Sean Pendergast

Four Reasons This Astros Playoff Run Is Their Most Urgent

Fully washing away the taste of the sign stealing scanda has to be an unspoken goal of Altuve and the Astros. l
Fully washing away the taste of the sign stealing scanda has to be an unspoken goal of Altuve and the Astros. l Photo by Jack Gorman
For the fifth straight October there will be a spike in champagne sales in the Houston area, as the Houston Astros clinched their fourth division title in five seasons last week, clinched home field advantage in the divisional round over the weekend, and now prepare to make a little bit more history over the next several weeks.

The goal, of course, is to win the 2021 World Series, which would give this core nucleus of Correa, Altuve, Bregman, Gurriel, and McCullers (sorry Verlander, know you're on the team, but you actually have to pitch to be acknowledged) its second title and advance the conversation about just how great this window of championship-level Astros baseball has been.

A win in the ALDS over the White Sox, and, at the very least, the Astros would make one revision to the record books, as they would become the first American League team in the Wild Card Era to appear in five straight League Championship Series. However, for a handful of reasons having nothing to do with quantitative records like that, the Astros are approaching this postseason with their greatest sense of urgency of any recent playoff run.

Here's why:


4. A World Series title is all that's left for Dusty Baker
When the Astros clinched the division title late last week, Baker became the first manager in MLB history to win a division championship with five different teams. That's a nice feather in his cap, and while 2,000 career wins is within reach, should the Astros keep him around for two more seasons, the one thing that can punch Baker's ticket to Cooperstown would be his finally leading a team to a  world championship. The Astros spent most of the second half of the season as the favorite in Vegas to come out of the American League, and getting home field advantage in this divisional round against the white Sox, a juggernaut on their own hole field, was a key "get" over the weekend. If you're a Baker fan, this is a crucial October for his legacy.

3. Winning a World Series without stealing signs would shut everybody up
Only the Astros players really know best, as they're the ones having to deal with nut jobs in these opposing crowds every night, but it seems like the furor over the 2017 sign stealing scandal has simmered to the occasional misinformed take on who exactly on the team was cheating, a couple over-recycled jokes on Twitter, and the occasional "F&%K ALTUVE" chants on the road. That said, while they've been a postseason fixture and one of the best hitting teams in baseball since winning row World Series in 2017, the Astros haven't won the whole thing. Finally hoisting a second trophy can, at least, absolve the remaining 2017 hitters who are still with the squad, and allow their respective legacies to finally be examined through a rational prism.

2. With Correa's likely departure, the window is closing
The standing ovation for Carlos Correa as he left the field before the top of the ninth inning on Sunday was one of the simultaneously coolest and saddest moments I've experienced as a Houston sports fan. It was cool because it was validation for Correa's place on this team and on this city's sports landscape. It also hammered home his evolution as a leader, as he's gone in just two years time, from a punch line two years ago with his massage-induced broken rib to the defiant voice of this organization, as the rest of the baseball world lined up to whack away at them like a pinata for getting caught doing something that, let's face it, MOST teams (if not ALL teams) are doing in some fashion. The Correa ovation was sad, however, because it was practically confirmation that the two sides, Correa and owner Jim Crane, know that there's no number out there that the two sides will agree on once Correa hits free agency after the season.

1. They are our only hope for sports joy in Houston anytime soon
When it comes to winning a title, the only responsibility the Astros have is to themselves, the team's owners, and their season ticket holders. It's not the Astros' responsibility to put an entire city's sports infrastructure on their backs. However, if the Texans' 40-0 loss to the Bills on Sunday hammered home anything, it's that the only team Houston sports fans will derive any championship level joy from anytime soon is these Astros. The Texans are an abject mess, and the Rockets are fun, but very young, and several seasons away from contending for anything substantial. So here's to you, Jose Altuve... a city of sports fans turns its lonely eyes to you.

Woo, woo, woo.


Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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Sean Pendergast is a contributing freelance writer who covers Houston area sports daily in the News section, with periodic columns and features, as well. He also hosts afternoon drive on SportsRadio 610, as well as the post game show for the Houston Texans.
Contact: Sean Pendergast