THE PALLILOG

Looking ahead to what is next for the Astros from Charlie Pallilo

Sports Illustrated nailed it. Courtesy photo

The 2017 World Series Champion Houston Astros.

I imagine most inclined to be reading this won’t get tired of hearing that title for, oh, all eternity. Earn It was the Astros’ regular season motto. Earn History was their postseason motto. Check and check. Here’s a hodge-podge of thoughts and facts in the exhaustively gleeful aftermath of the Astros finally scaling Baseball Everest.

Anyone still upset about their forced move to the American League?

So so many things about this team go into defining it as Houston’s first baseball champion. When the Astros went from awful to pretty much deliberately fielding an atrocity of a squad in 2012 and 2013, the point was to pour a rock-solid organizational foundation and build a sustained winner on top of it. For as bad as it got however, and despite as tough and to some extent random running the postseason gauntlet can be, it really demanded ultimate victory to justify the grand tear down and build up process. Four years after 111 losses, General Manager Jeff Luhnow is cemented as architect of the best and most successful team in 56 years of Major League Baseball in Houston.

What odds would you have given on the Astros winning the World Series with Jose Altuve batting under .200? The likely AL Most Valuable Player finished six for 31, that’s .194.

The slack was more than taken up by World Series MVP George Springer. From an 0-4 four strikeout mess of a Game 1 that bottomed out a 3-30 stretch to a World Series record-tying five homers, Springer the first player ever to homer in four consecutive games within one World Series.

Three-plus years ago when Sports Illustrated went with the famous (and widely mocked) cover story declaring the Houston Astros 2017 World Series Champs, it was George Springer featured on the cover. Writer Ben Reiter authored the article. His glory pales in comparison to what the Astros secured Wednesday night, but it’s one of the better called shots you’ll see in a magazine. Or anywhere else.

Along the Astros’ postseason path to the title they took out arguably the three biggest brands in the sport in the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers. They definitely defeated the three largest payrolls of 2017. Next year, the Astros roster will remain laughably (delightfully so for Jim Crane and his ownership partners) inexpensive relative to its quality. Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, and Lance McCullers each play another season making basically the MLB minimum salary. The Astros hold a mere six million dollar option on Altuve -- gee, think they’ll exercise it? -- for 2018 (and then just six-and-a-half mil for ’19). Justin Verlander signed at two years just $40 million of Astros’ money is a tremendous value.

The Astros will not lose a single key player to free agency. Barring contract extensions signed in the meantime, after next season the Astros face losing Dallas Keuchel, Marwin Gonzalez, and Evan Gattis. That is nothing to worry about now. They have big league and prospect depth for Luhnow to aggressively seek to upgrade a bullpen which decayed from average to OHMIGOD NO! lousy for much of the postseason. The best offense in baseball could get better with the addition of a designated hitter who isn’t the weakest hitter in the lineup.

Champions face many obstacles to title defenses. In baseball the structure of the postseason is as big as any. The Indians, Yankees, and Red Sox should all be strong again next season, with a worthy National League champ waiting after that. But man this Astros club is built to last, and certainly goes into 2018 as the overwhelming favorite to repeat as champ of the American League West. Get back to the tournament, and there’s the chance to go back-to-back. Only twice in the last quarter century has it been done: the Blue Jays in ‘92/’93, and the Yankees three-peat of ’98-‘00.

An altogether meaningless stat, that I nevertheless find cool: in only one other World Series did the win sequence of home and road teams play out as did Astros-Dodgers ’17.  Home team won game one, road team took game two, home team game three, road team game four, home team game five, home team game six, road team game seven.  In another of the great World Series the Reds outlasted the Red Sox that way in 1975. In World Series seventh games the road team is now 20-19.

BUZZER BEATERS: 1. The day after the Astros win the World Series the Texans lose DeShaun Watson for the rest of the season. Life can be simultaneously beautiful and cruel.   2. The centerfield speaker tower at Dodger Stadium is the best sound system I have ever heard.   3. Best parades: Bronze, Rio’s Carnival looks fairly entertaining   Silver, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day   Gold, Astros today.

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