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No More Dis-Astros

Game 5 2017 World Series by John Bowles is licensed under CC BY SA-4.0

No More Dis-Astros

Estimated Reading Time: 11 Minutes
October 16th, ALCS Game 3, 2017

I’m serenaded by a chorus of “Na Na Na Na Hey Hey Goodbye” as well as a few other gestures and phrases that would not be included in a PG movie. Such is the life of a proud Astros superfan daring to walk into Yankee stadium in full Astros gear on a night they just got demolished by the Yankees. Charlie Morton gives up 7 runs in 3 2/3 innings. This game is over. Dream dead. Guess I’ll have to wait for year 56 of no World Series titles for the team from Houston.

Baseball is a great sport because it emphasizes failure. Success in batting means that you only fail 70 percent of the time. The best thing a hitter can do is lose the ball by driving it out of the park. Pitchers’ worth are measured by how much they can get batters to fail.

Teams that the casual fan roots for are usually some form of loser. Everyone knows the Cubbies were loveable losers and the Red Sox were cursed, but the hard thing about being a lifelong Houston Astros fan is that until this year, we weren’t even big enough losers to stand out.

The constant failure that baseball provides makes the successes all the more sweet and let me tell you…

This Astros World Series victory is pretty sweet for this Astros fan.

I grew up in Texas, I played as the Astros on three separate little league teams. At my first baseball game with my dad, I watched Jeff Bagwell hit a three-run home run at Minute Maid Park (the Astros won 3-0), I remember where I was for Craig Biggio’s 3000th hit, I remember the joy of making the 2005 World Series and the crushing disappointment of just barely losing four straight games in it (two games were won by one run, the other two by two runs). I remember trading away all my remaining favorite players—Lance Berkman, Roy Oswalt, Hunter Pence, the mediocrity followed by the three straight crushing 100 loss seasons, being forced to move leagues (they were a National League team since their inception as the Colt .45’s in 1962). I remember being one of the few people confident they would make the playoffs in 2015 and I remember everything about this 2017 postseason.

October 5th, Game 1 ALDS

I have to travel on a Bolt Bus that day, do I purchase wifi for $7 just to watch a game? Absolutely. Altuve hits one home run. Then another. Then a third!? You know who else did that in a postseason game? Babe Ruth, just saying…

I’ve been to nine Astros games at Yankee stadium, two playoff games there, an Astros game at Camden Yards, a game they played at Citi Field, and I hope to visit many more ballparks and watch the Astros play.

October 9th, Game 4 ALDS

I’m pacing the floors all throughout the 9th inning. Inside the park home run by the Red Sox and now the score is 5-4 Astros. Ken Giles is trying to give all us fans heart attacks. If they lose this game, I’m certain they’ll lose game 5. What a waste of a talented team, I can’t stand—oh wait, they won! Exhale, onto the next round! I never had a doubt!

In 2005 we had the Astros last hurrah. Jeff Bagwell battling through a severely arthritic right shoulder (that would soon end his career) just to give his team a lift. Craig Biggio was hustling out every ground ball. Lance Berkman aka The Big Puma aka Fat Elvis was slugging and completing the killer B trio. Roger Clemens, Andy Pettite, and Roy Oswalt anchored a three-headed monster at the top of the Astros rotation. It was inspirational to see this old team go once more to the breach and deliver the first NL Pennant to the state of Texas.

October 13th + 14th, Game 1 + 2, ALCS

Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander are rock stars. Astros win 2-1 both games! I could get used to this. It’s our year, it’s gotta be!

This 2017 World Champion team is a collection of characters that should be no less memorable in Texas baseball lore. You’ve got a former janitor (and perhaps bear in disguise) Evan Gattis; A lifelong stutterer, George Springer; Brad Peacock, a guy who almost didn’t make an MLB roster and ends up throwing 3 2/3 hitless innings to close out game 3 of the World Series; and of course you’ve probably heard the story of Jose Altuve, the shortest player in baseball who got turned away initially for tryouts in Venezuela for being too short and now just might be the MVP of the league and the best 2nd baseman in Astros history (and this is a huge, huge compliment because the other guy is merely HOFer and Astros legend Craig Biggio). Even manager, AJ Hinch was once called the worst manager in baseball. There are a dozen more great stories about each player, but there is no doubt that it was (and will continue to be) a special team.

