Four years doesn't seem all that long ago, until you think of where Houston was as a sports city this time back in 2013 — Matt Schaub was the Texans quarterback, the Rockets were preparing to fly virtually the whole organization to Los Angeles to woo Dwight Howard in free agency, and the Astros were in the middle of a 51-111 season.
Now, four years later, Matt Schaub is on his third team since leaving Houston, Dwight Howard just got traded by his hometown team (Atlanta) for one of the Plumlees, and the Astros are the best team in all of Major League Baseball. Times they are a-changin', and no longer are the Astros represented at the All-Star Game by one token All-Star, as they were with Jason Castro in 2013.
Indeed, the Astros are a talented team with marketable stars, and for confirmation of that, you needn't look any further than the latest All-Star voting totals, in which three Astros would be starting in the All-Star Game if the polls closed today:
1. JOSE ALTUVE, ASTROS: 2,185,035
2. Starlin Castro, Yankees: 1,450,472
3. Jason Kipnis, Indians: 703,131
4. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox: 429,194
5. Robinson Cano, Mariners: 417,347
1. CARLOS CORREA, ASTROS: 1,658,255
2. Francisco Lindor, Indians: 1,300,013
3. Didi Gregorius, Yankees: 871,601
4. Xander Bogaerts, Red Sox: 750,708
5. Troy Tulowitzki, Blue Jays: 507,763
1. Aaron Judge, Yankees: 2,631,284
2. Mike Trout, Angels: 2,030,074
3. GEORGE SPRINGER, ASTROS: 1,176,951
4. Michael Brantley, Indians: 1,001,254
5. Avisail Garcia, White Sox: 970,994
6. Mookie Betts, Red Sox: 946,510
7. CARLOS BELTRAN, ASTROS: 834,067
8. Brett Gardner, Yankees: 760,869
9. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays: 725,734
10. Andrew Benintendi, Red Sox: 704,484
11. JOSH REDDICK, ASTROS: 656,317
12. Lonnie Chisenhall, Indians: 617,760
13. Kevin Pillar, Blue Jays: 532,114
14. Adam Jones, Orioles: 525,980
15. Abraham Almonte, Indians: 518,150
Pretty cool that not only are WE IN HOUSTON seeing the sustained greatness of Altuve and the burgeoning success of Correa and Springer, but so is the rest of the country — at least those people with Internet access and a keen interest in the MLB All-Star Game. Even at the positions where the Astros trail in the vote, they are at least within respectable shouting distance. In addition to Carlos Beltran (7th) and Josh Roddick (11th) in the outfield, Brian McCann (2nd, catcher), Alex Bregman (5th, third base) and Evan Gattis (5th, DH) are all among the top five vote getters at their positions.
So, on my radio show a few weeks ago, just before the Astros went on an 11-game winning streak, I set the over/under for "total Astros selected to the All-Star Game" at 3.5. It didn't take long for me to regret making that number too low. Hell, the Astros are about to get three from fan voting alone. So to go OVER the 3.5 number that I set, you'd need the AL manager to pick a pitcher or reserve, or have the fans pick an Astro in the online voting for the final spot on the roster.
So it raises the question — will the Astros get anyone else beside Altuve, Correa and Springer (assuming they all stay in pole position in the fan voting — fan voting closes June 29 at 10:59 p.m. CDT)? Who are the candidates? Let's take a look (stats as of Wednesday afternoon)...
DALLAS KEUCHEL (9-0, 1.67 ERA, 0.87 WHIP)
Keuchel played some soft toss earlier this week, and truth be told, statistically he could plunk down his body of work thus far without throwing another pitch before the All-Star break and would deserve to make the All-Star team. He hasn't pitched since June 2 and is still tied for second in the AL in wins with a 1.67 ERA, which leads every other starter by more than half a run.
LANCE McCULLERS (6-1, 2.58 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)
McCullers won AL Pitcher of the month for May, and after a stint on the disabled list is set to retake his spot in the rotation this Saturday in Seattle. If McCullers just has another normal McCullers start and is healthy, he should join his teammates in Miami.
BRIAN McCANN (.277/.363/.491, 10 HR, 37 RBI)
McCann still has a very outside shot at getting voted in, although it would take a monster effort among Astros fan voters against a catcher who plays for the team with the most deranged All Star voting chops of any fan base. McCann could make it as a backup, although he will get stiff competition from Alex Avila (DET) and Gary Sanchez (NYY).
KEN GILES (17 saves, 3.62 ERA, 1.06 WHIP)
Giles is among the league leaders in saves, although on the best team in baseball, he should be through mere quantity of opportunity. The reality is that Giles has been a little too inconsistent to merit All-Star status; his mid-3's ERA is an indicator of that.
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CHRIS DEVENSKI (4-3, 2.58 ERA, 1.06 WHIP, 10 holds, 2 saves)
WILL HARRIS (2-2, 2.17 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 13 holds, 2 saves)
Not sure if they will carry any middle relievers on the squad, but Devenski has been crucially valuable in his versatility and ability to go multiple innings, especially in the first month of the season. Harris was an All-Star last season when he was holding down closer's duties.
MARWIN GONZALEZ (.310/.400/.577, 12 HR, 37 RBI)
This one will be interesting. For the first month of the season, Gonzalez was leading this team in nearly every offensive category, despite not holding down a regular position. It's late June, and Gonzalez has cooled off slightly, but his body of work is worthy of All-Star consideration. My guess — Gonzalez is left off the squad in the reserve selection process, but will get his chance as one of the five players fans can vote on for the final All-Star spot.
PREDICTION: Correa, Altuve, Springer, Keuchel, McCullers
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.