For the 3rd time in the last 4 years, the World Series ended at Minute Maid Park. Confetti shot forth from the stadium, and players from the field jumped up and down to celebrate the end of the game. Yet, for the first time in that stretch, it was not the road team that celebrated the win.
Yes, for the first time in franchise history, it was the hometown Houston Astros that celebrated clinching the World Series championship at Minute Maid Park, vanquishing the red-hot Philadelphia Phillies in 6 games, with the Game 6 clincher coming in the form of a 4-1 win.
For Houston, it is the first home field championship celebration for any of the “Big 4” since the Rockets won their second NBA championship in 1995. It is the first of any home-town pro franchise to clinch in the city Houston since the Houston Comets in 2000 (unfortunately, they folded in 2008).
(The Houston Dynamo won the 2006 and 2007 MLS Cups, but that was in Cisco, TX and RFK Stadium, respectively. Of course, we have the 2017 World Series that Houston won in Los Angeles. Not a bad city, but I think Houston is a nicer place to win a title, no?)
The emotions are still raw, and this time, rather pleasant. The near-misses of 2019 and 2021, to see another team, arguably one that was maybe not as good overall, celebrate and enjoy on Houston’s home field, stung deeply. I didn’t really relish writing another cathartic cope-with-this-loss type piece. Such is the emotion of baseball. One minute, you are on top of the world. Next minute, you’ve been rendered as low as any human can be given the circumstances.
There is a lot to take-away from this World Series win. For Dusty Baker, brought in to try to bring some stability to the franchise after the revelations of late 2019-early 2020, it is the culmination of a lifetime in service to baseball. Maybe he is not the greatest manager of all time, but his resume as a manager, already Hall-of-Fame worthy, is unquestioned.
For Justin Verlander, arguably the greatest pitcher of his era, it is adding another bullet to his sure-fire 1st ballot Hall-of-Fame resume, and also getting the proverbial monkey off of his back with his 1st World Series win. For the fans of Houston, it was the chance to come to Minute Maid Park in the last 2 games of a World Series, and not live in dread of a soul-crushing loss. For Jeremy Peña, it was beyond validating the faith that the organization put in him when he was tagged to replace a franchise legend.
There is even more that could be said about this particular win, especially in light of what came out of the 2017 season. Others can pontificate on the meaning of that action. For now, I will leave it at this: The Astros have the 2017 championship, and now, they will add the 2022 Championship to the banners at Minute Maid Park. They have 4 AL pennants, 1 NL pennant, and 2 World Series banners. End of story. If others, from the Dodgers to the washed-up writer that is Rick Reilly have problems with that…well, they can exercise their 1st Amendment Rights, but I am also free to tell them, in the words of the legendary late 1990s philosophers Degeneration X “ I have two words for you…”
As for the future, well, there is certainly much to discuss for the Astros. Will Verlander return? What of the fate of Jim Click, the GM brought in to fill the shoes of Jeff Lunhow in the fallout of the sign-stealing scandal? What of any future moves? Well, that is what the next few months of the off-season are for, and we can get to them…in due time.
Looking at the crystal ball, many will probably have the Houston Astros pegged to repeat. Perhaps. Yet, that can also wait until later. If nothing else, the Astros have proven that they are the gatekeepers of the AL, if not the entire MLB. You are a contending team, and you want to get to the World Series out of the AL, or you want to win it outright from the NL…you must get past Houston. So simple…but as the long-dead Prussian strategist Clausewitz would tell you (paraphrased): “Everything is very simple…but the simple thing is difficult.”
All of that to say, I am on Cloud Nine that the Astros won. Yes, I know there are receipts that I didn’t pick Houston to win this one..again, perhaps gun-shy from the 2019 and 2021 World Series. Glad I was wrong on that one (obviously, the Astros read my predictions, and it was a major motivation of theirs to prove me wrong, so I will say “you’re welcome”).
A note to the Philly fans: Your team had a great post-season. After underachieving for a few years, your team managed to get it all together, and you ran quite the gauntlet. A sweep at St. Louis, taking down the defending champs, and then overcoming the supremely talented Padres, before forcing Houston to dig deep to overcome the top-level talent the Phillies presented. Clearly, we can understand the disappointment of coming so close, but not quite closing the deal. Still, I have no doubt that your team will have a lot to say about the fate of the NL East for the next few seasons.
In the immediate future, for all Astros fans, enjoy this win for what is was, a dominant team in 2022, who was built to win in the regular season and in the post-season. Where it fits in the context of dynasties, revenge, validation…all in the eyes of the beholder. I will enjoy this one as the culmination of a great 2022 season, and just part of the baseball juggernaut that is the Astros. For now, I will play the role of insufferable Astros fan, at least as long as the family will tolerate, and then, move on with life, but with a nice memory to help overcome any moments of gloom.
Enjoy Houston. This result is so much better than the alternative (see 2019 and 2021). I’d like to welcome everyone back for another great season next spring.