END OF THE JINX
The Sports Illustrated cover curse is now dead.
On the June 30, 2014 issue, while the Astros were in the middle of a 92-loss season after three consecutive 100-loss seasons, Sports Illustrated predicted the Astros would win the 2017 World Series.
It wasn't just some wild hot take. It was based on the fact that the Astros were collecting some of the brightest young players in the game through the draft.
So, might we get the folks at Sports Illustrated to predict the Rays will be the 2020 World Series champ?
Sorry. No such luck. Ben Reiter, the SI baseball writer who wrote the Astros story in 2014, said in an interview with ESPN that if he had to guess now who would win the World Series in three years, he would take the New York Yankees.
RAISE THE BANNER
Mark down June 28, 2018 on your calendar. The world champion Astros come to St. Pete and that's the day when the Tropicana Field should raise a banner to celebrate their World Series title. After all, the Astros are ours, too, aren't they?
Displaced by Hurricane Harvey, the Astros moved into the Trop for a three-game series against the Rangers last August. And it was during that series that I had a chance to have extended conversations with three key figures in the Astros' success: manager A.J. Hinch, World Series MVP George Springer and pitcher Dallas Keuchel.
You won't meet a classier bunch of men. They spent way more time talking about the storm victims of Houston than they did baseball.
While sportswriters are not in the business of rooting for anyone, I could not help but smile watching the Astros celebrate the first World Series title in franchise history. So go out next June when the Astros come to town and give them a well-deserved hand.
SKIP GAME 7
Not a great Game 7 for Dodgers manager Dave Roberts. He didn't have his infield in far enough when Houston pitcher Lance McCullers drove in a run on a weak grounder to second to give the Astros a 3-0 lead in the second. He left starting pitcher Yu Darivish in one batter too long and paid for it when George Springer hit a two-run homer to make it 5-0. And, you have to question batting Cody Bellinger in the clean-up spot even though Bellinger struggled most of the series, striking out a World Series-record 17 times.
FINAL FINAL THOUGHTS
Fox's John Smoltz is the best analyst baseball has ever had. Yes, you read that right: best ever. … Speaking of Darvish, a tip of the cap to how he handled being on the receiving end of a racist gesture by Houston's Yuli Gurriel. He was forgiving and graceful throughout the whole ordeal. Gurriel, if you missed it, tipped his cap to Darvish before his first at-bat in Game 7. It could have been an ugly situation, but Darvish could not have handled it better. … Too bad Tampa native Lance McCullers didn't have a better start for Houston in Game 7, but, in the end, he didn't allow a run in his 2 1/3 innings.