October 20th, Game 6, ALCS

I dared to go to a Yankees bar. I’m a glutton for punishment. Can the Astros come back from a 3-2 series deficit? Verlander’s on the mound and he’s slaying it! McCann and Altuve come up huge! Things are look pretty good, call this a victor— OH NO! A BALL TO CENTER FIELD, IT’S DEFINITELY A HOME RUN AND OH MY GOD, HOW DID SPRINGER MAKE THAT CATCH?! UNBELIEVABLE! Astros win. Exhale, game 7. My heart can’t take much more of this.

Drayton McClane, former owner of the Astros would always ask his players before spring training started “are you ready to be a champion?” Yet McClane’s overly positive attitude and hands-on ownership wasn’t the leadership we needed to break the curse. Enter the next Texas billionaire, Jim Crane. He bought the team, was forced by commissioner Bud Selig to move to the American League in order to complete the sale, and then did something many leaders would be wise to take notes on: he hired a cutting-edge General Manager and let him do the job of building the team, increasing payroll when needed, and then not firing him even in the midst of the Astros (and some of Major League Baseball’s) worst losing ever.

October 21st, Game 7, ALCS

I have to work at a restaurant this day…You need another drink, sir? Absolutely, right after this inning is over. You’re wondering where your food is, ma’am? It’s in the bottom of the 5th—I mean it’ll be right out. Alex Bregman! What an incredible and risky throw to cut down Greg Bird at the plate! Did you see that?? Sorry, sir didn’t mean to shout. Charlie Morton, 5 solid innings, Lance McCullers gets the rarely seen but always effective 4 inning save. WORLD SERIES BOUND!

This team is special.

I have watched a LOT of Astros games, I could probably tell you every player who ever played for the Astros each year and yet those 2011-2013 teams would challenge my Astros knowledge because it was the biggest collection of nobodies you’ve ever seen. Instead of, my favorite website would become because the idea for the Astros trading for prospects was far more exciting than the team on the field.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of those teams was this GIF:

The next best things to emerge from those terrible teams were 4 great players. Marwin Gonzales, Brad Peacock, Dallas Keuchel, and Jose Altuve.

Each of these players was allowed to struggle on bad teams. If you look back on their stats, only Altuve puts up even mediocre stats in their first couple years, but because this was a team that was going to emphasize youth and development, the Astros just sat back and watched the youth develop on the field.

October 24th, Game 1, World Series

I’m feeling it, this year is special. Game 1 here we go! #$%!@$%^ Justin Turner, you ginger caveman, ruining game 1. Astros lose.     

Meanwhile, like an expert hoarder, GM Jeff Luhnow was trading just about anything not nailed to the ground to acquire minor leaguers, and by extension (i.e. losing) higher draft picks. These decisions paid huge dividends because this team is now a World Series Champion and with such a great young core, they’re not going to go away anytime soon.

October 25th, Game 2, World Series

Verlander is dealing again, we’re gonna win this—are you kidding me?!? 2 hits by the Dodgers and they’re both home runs, just like last night? Chipping away at the lead, now we’re down one run in the 9th inning and MARWIN GONZALES HITS A BOMB TO CENTER FIELD AND WE’RE TIED!! Wahoo!!! Next inning, JOSE ALTUVE HITS ANOTHER CLUTCH HOME RUN! THEN CORREA! Wouldn’t you know it, the bullpen for the Astros wants to play another inning and they let it the Dodgers tie it back up. To the 11th inning we go, that was sure deflating but—BY GEORGE, SPRINGER’S GOT IT! 2 RUN HOME RUN! But the bullpen wants us to sweat some more so they give up another home run with Puig coming up and he…strikes out! EXHALE, next game…

They shed payroll and fans. However, this allowed the team to acquire three number 1 draft picks and a whole lot of draft pool money, which they turned into Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Lance McCullers, Evan Gattis and Ken Giles (via top prospect trades) and many more. They picked up reclamation projects off of waivers, used the massive amount of analytical data they had compiled to teach those players how to be better; found value in trades for low A Ball minor leaguers, and made key free agency signings to get to the top of the mountain.

