Astros bask in unforgettable ride to top
After pain, Luhnow’s fast rebuild is realized
LOS ANGELES — George Springer, standing in the middle of the raucous Houston Astros clubhouse last week, completely drenched in beer and champagne with his shoes covered in alcohol, tightly held the trophy, refusing to let it go.
He kept looking around the room, glanced at his general manager in back of him, never saw his manager and broke into this sly, almost mischievous grin.
The Houston Astros had won the World Series nearly two hours ago, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers 5-1 in Game 7 for their first title in franchise history, and in all the pandemonium in this cramped clubhouse filled with cigar smoke and the aroma of champagne and beer, it was suddenly as if everybody forgot the ultimate prize. The World Series trophy. “This is what you work for,” Springer said, his voice cracking. “This what you hope for. This is what you dream. We really did it.”
Earlier in the evening, Springer was standing on the massive stage on the Dodger Stadium infield, accepting the World Series MVP award on television. This is a guy who hit .100 without a single extra-base hit in eight postseason games going back to the American League Championship Series, striking out four times in Game 1 of the World Series, only to come back and hit .440 over the final six games.
Springer, joining Reggie Jackson and Chase Utley, tied a World Series record with five home runs. He set records with eight extra-base hits and 29 total bases. He hit .379 with seven RBI and eight runs. And he joined Lou Gehrig and Jackson as the only players in history to homer in four consecutive World Series games.
“It was fitting,” Astros GM Jeff Luhnow said, “because in a lot of ways, he’s the heart and soul of the organization. This guy has so much talent, but he’s a leader with so much enthusiasm.
“He was the one who started Club Astro with the music, the fog lights and all of that stuff. There’s no better guy to win a World Series MVP.”
It was a beautiful trophy, the first of its kind in the Astros organization, but to be honest, Springer said, shrugging, he had no idea what happened to it. He didn’t really care. The one he wanted he was clutching and holding next to his chest.
“You dream of this as a kid,” Springer said, “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.”
Springer, who was in Houston during all the miserable days, on a team that lost at least 106 games three consecutive years, and now here he was, holding the greatest prize in franchise history and starting to wonder when someone might notice he still has the trophy in his possession.
“I will probably give this to (manager) A.J. (Hinch),” Springer said, “but you never know. I don’t see anybody asking for it. No one is.
“I might just hang on to it. You think anyone would notice?”
Considering it’s Springer, who opened the door in this game with a leadoff double and slammed it shut with his tworun homer in the second inning off Dodgers starter Yu Darvish, the city of Houston is willing to overlook a whole lot of things.
Four years ago, they were laughingstocks, losing 111 games in 2013, prompting Luhnow to even change his license plate to GM111.
“I wanted to feel that pain,” Luhnow said, “every time I got in my car.”
Today, they are champions, leaving grown men including Astros President Reid Ryan crying and franchise icons Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio getting sentimental. This is a franchise, born in 1962, that had great teams along the way. The Astros had Nolan Ryan and Jose Cruz. They had Mike Scott and Ken Caminiti. They had Roy Oswalt and Lance Berkman. And, Bagwell and Biggio, the latter for 20 years.
They earned 10 playoff berths over all those years, winning three consecutive division titles (and four in five years), and even reached the World Series in 2005.
Yet until this past week, they had never won a World Series game, let alone sniffed a title.
“This is a great team,” said Bagwell, inducted this summer into the Baseball Hall of Fame. “I don’t think the world knew it. Well, they do now.
“Nobody wanted us to win this whole thing. Everybody else wanted the big teams. But we beat the Red Sox. We beat the Yankees. And now we beat the Dodgers. Pretty cool.”
This isn’t the old school Astros that Bagwell and Biggio grew up with during their enduring careers. They hated when players stood on the top step instead of sitting back in the dugout. It drove them crazy when players flipped their bats after homers. They hated this new era, preferring cigarchomping scouts with sunbaked arms to pimple-faced kids sitting in front of their computer screens making baseball decisions using analytics.
“Things are different; baseball is different,” Bagwell said. “The game has changed, and I have to get used to that.
“But these kids are having fun, they’re fun to watch, they’re entertaining for the fans and they’re good. I can adjust.”
You know times are different when Astros All-Star shortstop Carlos Correa is running around the infield mobbing his teammates after winning the World
Astros center fielder George Springer (4) celebrates with the Commissioner's Trophy after the Houston Astros defeated the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 7.