Two Teams. Two Paths.
The 2001 Seattle Mariners and the 1998 New York Yankees are the only two teams since the MLB moved to 162 games to have a record above .700 in a season. One team went on to win a world series, the other lost early in the playoffs and have never been back since. These two similar teams on paper were built drastically different. One was built for a dynasty and the other was an imitation. As the Astros are on pace to match these two team’s records after a third of the 2017 season comes to a close, the one question left to ask is ‘What team will these Astros be?’
With a 38-16 record, the Astros are the best team in the league this season. Building from early season success, they only seem to be getting better this time around. From shutting teams out completely to miraculously scoring 11 runs in one inning, they seem to have the formula to keep winning. And with every W they add to the standings, it seems to be combined with a multitude of bandwagon fans that must have been sleeping since 2005, as well as haters that are betting on the Astros to fail. And fail they might. These Astros are not a household name yet nor should they be. They completely missed the playoffs last year and were one and done the season before. That doesn’t equate to being champions by any means. All this claim of Houston being the new top dogs in baseball can just be misinterpreted by a string of good luck they’ve had or a dumb analysts way-too-early claim that they’re a dynasty. And learning from history, regular season means nothing. The ’01 Mariners can attest to that. They won 116 games in a season and still lost in the second round. They had claims of being a dynasty because they made the playoffs for the second year in a row and seemed stronger than ever, but they never made the playoffs again. This can also be the very same fate for this year Astros, and it would not be the biggest surprise. But there is something different with this Astros team. Something that screams success.
The Astros are on pace to match The 1998 New York Yankees, who finished the season at 114- 48, and if these teams have more similarities than just records, then the Astros have a bright future. The Yankees finished that season as world champions and finished the next 8 years first in their division. They had the players and they had the determination, and this led to the powerhouse they became. I see many similarities in these young guns from Houston. When they step up to the plate, they swing like every game is the playoffs. This will to win has led to their success at batting. They lead the league with the highest AVG (.277), Runs (292), RBI’s (274), and Hits (512), and are second in home runs with a whopping 82. This team led by Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve are so good its easy to forget how young they are. With impact players like Correa and Bregman in their early 20’s and Altuve and Springer both 27, this team not only shows they are capable of succeeding now, but have the promise of growth and success in the future. Yet the most promising young player might be on the other side of the mound. Behind ace pitcher Dallas Keuchel playing like he did in his incredible 2015 campaign, its easy to forget the success that Lance Mccullers is having. Mccullers, 23, is having the season of his life, garnering a record of 6-1 thus far. He continues to add new pitches to his arsenal that complement his fastball that has carried him so far, and he lights the league on fire every night he plays. He, along with his players. Their success is not monotonous and routine as if you’re watching a Mayweather fight or a Popovich led team play. These Astros are primetime, action packed, Kardashian-esque drama TV that leaves you at the edge of your seat, and game after game the team in orange and blue comes out victorious. And paired with the laughter and jokes they share each night, the future of this team looks so bright. They do not act like athletes. They do not act as workers doing their job. They act as brothers doing what they love most together. The success and chemistry of this team shows so much promise of a dynasty that America can accept and cling to. And they show no evidence of slowing down any time soon.
The 2017 Astros are not the 1998 Yankees because they have not matched their success nor have they earned that level of respect yet, but if this season so far is any indication, they can be. They have every quality a prosperous sports dynasty needs: Success, Age, Determination, Marketability, and Chemistry. All the pieces are in place, it is just up to the Astros to execute. It’s now up to the team to determine what path they are going to take.