In 2005, the Houston Astros lost to the Chicago White Sox in four straight games in a World Series that is really only deemed classic and memorable in the minds of baseball fans from Chicago’s South Side. After that World Series, most Astros fans thought that they were about to embark on many more years of winning and that losing in the World Series four games to none was just the start.
They couldn’t have been any more wrong.
After 2005, the ‘Stros would move into pure mediocrity for five years and then dreadful losing for four. In the past five years, the Astros have had three 100-loss seasons. Last year in 2014, they still lost 92 games. Since 2005, the Astros have gone through eight different managers.
Sorry that I had to point that out Astros fans.
But the franchise’s best move was bringing in a scout named Jeff Luhnow from the St. Louis Cardinals in 2011 to be their next General Manager.
In Luhnow’s first year with the team, he plunged the team into a complete rebuild that would last them four grueling years. Some could say the rebuild started when they only won 56 games in 2011. But, it really started when they called up 5’-5″ Jose Altuve, who would become the core of the future juggernaut.
During the time between 2011 and 2014, the Astros traded away all of their stars from the previous run they had that ended in 2005 and some they’d had that came onto the scene after: Roy Oswalt, Lance Berkman, Hunter Pence, Michael Bourn, Carlos Lee and many others. As that group left, another group came in.
In Luhnow’s first year, he drafted outfielder George Springer, who torpedoed through the farm system and paid instant dividends for the team last year and especially this year. In 2012, Luhnow drafted shortstop Carlos Correa who in his first year with the big club, is already batting .304 with seven home runs and 19 RBIs. In 2013 and 2014, Luhnow drafted Mark Appel and Brady Aiken who were both first overall picks in their respective drafts.
This year in 2015, the tides are turning for the Astros in a big way. They are the best team in the American League, and they don’t have a single “superstar” yet. No big-name free agents, no huge payroll. In fact, the Astros have the second-lowest payroll in all of baseball with it being at just over $69 million.
The team consists of mostly home-grown players such as Altuve, Springer, Dallas Keuchel, Correa, Jason Castro and Colin McHugh, who by the way, have all impacted this team at huge levels. The team does have a few signings such as Evan Gattis, Colby Rasmus and Chris Carter.
But still, nothing major.
What’s ironic is that this isn’t even the best this team will be: there are tons of prospects in the farm system for the Astros who just aren’t ready for the bright lights yet, but will be come next year and years following.
Will the Astros win the World Series this year? No, probably not due to their inexperience. But with the experience they’ll gain from this years playoffs, they’ll look to build on that for future shots at the Fall Classic.
Luhnow’s rebuild is the perfect example of patience: live through the grueling years so you can then enjoy the great ones.
It just may take awhile.