Ah, the joy of rooting for a World Champion! Yes, you get the roller coaster emotion of every inning during the month of October, and you get the sheer joy of the final out in early November. You get the parade two days later, and you get the bragging rights on Twitter against every fan base that knows their team is just a notch or twelve below yours.
And every single damn one of these preseason lists, like the MLB Top 100 Now, is basically an homage to your baseball team... because your team is the champion, your team is dominant, your team is the Houston Astros! So without further ado, in case you hadn't heard, the Astros placed eight players on the MLB Network's Top 100 Now.
Here are the Elite Eight of Houston Astros:
2. Jose Altuve, 2B, Astros
The reigning AL MVP, Altuve helped the Astros win their first World Series title last fall. He has led the AL in hits in each of the past four seasons while also leading the league in batting average three times in that span.
10. Carlos Correa, SS, Astros
Correa figures to be a Top 10 player for years to come, as he already has won a World Series title, been an All-Star and earned the AL Rookie of the Year Award in three big league seasons since being the top pick in the 2012 Draft.
24. George Springer, OF, Astros
29. Justin Verlander, SP, Astros
57. Alex Bregman, 3B, Astros
64. Dallas Keuchel, SP, Astros
70. Josh Reddick, OF, Astros
76. Marwin Gonzalez, Util, Astros
A few thoughts on this list, both Astros-related and general thoughts:
1. As a point of reference, in the 2017 version of this list, a year ago, the Astros had just three players in the Top 100 — Altuve (5), Correa (20), and Springer (41). Their future teammate, Justin Verlander, was rated 43rd. I would say the Astros not on this list for 2018 that are most likely to crack the 2019 Top 100 Now are Lance McCullers, Yuli Gurriel, and Gerrit Cole.
2. The Astros are one of three teams, along with the Nationals and the Yankees, to have eight players rated in the Top 100, although the Astros are the only team with eight in the top 76. They are also the only team with two in the top 10, and with four in the top 30. In case you're wondering, the National League champion Dodgers have seven players in the top 100.
3. Three teams placed zero players in the Top 100 — Tampa Bay, Kansas City, and Pittsburgh. (It was four, until Eric Hosmer signed with the Padres on Saturday night.) If you're wondering how their fans feel, just ask any diehard Astros fan how they felt in, say, 2012.
4. Two players on the list still have not found homes yet in Major League Baseball, as the Great Free Agent Freeze of 2018 continues to linger over baseball. J.D. Martinez, former Astro, is 25th on the list, and Jake Arrieta is 72nd on the list. (Eric Hosmer was one of these, too, until he signed with the Padres on Saturday night.) Worth noting, both are represented by Scott Boras. Also worth noting, Dallas Keuchel is represented by Scott Boras. So is Jose Altuve. And Marwin Gonzalez. Let's continue, this is reducing my happiness....
5. The Texas Rangers don't show up on this list until number 55, where 87-year-old third baseman Adrian Beltre is ranked. The Rangers only had two players on the entire list, and all I can think is that I can't wait for a healthy Deshaun Watson to return so that we can dominate Dallas in all three of the big sports.
6. One of the rumored deals that could happen for the Astros before the season starts is a trade for Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, which makes it pertinent to know that he is number 82 on this list. That would be a nice pickup for the Astros, depending on what they need to give up.
7. Reliving the postseason from last year, the Astros got to the number 39 (Kenley Jansen), number 44 (Craig Khimbrel), and number 65 (Aroldis Chapman) players on this list, all closers, in the late innings of crucial playoff games, one more way of quantifying just how clutch this team was all season, and especially in the playoffs.
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8. Finally, the thing I love about the eight Astro players on here is the varied backgrounds and methods from which they arrived in Houston. The biggest myth about this new championship core nucleus of the Astros is that "The reason they're now world champions is because they tanked for a few years, got a bunch of high picks, and now they're champions!" That is so misguided, and honestly, a little disrespectful toward GM Jeff Luhnow, whose spatial thinking shows in the various ways he's deployed and acquired these eight guys. The only two of the eight that you can argue they got due to being a bad baseball team are Correa and Bregman, both chosen with high draft picks, yet even with both of those picks, they still had to choose the right guy. (NOTE: The Astros had the first pick in 2013, and chose the wrong guy, Mark Appel.... but they're champs, so who cares.)
Three of the players came from previous GM regime (Tim Purpura, Ed Wade) — Altuve was signed for 15 grand at a tryout camp in Venezuela in 2006, Springer was the team's first round pick in 2011, and Keuchel was a seventh round pick in 2009. Verlander came over in that late August trade last season for some decent prospects, Reddick was signed to a four year deal before last season, and Marwin Gonzalez came over in a 2011 trade for someone named Marco Duarte.
So yeah, there needed to be some high draft choices along the way, but this list is a testament to the shrewdness and resourcefulness of general manager Jeff Luhnow.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.