Remembering better days for Astros

I feel bad for Astros fans. They traded two of the four or five good players on the club. It will take two or three years before we can begin to assess the rebuilding project. In the the meantime, the Astros have a chance to join the 2004 Diamondbacks and 2003 Tigers as the only clubs in the past 40 years to lose at least 110 games. And they may not be much better in 2012.

So let's take a time out to remember a few good times from a franchise with a fun, interesting history full of great players and memorable moments.

Jimmy Wynn

One of the first stars in Astros history, Wynn is one of the most underrated players in baseball history. A small center fielder, Wynn was nicknamed "The Toy Cannon" -- c'mon, how is that not one of the greatest nicknames of all time? -- for his surprising power. He hit 20 or more home runs six times for Houston, when hitting 20 in the Astrodome was a big achievement. His ability to draw walks -- he drew 148 in 1969 -- made him a quality on-base guy even when his batting averages were mediocre.

Cesar Cedeno

One of the best and most electrifying players in the National League in the early 1970s, Cedeno had a monster season at age 21 in 1973 when he hit .320 with 22 home runs, 55 stolen bases and a league-leading 39 doubles. In some regards, Cedeno spent much his career trying to match that early success -- manager Leo Durocher tagged him as the "next Willie Mays." Some say he was never the same after an accident in which his gun discharged, killing his girlfriend. But injuries and the distant fences of the Astrodome also worked against him.

Nolan Ryan

The Astros made a big splash when they signed the Texas native as a free agent for the 1980 season. The Ryan Express made immediate dividends, leading the Astros to their first playoff appearances that season. They met the Phillies in one of the most exciting playoff series ever (the last four games of the best-of-five series all went extra innings), but Ryan couldn't hold a 5-2 lead in the eighth inning of Game 5.

Jose Cruz

Cruz had never done much for the Cardinals when the Astros purchased him in November of 1974. What looked like the addition of a backup outfielder turned into the purchase of a late-developing star. Cruz hit .300 six different seasons with the Astros and finished in the top eight of the NL MVP voting three times, including third in 1980 when he hit .302 with 91 RBIs and 36 steals.

Mike Scott

Scott delivered one of the greatest moments in Astros history when he pitched a no-hitter to clinch the NL West division title in 1986. Scott won the Cy Young Award that season and dominated the Mets with two wins in the NLCS. Alas, he never got to pitch Game 7 as the Mets won the series in six games.

Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio

They both played their entire careers with the Astros, Bagwell hitting 449 home runs, winning an MVP Award and once scoring an astonishing 152 runs in a season, and Biggio rapping out 3,060 hits and scoring over 1,800 runs. With those two leading the way, the Astros made the playoffs six times in nine season from 1997 to 2005.

Chris Burke

Burke delivered perhaps the biggest home run in Astros history. His 18th-inning home run beat the Braves in Game 4 of the 2005 Division Series, giving the Astros a dramatic 7-6 victory in the longest postseason game ever played. Roger Clemens picked up the win with three scoreless innings of relief. The Astros would beat the Cardinals in the NLCS to reach their only World Series.

So it might be dark days for the Astros right now. Let's just hope the rebuilding doesn't take too long.

Follow David Schoenfield on Twitter @dschoenfield.