The Astro fans have been under a cloud since January 2020. A dark cloud, not of their making, hung over them since IT occurred. There has been total frustration for nearly 3 years as we were unable to enjoy the first and only World Championship in Astros’ history. The fans have had to hear it from every other fan base, even those whose teams were not that clean themselves.
Well, this is a season and a championship that the cynics and trolls cannot take away, and they cannot tarnish with the dark paint of scandal. Yes, the Astros did it for Dusty Baker, and they did it for themselves, but they also did it for a great fan base that has hung in there through all sorts of adversity. We can be proud of a team that did not ever give up this year and showed that great pitching, great defense, and enough offense equals a championship.
It is amazing that some of the biggest question marks coming into this season became the biggest exclamation points.
- Jeremy Pena had to fill huge shoes and, with some ups and downs, did just that throughout the season. Then when the team reached the playoffs, which so often was Carlos Who’s time, he put the pedal to the metal and won both the ALCS and World Series MVP. What an unbelievable blessing he has been to this team!
- Justin Verlander missed two seasons of baseball other than one start in 2020 and, at age 39, put up an incredible comeback season that likely gave him a third Cy Young award and, finally, his first World Series win.
- Alex Bregman, after a near MVP season in 2019, had struggled through injuries for two seasons that made him look like a pale imitation of himself. He struggled early in 2022 but ended up with a fine season and was a key hitter throughout the postseason.
- Lance McCullers Jr. had to battle back from a 2021 playoff injury and gave the team a shot in the arm towards the end of the 2022 season and into the playoffs. He had one bad start in the World Series but, overall, was a strong contributor.
- Framber Valdez had been good in the 2021 season, but his terrible pitching in the playoffs left people questioning whether he could hold up when things got tight. He was great in 2022 and one of their most reliable pitchers in the playoffs.
- Bryan Abreu had shown a great arm and promise, but a lot of folks thought 2022 was his last shot to prove his worth. Well, he certainly showed what he was made of as he became a beast out of the bullpen down the stretch and throughout the playoffs,
- Rafael Montero looked like a throw-in in the Kendall Graveman trade after a few appearances and an injury that ended 2021 for him. He became an extremely reliable leveraged reliever for the team and the main eighth-inning man.
- Ryan Pressly had been a very reliable cog for the team, but certainly, there were questions about whether the Astros should shell out for a big-armed classic closer to cruise through the season and the playoffs. He was critical to their success as he shut down all comers in a postseason for the ages.
- Dusty Baker – Admit it, we complained about his resting folks and his lineups and his pitching changes, but he guided them all the way through, and they looked like the freshest team as they dispatched all comers.
But of course, this does not include all the other contributors to this championship. The unbelievable starting pitching of Cristian Javier. The solid contributions of Jose Urquidy and Luis Garcia. The unbelievable bookend home runs of Yordan Alvarez as his power won the first and the last playoff games for the Astros this season. Jose Altuve climbing back to the .300 mark for the first time since 2018. The wonderful handling of the pitching staff by Martin Maldonado and his smartness to crowd the place to start their winning rally in Game 6. Yuli and Chas contributed so much defensively and sometimes offensively in the playoffs. To Michael Brantley, who we missed so often – you earned a ring too. The contributions to the bullpen of a shutdown season by Ryne Stanek and fine support by former Phillie Hector Neris.
The Astros needed this and so much more to accomplish a championship. And you were a big part of this as you supported them through all the ups and downs of the 2022 marathon.
My mom got to see this. I wish my dad had. But thank you, Astros. Thank you for making us proud.