The Houston Astros Trusted the Process
The Houston Astros are the 2017 World Series champions, but their story of triumph isn’t like many others.
LOS ANGELES — In a decisive 5-1 victory over the Los Angeles in Game seven of the 2017 World Series, the Astros were crowned World Champions. In 56 years of being an MLB franchise, this is just their first World Series win. Many pundits before the season expected to see Houston as a contender for the the title, but it wasn’t always the case with the Astros.
The Dark Years
The Astros were a team in flux during the 2011 season. They were up for sale and critically underperforming. Then-owner Drayton McLane put the team up for sale. During that season, the Astros went 56-106, the then-worst record in franchise history.
Houston was once a proud National League franchise. However, the team moved to the American League in 2013 as part of the MLB’s realignment. The Astros, with new owner, Houston businessman Jim Crane, would venture into uncharted waters. In 2012, the Astros were so bad that they were eliminated from the playoffs before September 5. In their last year in the National League, the Astros went 55-107, the worst record in the MLB.
The next season, the Astros returned to their original colors (navy blue and orange) when they went to the American League. Their luck wouldn’t change, once again losing 100+ games (a 51-111 record). It was their worst mark in franchise history, leaving fans wondering if they were going in the right direction.
In 2014, Houston improved. They went 70-92, finishing fourth place in the division over the Texas Rangers. This was just the beginning of their road to glory.
Trust the Process
The Astros built their team around cornerstone second baseman José Altuve. Altuve, who stands at a diminutive 5’6, 165 lbs, was cut during tryouts with the Astros because of his size. He would tryout once again the next season with encouragement from his father. His improvement was noted by the organization, which signed him to a $15,000 signing bonus in 2007.
Another player that has been synonymous with the franchise is starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel. Keuchel struggled during his first two seasons in the Majors, posting a 9-11 record and a 5.20 ERA in 239.0 innings. He would sharply turn his pitching around and has since gone 55-34, with a 3.15 ERA in 745.2 innings. Keuchel has won three Gold Gloves, a Cy Young Award (2015) and is a two-time AL All-Star.
Since joining the Majors in 2011, Altuve has been selected to the AL All-Star team five times, won a Gold Glove Award and three Silver Slugger awards. Through his seven-year career, Altuve has batted .316/.362/.453, hit 84 homers, drove in 403 runs and stolen 231 bases. That’s incredible for someone who was thought of as being “too small” to be a ballplayer. He proved his doubters wrong.
With all of the losing seasons, the Astros were able to stack first-overall picks for years. Three of their first-round picks since 2011 are on the team: center fielder George Springer (2011), shortstop Carlos Correa (2012) and third baseman Alex Bregman.
Inside and Outside of the Organization
During the time of the Astros resurrection, they have added a bunch of significant pieces. In 2015, Houston traded for pitcher Mike Fiers and outfielder Carlos Gomez during the season and before the season acquired designated hitter/catcher Evan Gattis. Although Fiers and Gomez fizzled out, which led to Gomez being designated for assignment, Gattis has been their primary DH.
In three seasons with Houston, Gattis has slashed .251/.303/.477, hitting 71 home runs and driving in 215 RBI. Standing in at 6’4, 270 lbs, he’s the big bopper that the Astros needed to drive in all of their players with high on-base percentages.
The Astros signed Yuli Gurriel, a corner infielder from Cuba in 2016 and got the most of him. Since joining the club in 2016, Gurriel has batted .291/.324/.466, hit 21 home runs and drove in 90 RBI.
The Astros would follow that key to success in 2017 when they added future Hall of Fame outfielder Carlos Beltran, signed outfielder Josh Reddick, signed starting pitcher Charlie Morton, and acquired starting pitcher Justin Verlander.
Though the Astros beat their competition to a pulp during the 2017 regular season (101-61 record, 1st in the American League), they stayed humble. The team went through Hurricane Harvey, which saw their city devastated, with hundreds of thousands of Houston residents displaced and 75 people killed. Despite this tragedy, Houston rallied behind their club and they were rewarded.
Just two months after Hurricane Harvey dropped 51 inches of rain onto the city of Houston, the Astros won the World Series 5-1 in Game 7. How’s that for a story?