Richard Hidalgo: A Great Month Can Ruin Your Career


Well it's all over, now. On this day, the Astros have traded Richard Hidalgo (and 4 million dollars cash) to the New York Mets for two guys named David Weathers and Jeremy Griffiths. Staying away from what the deal says about the sadly disappointing 2004 campaign, the deal dispatches a player who has been a member of the Astros organization nearly as long as Jeff Bagwell, and who leaves as the Astros' third best slugger with 2000 plate appearances. But of course, whatever Hidalgo did or didn't do offensively is only half the story, as his right arm--the one that launched so many bombs from his right-field position--told the other half. Although the voters very blindly never did recognize him as a Gold Glove rightfielder, Hidalgo--despite his bad knees--played a superior brand of defense, exemplified best, I guess, by his incredible 2003 season, during which he was the only NL outfielder to finish in the top three vs. his position in zone rating, range factor, fielding percentage, and double plays, and led all major league outfielders in assists.

It was all rather sad, really. Hidalgo oozed with talent, and for good stretches, showed it. The September of 2000 that Hidalgo had--when he hit in 26 of 28 games, drove in 31 runs, hit 12 homers, and scored 38 runs--stands, with only perhaps the exception of Bagwell's June of '94, as the best month in team history. Doggy was of course named NL Player of the Month for his efforts, but was also offered a contract and expectations to fulfill that he was unable to live up to. His 2001 season was not so bad, not really. He drove in 80 and scored 70. and maybe if he'd squeezed in a surreal month like he'd had to end 2000, things might have been different.

A previous version of this page talked about how Hidalgo might have picked up some bad habits from simply watching Bagwell, and that might have been a little extreme, but there's no doubt Hidalgo tried to pull everything, and very rarely succeeded, in 2002. And it's looking like more than anything else, Richard's 2002 season is going to be the legacy he leaves. Sure he was awful, but it's still unfortunate. Despite the 2003 season he had, when he was named Astro MVP, and even the April '04 he laid down, when he was named the season's first NL player of the week, Hidago is unlikely to be remembered much for what he was able to accomplish.

1994 Classic Quad City River
Bandits # 12
1996 Best AA All-Stars # 50
1998 Fleer Promising Forecast # PF7
1998 Upper Deck Retro # 117
1998 Mothers' Cookies # 15
1999 Pacific Omega # 107
2001 Bowman Best # 22
2001 Fleer Essential Credentials Now
# 67 (27/299)
2001 Upper Deck Big League Challenge # BLC-RH

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