What a year.
What a series.
What a game.
What a team.
The Houston Astros are your 2017 World Series champs. Just like the got-dang Sports Illustrated cover predicted.
Just like page 25 of Jeff Luhnow’s famous plan laid out. Just like I doubted about 10,000 times this year. When Correa broke his thumb? Season over. When they didn’t pick up Zach Britton at the trade deadline? History down the drain. When they couldn’t win in New York? Everything is terrible. When they went down in Game 5 of the World Series and Clayton Kershaw is on the mound? Watch Stranger Things instead of having your soul crushed.
But this team had other plans. They made this World Series one for the ages.
It’s such a special group and a part of that is because so many of these pieces were homegrown. Dallas Keuchel was an afterthought (for everyone but TCB old friend Tim), but then he won a Cy Young. At one point, we wondered on a podcast whether they used composite bats in the New York Penn league, because that’s the only way to explain how this second baseman named Jose Altuve could be hitting .400.
We were frequently dumb on TCB, but we all loved the Astros and that farm system. We knew the path to the team being good again went through the kids. It’s why Jay Austin was a thing and why Jordan Lyles was hailed as a future ace. We dreamed and we followed and some of us scouted.
But who could have imagined the core of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa could show up this way. Altuve may be the American League MVP. That is amazing. George Springer is the World Series MVP. That is astounding. Carlos Correa hit more home runs this postseason than any player 23 years old or younger. That is...expected. Correa’s really good, y’all.
Every move Houston made was with an eye on this moment. Trading Brandon Lyon and J.A. Happ to Toronto for a passel of prospects? We didn’t expect Joe Musgrove to be the gem, but we knew it helped build the future. Brett Myers got flipped to the White Sox, almost as an afterthought, but we kept an eye on that Devenski kid. After the first of 15 Jed Lowrie trades, Trogdor’s home runs overshadowed the potential of World Series relief ace Brad Peacock.
We endured a lot of mockery and anger over sullying the name of baseball. Bud Norris thought the Astros treated players like numbers and a lot of fans agreed with him. People were furious when Houston “wasted” a pick on Brady Aiken, trying to pull some shenanigans to get three players for the price of one and missing all of them. But it sure led to Alex Bregman and his magnetic defense this postseason.
Those 100-loss seasons were hard, but they were fun. We had fun following the team together, dreaming of a time when they’d win again.
Then 2015 hit and the team was supposed to be good again. I still believe they could have won it all if they’d beaten the Royals. The 2016 team couldn’t live up to that breakthrough, so Houston retooled around the homegrown talent.
They brought in an old friend in Carlos Beltran. They gave us Josh Reddick and his wonderful-yet-horrifying speedo celebrations. They gave us Brian McCann’s steadying presence behind the plate and Yuli Gurriel’s pineapple hair.
They also took a chance on an oft-injured starting pitcher who threw less than 20 innings in 2016. Yet, there was Charlie Morton not allowing a baserunner in the final three innings to pick up Houston’s fourth and decisive World Series win.
Every player had a moment this season. Marwin had his home run off Kenley Jansen. Old man Beltran wasn’t just a mascot; he had a huge hit in the Boston series. Even Francisco Liriano got some big outs in the last two games.
It was hard to switch modes, though. After rooting with a 1,000-yard stare for many years, it was difficult to focus on how a team might win a single series, a single game.
Chris may not have been worried after Game 1, but I was a nervous wreck for basically the entire month of October and the first day of November. Sabermetrics is great for that long view of things. You can rail against small sample sizes, but one final game of the season to win the World Series is one of the smallest samples you can get.
How do the quants Houston has in its analytics department deal with this? How do they deal with the randomness of how a piece of chewed gum makes a ball dive in this start instead of the last start? How do you analyze a Justin Verlander trade when he’s authoring an absolute gem. We will always remember the Verlander Game. We can worry about the rest later.
This has been a long time coming. Enjoy it. Enjoy it for all the Astros fans who aren’t here to see it. Enjoy it for all the young fans who only know Houston as one of the best teams in the league. Enjoy this all offseason.
We’ve all earned this little piece of history.
Thanks, Astros. Thanks for everything.