- The Fall Classic is just hours away. Here's why you should root for the heartwarming hitters from Houston.
The way I see it, unless you’re a Dodgers fan, there’s little reason not to pull for the Astros to win the World Series.
They don’t classify with the Yankees, Red Sox and other big-market teams (Dodgers included) as the league’s most polarizing. Good luck finding reasons to get riled up over the team’s best players: a 5' 6" second baseman likely to win AL MVP and a former MVP pitcher acquired seven weeks ago, dealing like 34 is the new 28.
Then there is the city of Houston, rebuilding out of the wreckage left by Hurricane Harvey. Even if the Fall Classic provides only the slightest distraction, one that doesn’t cover any of the wounds still to heal, Astros fans can enjoy the culmination of a years-long rebuild.
The Astros deserve to be on baseball’s biggest stage. After a 101-win regular season, undoing the Red Sox in four games and narrowly escaping the ALCS, this is the coveted last stop on their seven-month journey.
Below are a few highlighted reasons to root for the Astros in this year’s World Series. Resident Dodger fan and colleague Gabriel Baumgaertner penned an opposing column on why you should pull for L.A. to win it all. Here we go.
Jose Altuve trusting the process
Despite four consecutive seasons of 200-plus hits, it feels as if fans across the country are finally seizing the pure joy that comes with watching Jose Altuve play baseball.
He’s starring for the American League champs like he has for much of the past seven seasons, batting .400 with five home runs in 11 postseason games. Of course three of those five homers came in one game—his first of this postseason—and Stephanie Apstein did a terrific job capturing what it’s like to find so much normalcy in someone doing extraordinary things.
“…Only an infinitely small percentage of humans on this planet have played major league baseball successfully. He’s a fraction of a fraction. It’s a miracle.”
If you’re over the cutesy, run-down narrative that Altuve’s fun to watch because of his size, settle on the fact that he’s the longest-tenured Astro. His first three seasons from 2011–13 were the worst-ever in franchise history as the team underwent an epic rebuild.
He’s seen the Astros’ process through, and his talent has grown in conjunction with the team. Altuve is the star worth rooting for in the World Series.
Fifty-five years in, the Astros have never won it all
What’s more, the Astros have yet to win a single game in the Fall Classic. Chicago swept Houston in its first and only World Series appearance in 2005.
Other close calls came in the 2004 NLCS, which the Astros lost in seven games to the Cardinals. The Phillies edged the Astros three games to two in 1980 when the Championship Series was a best-of-five event. Then there will always be the heartbreak of 1986. The Mets won that NLCS in six games, highlighted by Houston’s extra-innings losses in Games 5 and 6. (The latter being a 16-inning loss at home when the Astros blew a 3-0 lead in the ninth.)
No Astros team however, has done more winning than this one. Including the regular season, they’re up to 108 wins. Safe to say ‘Stros fans feel like they’re owed wins 109 through 112 by now. Just don’t mention anything to Indians or Rangers fans (the two clubs with longer title droughts.)
Carlos Beltran’s potential last go-around
Playing in his 20th season, his seventh postseason and his second World Series, veteran outfielder-turned-DH Carlos Beltran has dodged major questions about retiring at season’s end.
“Right now, I’m not thinking about that,” Beltran told the New York Post at the beginning of the ALCS. “… I will make a decision based on what I want to do after all this is over.”
The 40-year-old is a fringe Hall of Fame candidate, totaling 2725 hits, 435 home runs and an .837 career OPS to complement his nine All-Star selections and three Gold Gloves. But after posting an All-Star season last year at 39, Beltran’s numbers took a career-worst hit this year: He posted a .231/.283/.383 slash line in 129 games.
His influence over the Astros’ young core has not gone unnoticed, but he’s a shadow of the feared slugger he once was. It wouldn’t be a shock if Beltran decided to step into retirement after this season—especially if he can go out with his first World Series championship.
Validation for a rebuild like no other
Only three years ago the Astros finished 70–92, wrapping up a four-year stretch where the team went 232–416. In other words, if the Astros win it all this year, they’ll have won nearly 50% of games as they did in four years, in one.
If nothing else, turning around an immensely bad club into a World Series contender is a nod to the rebuilding concept as a whole. Driven by frugal spending, astute player acquisitions and above all else, patience, the Astros have transformed into an American League juggernaut.
You better believe executives with the White Sox, Phillies, A’s and a few other clubs are smiling at what Houston is doing. It could very well be one of those clubs pulling off a similar run in a few years.
An unforgettable run in an unforgettable year for Houston
It’s foolish to think that the Astros winning the World Series—or winning in the playoffs at all—is enough to shield Houstonians from everything that has gone wrong since Hurricane Harvey barreled through the city. No amount of winning can or should do that.
That doesn’t mean a championship wouldn’t inject a bit of happiness into a community that needs it. Win or lose against LA, the Astros have already done a whole lot of good.
The team donated $4 million to relief efforts and Beltran himself gave $1 million, among several other gifts made by players and personnel.
So while the area continues to heal more than two months after devastating floods ravaged Houston, the Astros continuing to play into late October is a gift in itself.
Bonus: The SI cover
If you’ve had an internet connection at any point over the last several days, you’re probably sick of this by now.
Ben Reiter is not sick of this cover.