Call Your Shot

Sports Illustrated cover coming to life?

George Springer has been an integral player for the Astros' rebuild. Courtesy photo

One of the most controversial Sports Illustrated covers of the last several years is from 2014 with Astros’ centerfielder, George Springer, gracing the cover. What makes this issue unique is the title predicting that the Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017. This doesn’t seem like an unusual prediction today, but in 2014, it seemed pretty ridiculous. Ben Reiter, the author of the SI article, joined Unfiltered on ESPN 97.5 this week and said that “…people hated the cover… and we got a lot of hate mail, but that turned around when they got off to a good start.”

The Astros had Dallas Keuchel and Jose Altuve on the 2013 team, but Carlos Correa hadn’t made his major league debut and the Astros lost 111 games that year. So predicting the Astros would eventually become a World Series Champion in 2017 after a season like that, seemed pretty unlikely. The Astros did improve in 2014 and for the first time since 2010, the team didn’t finish in last place. Flash forward to 2017 and sure enough, the Astros are in the World Series and George Springer is a big reason why.

Dallas Keuchel and Justin Verlander are two more reasons why the Astros had so much success this season. In fact, Keuchel made a huge impact without even picking up a baseball. Reiter said on ESPN 97.5 this week that “Keuchel going on the record trying to light a fire under the front office” was a monumental move that led to the Astros acquiring stud pitcher, Justin Verlander. The Astros even went against their typical analytics driven approach, according to Reiter, and bet it all on a 34-year-old pitcher to help lead their playoff push.

Now that the Astros were set with two dominant starters, they went to work on winning the AL pennant led by manager, A.J. Hinch. Reiter is a big proponent of Hinch and believes that “He's kind of the heart of the organization in a lot of ways, and I think they picked the perfect guy.” Hinch did a fantastic job of managing the pitching staff in Game 7 of the ALCS against the Yankees. In a day in age where you could see seven different pitchers from each team in an elimination game, Hinch opted to go with only two pitchers, Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers. Hinch’s ability to balance analytics with the eye test made “Game 7 of the ALCS about as stress-free as I could imagine,” said Reiter.

Ben isn’t a sorcerer, but he’s clearly insightful and Astros fans will love that he’s sticking with his original 2017 World Series prediction. Let’s just hope that SI's, Ben Reiter, had it right all along.

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