit .254 and .214 while also playing second and third base.

In '84 Reynolds stepped back into the fray when Thon was recovering from the beaning that marred his career.  Reynolds responded by hitting .260, with a career high 6 HR, and showed good range at shortstop.  Reynolds and Thon would share playing time the next two years with Reynolds batting .272 and .249 in the '85 and '86 seasons. 

Reynolds got most of the playing time in '87 but as usual, his production was neither impressive nor embarrassing as he hit .254 and played solid defense.  Now in his mid-30's, Reynolds took on a utility role the next two years and wound down his career batting .255 and .201.  He retired following the '89 season after 15 seasons in the majors.

Flipside: When Topps spells out Philadelphia and San Fransisco in the highlights they are saying "We really don't have any reason to abbreviate.  This is all we got".

Oddball:  Reynolds made two appearances as a pitcher in blow out situations but he threw gasoline on the fire both times.  He allowed three runs as he finished up a lopsided loss to the Mets on 7/17/86.  Three years later he allowed four runs in another laugher against the Pirates.

History:  Reynolds was a defensive minded shortstop whose OPS+ topped 100 just once, and barely with a 101 mark in '78.  In his prime he was an above average defender and he led the NL in range factor in '85.  Reynolds is known as the only shortstop to named in consecutive seasons to both the AL and NL All star teams.  He and the Astros made it as far as the NLCS in 1980 and 1986 with Reynolds getting 7 hits in 29 career postseason at bats.  When he retired, only Roger Metzger had played more games at SS for the Astros. 

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