In June of 2014, the story on the cover of Sports Illustrated predicted the Houston Astros would win the World Series in 2017.
At the time, the pick seemed to be one of those cheeky little pieces that magazines write to look clever or hip or ahead of the crowd.
But here they are, an American League pennant in tow, and four wins away from that World Series SI promised.
The Astros were one of only three teams to win 100 games this year, and will meet the Dodgers in the Fall Classic.
It marks the first time since the Orioles beat Cincinnati 47 years ago that two teams that won 100 games in the regular season are playing in the World Series.
That magazine cover seemed especially dumb at the time, considering that the team was coming off a run as the worst team in baseball, with three straight 100-loss seasons.
The Astros have only had five winning seasons since they were swept by the Chicago White Sox in the Series 12 years ago.
And it wasn’t until two years after they joined the American League in 2013 that things bottomed out.
By then, Astros’ management led by Reid Ryan, the son of Hall of Fame pitcher and former Astro Nolan Ryan, had tapped what would be the nucleus of the team the nation will see starting Tuesday night.
Everything in Houston begins with second baseman Jose Altuve. The 5-foot-6 inch Venezuelan native has been nothing short of a revelation, capturing three American League batting titles, including this season’s.
In the process, he has added power to his repertoire, and is the odds-on favorite to win his first American League Most Valuable Player award.
Shortstop Carlos Correa, the first player overall in the 2012 draft and center fielder George Springer, the prize of the 2011 draft, have provided valuable support for Altuve as well as solid defense.
The club’s pitching staff, led by homegrown starters Dallas Keuchel and Lance McCullers, helped the Astros navigate most of the regular season.
But it was Ryan who engineered the biggest save of the year. The Astros led their division for every day from April 14 on, but hit a bit of a dry spell in August.
It was on the last day of the month, a mere two minutes before the deadline to be eligible for the postseason, when Ryan acquired pitcher Justin Verlander, a former Cy Young Award winner, from Detroit.
Verlander helped steady the ship and won two games in the American League Championship Series, earning series MVP honors.
Verlander carries a hefty price tag, but the Astros weren’t afraid to add to their payroll to take a chance at winning.
If you’re an Orioles fan, you have to hope management in the warehouse is paying attention.
At any rate, you’ve got a built-in rooting interest for the Series. After all, like the Birds, the Astros wear orange. And they’ve already beaten the Red Sox and Yankees in October.
Who knows? Maybe there’s a Sports Illustrated World Series prediction in the offing for the Orioles. One can dream, can’t one?
And that’s how I see it for this week.