In reply to the recent “Writer’s Blog” post, good friend of the blog, Old Pro proposed that we write about “How winning a ring might change the Astros as an organization, as a team and individually. Why is it so hard to win another one?”
The last time a team actually repeated as champion was the Yankees who threw up a trifecta of World Series Championships between 1998 and 2000. In the 20 year period from 1998 to 2017 a number of teams have won more than one championship, but the Yankees are the only team to repeat the year after winning one. The Yanks along with winning 1998-2000 also won in 2009. The Red Sox broke the curse in 2004 and won again in 2007 and 2013. The Giants did a little skiptomylou by winning in 2010, 2012 and 2014, while not even making the playoffs in 2011 or 2013. The Cardinals doubled up in 2006 and 2011.
So, it is not impossible to repeat, but fairly rare. It is not too rare for a team to win more than once in the same window. But we will take the bait. Why is it so hard to repeat and what challenges do the Astros face in chasing a second WS crown?
- It is hard to do anything that 29 other entities are trying to beat you at. It took the Astros 56 seasons to win one. The Rangers are still chasing a title entering their 58th season. The Indians have not won since John Wayne was driving cattle in a 1948 classic Red River. The Cubs had a 108 year drought; the Red Sox went a mere 86 years without one. It is hard to do once, which makes it really hard to do twice.
- Less rest. OK, the Astros get the same rest as the Dodgers and a little less than the other playoff teams, but the teams in their own division get 4 more weeks of rest and that can be big.
- The Hunger. The 2017 Astros were hungry, were driven, and played like it. Now, the 2018 Astros may be more relaxed and more confident the second time around, but they will never be as desperate to win as they were in bringing the first WS title to a city that was both thirsty for a title and drowning in the grips of a flood.
- The Luck. From micro-watching the playoffs, it is easy to see so many times when the Astros were lucky at the right time. Whether it was scoring the game winner when a simple pitch and catch could have gunned down the winning run or watching balls barely bounce off an opponent’s glove for a critical double or having the opponent whack line drives right at our fielders at a crucial time in the game, there were a lot of times when one play made the difference in winning or losing. The team was excellent, but so were their opponents and sometimes it was the luck that never smiled on them for 55 previous seasons that shone through.
- The Rebound. We saw what happened to Dallas Keuchel in 2016 after winning the Cy Young in 2015. He admitted that he did not prepare enough in the off-season, that there was too much wining and dining and schmoozing. After weeks of the guys going to awards shows, going to the late night shows, being wined and dined and schmoozed will they rebound in time for next season?
- Too much respect. We’ve seen it in many places, especially with coaches and GMs. They win that first title and they are “made” men. It is like getting tenure. They get a free ride for a number of seasons no matter what poor decisions and poor moves they make.
- $$. Sometimes winning the championship makes player’s minds to wander about the money. It is obvious that in their run to the first championship, Jose Altuve did not let the fact that he is grossly underpaid affect the way he performed. But at some time, if thoughts go to ME rather than TEAM, things can unravel.
- Worrying too much about the window closing. Big example is the Rockets after winning their second championship. They got tied up too much in worrying about making the BIG moves to get a third or more championship and went and grabbed over the hill Charles Barkley and Scottie Pippen. This did not make them a better team and in their case made them older and helped the window to close faster rather than bring in another quick championship.
So those are just some thoughts about the challenges facing the Astros. The plus side is that the core of the team is quite young and controlled for a while. But they do have some parts that might start slowing down – like Brian McCann, Josh Reddick, Justin Verlander, etc. I think the Astros will win it again soon, but maybe not in 2018.