Apologies to Stephen Sondheim, but as much as he may have loved George Seurat’s paintings, that is how much we will all miss the heart of our Astros, George Springer.
George first came to our consciousness as the team was falling to the depths of their rebuild. He was drafted 11th in the first round out of Connecticut in 2011 when the team went 56-106. The next season as the big club fell to 55-107, we salivated about the young stud tearing up A+ ball at Lancaster (who didn’t?), though he fell off a bit in a call-up to AA Corpus. The tough season was 2013. Astros fans had to watch the likes of Brandon Barnes, L.J. Hoes, Trevor Crowe, Justin Maxwell, Marc Krauss, Jimmy Paredes, Rick Ankiel and Fernando Martinez suck up outfield at bats with the 51-111 Astros, while Springer was creaming AA and AAA pitchers to the tune of .303 BA/ .411 OBP/ 1.010 OPS/ 106 runs/ 37 HRs/ 108 RBIs/ 45 SBs. It was additional torture to see the team break camp in 2014 and head to Houston without Springer as they waited until mid-April to call him up and give him his major league debut.
The transparent attempt to delay George’s debut and push out his eligibility for free agency meant that this post was written about 2 years later than it might have been scribed. Might the Astros have extended him heading into 2019, if he had been eligible for free agency then? We will never know. But Springer debuted on April 14, 2014, and after his first 15 games where he meekly hit .180 BA/ .254 OBP/ .467 OPS with 0 HRs and 3 RBIs, we were wondering what the big deal was about. He then turned things around hitting 20 HRs with 46 RBIs in his next 63 games before being sidelined with a quad strain. When he did play, he was a critical new part of the team and came in 8th in Rookie of the Year voting. MMQB: It’s Springer’s World, we’re just living in it | CHIPALATTA
Looking at George Springer in his seven seasons with the Astros, there are both the statistical contributions and the team’s intangible contributions. He was a three-time All Star, a two time Silver Slugger award winner and received MVP votes for the regular season three times. Of course, no fan will forget how he went from a wildly swinging and missing windmill in the 2017 ALCS (and the first game of the World Series) to the eventual MVP of that 2017 World Series. Even though he played in about 30%+ fewer games than the players in the top 10 in Astros history, he still does show up in a few of the career stats tied to power. His 174 HRs are 5th all-time for the team, and he is 6th in both Slugging (.491) and OPS (.852). We can only dream about where he would have gone in the next five or six years.
But George was always more than just about the on-field performance. He was a symbol of a rising star for a phoenix team rising from the ashes. He was the inspiration behind “Club Astros” where they turned the Astros’ clubhouse into a mini-night club after wins. He always seemed to be in the midst of their dugout celebrations, especially those honoring others’ accomplishments. His support of those (like himself) who suffered from stuttering was inspirational. And he proved to cynics like myself that the leadoff man for the team did not have to be a traditional on-base, base stealing fiend to trigger what turned out to be a lethal offense.
It will be tough watching the team this season without their longtime “heart”. We will eventually get used to it, but there will be times when we will wish we had this fine man and fine player patrolling center field for us.