Pearls & Vodka

This one is for you Houston…

The Houston Colt .45s joined the ranks of Major League Baseball in 1962 as an expansion team. Three years after their organization began the team changed their name to the Houston Astros as a nod to Houston’s role as the control center of the US space program. While the Astros had quite a run on NL West/Central Division titles winning six between 1980 and 2001, the team could never seal the deal. [1]

Until last night.

Sports Illustrated began predicting that the Astros would win the 2017 World Series, back in 2014. It had everything to do with how they put their team together. [2]

In early June, the Astros were up 13.5 games over the rest of their division. It was their best start in their 55-year existence. By September, they had a 15-game lead over the rest of the American League but were hampered by injuries to key members of their pitching staff. On September 17th, Justin Verlander struck out ten batters in 7 innings; leading the Astros to their first division title as a member of the American League West division. This title was historic for a lot of reasons, one of which was they became the first team in Major League history to win three different divisions. The win over the Boston Red Sox on September 29th marked only the 2nd time in franchise history that the Astros recorded a 100-win season. Defeating the Red Sox again on October 9th advanced them to the American League Championship Series against the New York Yankees. The Astros won four games to three. I’m not an Astros fan, though I will gladly join any bandwagon against the Yankees.

And last night, after a memorable seven game series, the Houston Astros beat the Los Angeles Dodgers to win their first World Series championship, ever.

The city of Houston celebrated in the streets of downtown last night, well into the early morning hours. Those same streets were ravaged by Hurricane Harvey just two months ago.

For a city still reeling from unfathomable destruction and loss, there really was no better time to win the World Series, than right now.

Baseball has long been known as “America’s Pastime.” Many have argued, and probably rightfully so, that football has taken a lot of popularity from the game of baseball. Scandals have rocked the sport for decades now as well, which hasn’t helped.

But, “across Houston, people who nine weeks ago were united by chaos and water were brought back together by a ballgame.” [3]

Many were forced to listen to the World Series games on their radios because Hurricane Harvey had destroyed their televisions. Families all over the city were still sitting amongst the rubble of their homes. There were jerseys, hats and the like destroyed by hurricane winds and rains. Many still refugees in their own city watched the games from hotel rooms. And for seven games, the city of Houston, and surrounding areas, were able to escape into nine innings of up and down baseball with no thoughts of what Harvey had taken from them.

The conversations around Houston have bounced back and forth between Altuve, Verlander, Springer to FEMA, drywall, and loss.

After being awarded the MVP award of the World Series, George Springer said, “This is what you work for. This is what you hope for. This is what you dream of. We really did it.” He went on to say, “You dream of this as a kid, holding up the World Series trophy. Now here I am, holding up a World Series trophy. This is for the city. This is for our fans. This is incredible.” [4]

And it was for the city. For the fans. For Houston.

The Houston Astros were known as a laughingstock for many years in baseball. Three years in a row they lost 106+ games.

Today, they are champions.

Back in 2005, the Astros played the Chicago White Sox in the World Series. They lost the series 4-0. Commissioner Bud Selig insisted back then that the Astros must play with the roof open in the final two games of the series in Houston. The historic Minute Maid Park roof was required to be open to mitigate the intensity and enthusiasm of the cheering Astros fans.

Unlike 2005, last night, the Astros won the World Series. They were in Los Angeles. But the intensity and enthusiasm of Astros fans could be felt worldwide.

After a few years as the butt of baseball’s jokes, the Astros are having fun again. And thanks to them, Houston is having fun again.

Blood, sweat, and tears went into this World Champion team.

Losing 86 games gave the Astros some very high draft picks which allowed the drafting of players like MVP George Springer. Charlie Morton could have been drafted by every other team in Major League Baseball, but only Houston took a chance on him. Dallas Keuchel, the Arkansas Razorback standout, was 23-years-old and was only striking out five batters per game in Double-A ball. The Astros were so terrible; they brought him up anyway to the big leagues. They turned him into a Cy Young winner. Brian McCann was cut by the Yankees who think buying baseball teams will win championships and they needed to trim some fat. Yuli Gurriel was getting old. Carlos Beltran and Josh Reddick were hella expensive. Landing Justin Verlander was a homerun deal for Houston. Jose Altuve was in the lowest level of minors, they brought him up anyway. [5]

Houston has what can only be described as, chemistry.

From Cuba, Puerto Rico, Venezuela, New Mexico and beyond, this ragtag team has become World Champions. These guys are having fun, depicted beautifully by their use of the Commissioner’s Trophy last night that they turned into a beer luge to drink their celebrations in with.

I’m a lifelong Cubs fan.

We know what it is like to “finally get one.”

The parade tomorrow in Houston will be historic. The streets will be flooded with celebrations, tears of happiness, laughing, joy and pure hope. A city will be reborn. The waters that devastated their town did not destroy their spirit.

Houston will do what Houston always does. They will keep coming back. This team is built for more than one World Series championship. We very well could be witnessing a dynasty in the making. Almost their entire roster will return to spring training in February.

After proposing to his girlfriend on the field after the game, Carlos Correa said, “You dream about it as a kid, but when the moment arrives, it’s so much more than what you thought it was going to be.” [6]

Gail Collins wrote, “I just really like Houston despite its craziness. There is a sense of energy and a kind of excitement, ‘We’re going places, and God knows what’ll happen next.’ It’s very interesting. It’s very exciting.”

The 2017 World Series Champions are a sign to all those who live in Houston that it’s OK to believe in your town again. It’s OK to be happy again. It’s OK to be rebuild again.

It’s OK to be #houstonstrong again.

[1] https://www.baseball-reference.com/teams/HOU/index.shtml

[2] https://www.cbssports.com/mlb/news/sports-illustrated-has-very-very-very-high-hopes-for-the-2017-astros/

[3] https://www.nytimes.com/2017/11/02/us/hurricane-harvey-houston-astros.html

[4] https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/columnist/bob-nightengale/2017/11/02/astros-win-world-series-george-springer/824013001/

[5] https://www.sbnation.com/2017/11/2/16596318/houston-astros-2017-world-series-champions

[6] https://www.usatoday.com/story/sports/mlb/2017/11/02/world-series-game-7-astros-george-springer-carlos-corre-alex-bregman/824020001/

Photo Credit: Houston Astros Facebook Page