October 27th, Game 3, World Series

Lance McCullers and Brad Peacock pitch great. We win!

October 28th, Game 4, World Series

Went to a Halloween party, we lost. Clearly my fault.

When this season was happening, I could feel this was a special team. I’m sure every fan feels that way at some point, but I’ve seen about 20 Astros teams from game 1 to game 162 and this team was just different. Every single player on the 25-man roster (and several who came up from the minors) contributed to this team in some way. Aside from those already mentioned you had some key role players: Jake Marisnick, the Astros light hitting outfielder, learned to hit this year and helped win games with his arm and his bat. Chris Devenski went full Andrew Miller. McCann and Beltran weren’t stellar offensive players, but key veterans who helped keep this team grounded. Pick a minor league and they’d come up and hit home runs. I’ve never seen a better team from player 1 to player 25 than this Astros team. And right when they were struggling and looking listless, management goes and gets Justin Verlander and they get their swagger back.

October 29th Game 5, World Series

Game 2 was the best game I’ve ever watched, nothing will top that ever. UNTIL GAME 5! Holy Heck! Kershaw gives up 2 3-RUN LEADS! Yuli hits a 3-run home run, Altuve hits a 3-run home run. You get a home run, and you get a home run! Bregman wins it in the 10th! Why isn’t this the “World Series presented by Tums”?

Which means…

October 31st, Game 6, World Series

We had to lose today, of course this series is going to Game 7, but you know what? I have all the faith in the world that it’s our year.

I find baseball inspirational. A group of guys work together and play for each other and their city. A baseball team cannot change the devastation a hurricane brought to their city, but it can give that city something to rally around, even if for a bit. In more personal terms, it can also give a fan the inspiration he needs to move past failure. If a team was able to overcome 55 years of failure and a host of other things, what’s a bad day to me? I’m Alex Bregman taking a risk and seeing a reward in game 6 of the ALCS, I’m Jose Altuve, putting his friends on my back to accomplish our goals. I’m Charlie Morton, looking for one more chance to prove I have a purpose. If Evan Gattis can go from being homeless and a janitor to Major League champion, well shoot, I can give anything a try! I hope whomever you cheer for, whether it’s a sports team, or your parents, or a public figure, that you find the same inspiration.

November 1st, 2017

I’m serenaded by a chorus of “We are the Champions” in my head. The long wait is over, the mocking, the losses, the close calls and the “maybe next years” all melt away. I’m in a New York apartment with friends all around me. The wait is over. I had no doubt about it. Charlie Morton closes it out with 4 shutout innings. YEEEHAW!!! You bet I’m in my full Astros gear.

I look back those bad years, back when I was more interested in how their minor league system was progressing, and smile. All that misery was worth it because the process worked! Sure, there were a few missteps (letting J.D. Martinez go stands out), but their successes far outweigh their failures. This team is set up to be a potential dynasty. Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve, George Springer, and Alex Bregman are all young and under team control through 2019 (Correa and Bregman for several years after that), plus we have ALCS MVP Justin Verlander for two more seasons. It’s not easy to win in baseball, but for the first time I am not just excited about the Astros future, but their present. Houston, we have a championship!

Ryan Neely is an Actor, Writer, and Director (but really, who isn't nowadays?) based in New York. A native Texan, Ryan is an Astros super-fan, as well as a fan of the Dallas Cowboys and Texas Aggies sports teams. You can spot him playing baseball and football all over Riverside park, he'll be the guy on the field taking it way too seriously. He recently created a comedy web series called, "A Day Late and Ten Pounds Overweight" and can be seen masquerading as the first captain of the first college football team ever.

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