Quarterly Report

Houston's 5 most influential sports figures for the first quarter of 2019

Kelvin Sampson. Jackson Gatlin/SportsMap

Houston has no shortage of big-name superstars and top flight coaches. The Astros alone could make up a top five list. As the first quarter of 2019 winds down, here is who has had the biggest impact so far this season.

No. 5: Deshaun Watson

Bob Levey/Getty Images

The Texans disappointed in their playoff game with the Colts, but Watson did lead them to 11 wins, played a full season and should improve. He will likely get knocked off the list once the Astros are playing again, but for now, here he is.

No. 4: Alex Bregman

No, he hasn't played meaningful minute in 2019. But his new contract puts him in the elite level of Houston athletes. He is now the second highest paid Astro behind Jose Altuve, and tied for the second highest ever. It is a six-year, $100 million extension and keeps him an Astro until he turns 30. Leave it to Bregman to crash the off-season party.

No. 3 Tilman Fertitta

Fertitta CenterTilman Fertitta made the Fertitta Center a reality. Houston Cougars Men's Hoops Facebook

Fertitta is not just the Rockets owner, he is on the board at UH and and helped oversee a resurrection of men's hoops thanks to the opening of the Fertitta Center. Now if he can just get a hockey team...

No. 2 Kelvin Sampson

Kelvin Sampson has the Cougars rolling. Bob Levey/Getty Images

Kelvin Sampson's Cougars won the AAC regular season title, went 31-3 and earned a No. 3 seed in the NCAA Tournament. No matter what happens, it has been an amazing season for the Cougars.

No. 1 James Harden

James Harden

James Harden.

A year after winning the MVP, Harden has picked up where he left off. He had an amazing scoring streak and helped carry the team through some midseason struggles. In short, he is still the man until someone knocks him off the perch.

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The Astros are World Series champions again! Photo by Harry How/Getty Images.

Finally, the Commissioner’s Trophy has come back to Houston.

It seems like eons ago since the ending of the 2017 season when Dodgers shortstop Corey Seager grounded a ball to right straight to Jose Altuve, who scooped it up and sent it to Yuli Gurriel for the final out and clinched the franchise’s first championship.

Inside a capacity crowd at Minute Maid Park on Saturday, the Houston Astros made history once again. This time it was a fly out to right field towards foul territory, and it was Kyle Tucker, who caught the ball that clinched the Commissioner’s Trophy for the 2022 Astros.

Houston defeated Philadelphia 4-1 in Game Six, and it won the series 4-2. The Astros are once again the undisputed best team in all of Major League Baseball. Dusty Baker finally got his first World Series trophy as a manager, and shortstop Jeremy Peña was named the World Series MVP to cap off his incredible rookie season.

Game Six did not come without some anxiety. Like it was throughout the entire postseason, the game took Houston supporters through a roller coaster of emotions. Both starting pitchers in Framber Valdez for the Astros and Zack Wheeler for the Phillies went into the sixth inning having pitched a shutout.

At the top of the sixth, it was Philadelphia left fielder Kyle Schwarber, who erased the goose egg on the board for the Phillies with a solo home run. The brief lead for the Phillies made the heart of Astros fans begin to pound a little faster with the memory of the 2019 World Series not too far behind, but that feeling of dread was erased almost instantly in the bottom of the sixth inning.

First it was catcher Martin Maldonado that got on base after he was hit by a pitch. Second baseman Jose Altuve forced the Phillies to get Maldonado out on a ground ball, but he managed to beat out the throw at first to avoid disaster.

Then the rookie sensation, Peña, delivered a single into the outfield that sent Altuve to third and set the stage for Yordan Alvarez.

On a 2-1 count with Phillies reliever Seranthony Domínguez seeking to keep the Astros at bay, Alvarez swung his bat and connected to launch the ball over center field. Just like that, the Astros led 3-1, and Minute Maid Park became a madhouse.

Alex Bregman followed by drawing a walk, and after Kyle Tucker struck out, it was Christian Vázquez that brought Bregman home with a sharp line drive. Bregman had advanced to scoring position on a wild pitch by Domínguez that J. T. Realmuto could not contain.

The celebration on Saturday night will forever hold a special feeling for Houston fans and the Astros alike. The 2017 trophy represented a light for the city that had just been ravaged by Hurricane Harvey months prior. The 2022 trophy represents justification that the Astros are just that good and have built a dynasty that keeps chugging along.

The 2018 Astros lost in the American League Championship Series. The 2019 Astros saw a championship slip through their fingers, and then the sign-stealing scandal broke headlines.

2020 saw turnover with the hiring of Dusty Baker and James Click, and the Astros once again fell short in the ALCS. The 2021 Astros said goodbye to George Springer, and then ran into a buzz saw in the Atlanta Braves in the World Series.

The 2022 Astros said goodbye to an old friend in Carlos Correa. And yet, were able to not skip a beat with the rise of Peña, who put together an incredible regular and postseason. But the 2022 Astros were much more than just one player.

There was Cristian Javier, who was thrust into a hostile Philadelphia crowd down 2-1 and the season on the line. The 25-year-old right-handed pitcher’s cool, calm and collected personality gave the Astros composure and shifted the series. Javier pitched six innings, striking out nine batters and giving up 0 hits.

Javier’s work was followed by Bryan Abreu, Rafael Montero and Ryan Pressly, who carried on the no-hitter and became just the second team in the history of the World Series to pitch a no-hitter.

In Game 5, Peña got Houston on the board first, and then became the first rookie to ever hit a home run in the Fall Classic. A stellar defensive play by Trey Mancini and the play of the series made by Chas McCormick, robbing Realmuto from guaranteed extra bases, helped put the Astros in position to close the game.

There was also Justin Verlander, who entering Game 5 was seeking his first ever World Series win. He not only got that, but pitched a heck of a game, allowing the high-powered Phillies offense to only score one run just days after they had put five on him at Minute Maid Park.

Everyone knows the story of Álvarez against the Seattle Mariners that helped launch Houston’s run. It was fitting that he sparked the rally in Game Six. Even though multiple players struggled at different times throughout much of the postseason, Houston just kept winning.

Now that it is all said and done. Nothing else matters. The 2022 Houston Astros have many new faces. For Altuve, Gurriel, Verlander, Lance McCullers Jr. and Bregman, the World Series victory can certainly be viewed as a redemption story, but this year’s team was so much more than that. They were a team in every sense of the word.

The 2022 Astros were resilient. The 2022 Astros were motivated. Fueled by past failures, new faces, and a will to make history, Houston did just that.

One more time. The 2022 World Series Champions—your Houston Astros

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