Until last year, I had never seen my team win a World Series. Because of this, until this year I have never entered a new baseball season, seen pitchers and catchers report, with my team as a defending champion that the rest of the league is trying to catch up to. For the first time, I can dream of a dynasty, dream of going back to back, something non baseball team has been able to do since the 1998-2000 Yankees. And that thought is real, the Astros are still at the beginning of their run, they've gotten better. Spring always brings out the dreamers in the baseball world, but this is not a dream, this is a defense.
The Astros enter this season with all the possibilities ahead of them. Fangraphs projects them to win 101 games, which is the first time they've projected a team to win 100 since the 2005 Cardinals (who went 101-61). They project the Astros to have the best offense, and allow the fewest runs. They project them to have the best position players by WAR, and best pitchers by WAR. Aside from injury, there are no holes. Of course, what gives me pause, aside from my normal pessimism, is that it is never so easy in baseball.
we only have to look one year back, and the Cubs were seen to be on the cusp of a truly special run. Instead, the Cubs languished around .500 for the first half of the season, barely won the division, and while they did go to the NLCS they were tossed aside. Surrounding their relative disappointment from a results perspective was a larger one from a general atmosphere or feeling perspective. Gone were the lovably Cubbies, in were players that didn't have the same verve, or guys like Jake Arrieta falling apart. The dream turned into a disaster. The Astros need to avoid this fate.
They have the tools to do so. The 2016 Cubs were built on a good offense to be sure, but a great year from a lot of pitchers, and one of the best team defenses ever. Their pitching was much more spotty in 2017, the defense fell to merely good, and they fell off. The 2017 Astros were built on a historic level of offense, and while they probably won't collectively be as good, there are signs for improvement. Sure, Marwin Gonzalez and Josh Reddick will likely fall off a bit, but maybe Carlos Correa doesn't miss 40 games, and Alex Bregman picks up where he left off.
Then there's the pitching. It will be great watching these bevy of good starting pitcher. They have their keys in Verlander and Keuchel, but McCullers is great when healthy, Charlie Morton throws 95+ now, and of course they brought in Gerritt Cole, former #1 overall pick, and look to rebuild him the way they rebuilt the last ex-Pirate (Morton). Of course, injuries will occur, which is why it is so good they have other starting pitching options masquerading in the bullpen (Colin McHugh and Brad Peacock). No, the Astros are without weakness.
But baseball doesn't care for perfection in that way. Even the best teams will lose 35-40% of their games. Baseball will test those limits of infallibity the Astros seem to be operating under, and I can't wait for it to get started all over again. The one hope I have is that the Astros don't get the Red Sox or Cubs post-World Series commercialization bug. I don't want a bunch of pink hats and certainly don'
t want the Astros fans to start being seen as spoiled, entitled and brattish. Leave that for Boston.
The Astros broke camp with so much potential, and I want to soak all of it up, from pitchers and catchers reporting, to hopefully another long run into October. This won't last forever. I know that. The first fork in the road is coming this upcoming offseason, when Dallas Keuchel hits free agency. Jose Altuve the year after. Then Springer, Correa, McCullers, Bregman. in the years to come. Hopefully they can keep some of these guys, but there's a chance they don't or pick the wrong ones. Hard decisions are coming, but not for now.
For now, the Astros are potentially a special team, with special players, defending a title they rightfully earned, and while despite how good they are the chances remain they won't earn it back this time, I'm ready to see them go out and try.