George Springer, World Series MVP, might be the best story on a team full of great stories – Chicago Tribune
Let George Springer stand for all the champion Houston Astros who beat the Los Angeles Dodgers, 5-1, in Game 7 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium on Wednesday night. Springer personifies them in so many ways.
From his status as a gifted high draft pick who is likely to be a core Houston star for years to come, to his resilience in the past month while he battled a horrid slump, to his decision long ago to use his baseball fame to stand for a larger cause than himself, Springer exemplifies the best in all of them.
The Astros center fielder and leadoff man not only led off Game 7 with a double off Yu Darvish, but, one inning later, knocked the Dodgers starter out of the game with a booming home run to center field for a 5-0 Houston lead. With that blow, Springer collected his fifth home run in six games of this Series, ran his incredible total-base count to 29 and reached base for the 16th time.
He was a no-doubt selection for the Willie Mays World Series most valuable player award. Not bad for a guy who hit .115 in the American League Championship Series before striking out in all four of his Game 1 at-bats against the Dodgers.
But as Springer has explained many times, he has had to learn to overcome frustrations that others can’t imagine. Just to open his mouth and give a postgame interview constitutes a triumph for a man who still fights a stutter, although if you didn’t know it, you could hardly tell.
As a spokesman for Camp SAY (Stuttering Association for the Young), Springer always takes the opportunity to speak up. He even got miked up in the outfield during the All-Star Game to give running commentary on the game in progress.
Just as Springer dedicated himself to that cause for years, he and all his Astros teammates have taken the Houston community to heart after Hurricane Harvey and attempted to exemplify “Houston Strong” on the largest stage they could find. Oh, and how they did it, with two of the most amazing, exhausting indomitable victories in World Series history. With Springer at the center of both.
First, the Astros rallied to win Game 2, a huge victory that allowed them to return to Houston tied at a game apiece. Springer’s two-run homer in the 11th inning was the decisive blow, this after he already had a walk, a single and a double in that marathon. Then they captured Game 5 by the insane score of 13-12, in 10 innings over 5 hours 17 minutes with enormous help from, yes, Springer, who walked twice and scored both times, then hit a titanic homer to tie the game at 8 after his own misplay of a line drive in center field had put Los Angeles ahead. Can’t let stuff hold you down.
After that homer, Springer wasn’t finished in Game 5, getting another hit, then pushing the eventual winning run into scoring position in the 10th inning with a walk off Kenley Jansen.
Other motors have driven the Astro machine in various games. But Springer, who hit 34 homers, scored 112 runs and batted .283, was a constant force. In Game 4, his home run knocked Dodgers starter Alex Wood out of the game. And in Game 6, when the Astros still seemed exhausted for all their efforts in the 13-12 masterwork, Houston’s only run was a Springer homer.
The fulcrum of this Series, and of Springer’s play, was Game 2. After his seven disastrous games against the Yankees, then his four-strikeout start to this Series, a player can hardly fall harder and lower on a bigger baseball stage.
But Astros Manager A.J. Hinch refused to move him down in the lineup and gave him a public vote of confidence. “No, he’s not [moving down in the lineup]. He’ll be leading off,” said Hinch. “He had a tough night at work, and a lot of our guys did. George has struggled. But if he hits the first pitch tomorrow into the gap . . . you’d be amazed how good he feels.”
Instead, Springer just started hitting balls over walls, joining Reggie Jackson and Chase Utley as the only men ever to hit five homers in a World Series.
After his four-strikeout start, Springer said, “You know it. And you press. And you want to do things that you can’t do. For [Hinch] to have my back â hey, you’re still going to hit first, and you’re still going to set the tone for us â it slowed me down. . . . For him to have my back, it means the world to me. And I’ll always have his back.”
Springer’s speech difficulties, which were severe and made him feel solitary and mocked as a boy, were often caused because he simply couldn’t slow down once he started trying to talk. Now, his voice is central to the Astros.
The Astros were so awful for so long that they were able to land a series of high draft picks that panned out. But Springer, who went to the University of Connecticut, was the first prominent talent – the 11th overall pick in ’11.
After him came the Astros’ magnificent shortstop, Carlos Correa, still only 23, who will probably be a perennial MVP candidate for years. Lance McCullers Jr., who started Game 7 but only lasted 2 1/3 scoreless innings, was also a first-round pick. Finally, the Astros landed brilliant third baseman Alex Bregman with the second overall pick in the 2015 draft. Now, a little more than two years later, Bregman has emerged as an all-around star and got the game-winning hit in Game 5.
Perhaps nothing distinguishes the Astros more than their combination of youth, talent and poise. Get used to these names, you’ll be hearing them for years. In 2014, Sports Illustrated did one of the most prescient cover stories in its history, proclaiming the Astros as MLB‘s champions of 2017.