Maybe it’s the return of those lovably gaudy tequila sunrise jerseys. Perhaps Sports Illustrated was right when they proclaimed the Astros 2017 World Series champions on a 2014 front page story.
However you characterize it, few can look past the success of the Houston Astros in the first half of the baseball season.
A barometer of that success has been building over the last few months. Houston’s 60-29 first half record, highlighted by an uplifting 19-1 rout of the Toronto Blue Jays last week, showed the dominance Houston has had on the league. It also gives them home-field advantage in the World Series, should they get there.
According to ESPN, the Astros’ run differential at the All-Star break (+162) is the fourth highest of any team in the history of baseball.
On Tuesday, six Astros, one of those being injured pitcher Dallas Keuchel, made the roster for baseball’s much hyped, low stakes All-Star game.
The Astros are first in their division, first in the American League.
And to think it was only four years ago the Astros were an abysmal mess that lost 111 games in a season.
How far the Astros have come since that time has been nothing short of remarkable. The rebuilding and restructuring effort conducted by millionaire Jim Crane has been a gargantuan feat.
Since he took over the team several years ago, Crane brought in the talents of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Carrera. He helped stockpile a bullpen with the arms of Keuchel, Lance McCulllers, Jr. and so many others.
Having so much talent in a franchise sometimes leads to egos bubbling to the top. Such issues don’t seem apparent at the surface level for the Astros.
Such selflessness is a boon for a fanbase that’s waited far too long for a return to success.
However, pennants aren’t won before the All-Star break. World Series clinching champagne showers in the locker room don’t happen in July.
There’s a lot of work to do for a Houston team that’s now got the attention of the American League.
The 47-win Cleveland Indians perhaps pose the greatest playoff threat to the Astros in the long run. Perennial powerhouses in the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees could also be problematic.
And then there’s the potential for a second half meltdown. Atlanta Braves and New York Mets fans can attest to that.
Even if Houston gets to the playoffs, struggles to perform are a constant in the franchise’s history.
Yet there is something a little different with this team.
They’re determined and talented, but most of all, consistent.
If the Astros play their cards right, a World Series Champions banner may finally be raised to the rafters in Texas.