When Sports Illustrated crowned the Houston Astros “2017 World Series Champs” back in 2014, it was George Springer who graced the cover. Then a 25-year-old rookie, the outfielder was getting a baptism by fire on a 92-loss team. The franchise had lost 100-plus in each of the previous years. Things were brightening but still bleak. The cover was aspiration but far-fetched.
When the Houston Astros won the 2017 World Series late Wednesday night in Los Angeles, it was George Springer who led the way .(379/.471/1.000). The leadoff man rebounded from a lifeless ALCS (.115/.233/.115) to win the Most Valuable Player award and brought a title to East Texas for the first time.
After striking out in all four of his Game 1 at-bats, Springer was mired in a 3-for-30 slump. Then he awoke, going 11-for-25 in the final six games. Springer crushed a record-tying five homers in the series, including one each in Games 4-7. Ten of his 11 hits went for extra bases and he drove in seven runs.
Springer also showed a flair for the dramatic. His first four Fall Classic homers either tied the game or gave Houston a lead. His 11th-inning, two-run blast in Game 2 proved to be the game winner. His Game 5 moonshot knotted things up at 8-8 in the seventh inning — and the Astros would go on to win in 10. And in Game 6, Springer delivered the knockout blow: a no-doubter to give Houston a 3-0 cushion en route to a 5-1 win.
Springer outshined even likely AL MVP Jose Altuve and aces Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel to earn the honor. As he did all season, he didn’t so much set the table as clear it. Springer hit 34 homers, slugged .522 and posted a .889 OPS during the regular season. This earned him his first All-Star selection. It won’t be his last.
It’s fitting that Springer, the cover boy of years past, would be the leading man on baseball’s biggest stage. Selected 11th overall out of Connecticut in 2011, the outfielder had all the tools. His father pitched in the Little League World Series and his mother was a gymnast.
Springer stuttered as a child and would often stay silent unless around close friends and family. He has grown into a vocal leader in the Houston clubhouse and a willing interviewee.
There’s a certain bit of mysticism to SI’s bold prediction coming true. So you can forgive those who want to attribute it to destiny. But that would be unfair to Springer and the Astros. The young players matured into stars and executed a brilliant plan set forth from the front office.
The Astros won the 2017 World Series because they were the best team in baseball and played like it. They won because players like Springer developed according to plan and embraced the big moment.