In 2014, Sports Illustrated made a bold proclamation.
The cover of the June issue from that year declared that the Houston Astros would claim the World Series in 2017.
Tonight, the Astros will take on the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 1 of the World Series.
“When you’re in 2017, you don’t really care that much about whether you lost 98 or 107 in 2012,” Astros general manager Jeff Luhnow presciently told the magazine three years ago. “You care about how close we are to winning a championship in 2017.”
The article explored how the Astros utilized the tactic of tanking—intentionally sucking and trading veterans away in the name of sweet, sweet draft picks and prospects, a method usually associated with the NBA—to create a contender.
The front office pushed for the tank job after a miserable 106-loss season in 2011. They then lost 107 and 111 in the next two years, and fell 92 times in 2014, when SI made their prediction.
“You look at how other organizations have done it, they’ve tried to maintain a .500 level as they prepare to be good in the future,” Luhnow said at the time. “That path is probably necessary in some markets. But it takes 10 years. Our fans have already been on this decline, from 2006 to 2011. It’s not like we’re starting fresh.
“Would it be the right strategy for somebody else who had a great farm system and up-and-coming players already at the big league level? No. But for us, it was. When you’re in 2017, you don’t really care that much about whether you lost 98 or 107 in 2012. You care about how close we are to winning a championship in 2017.”
The Stros’ race to the bottom yielded them cornerstones like Carlos Correa, Alex Bregman, Ken Giles, and Lance McCullers, who(se curveball) slammed the door on the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
If the Astros pull the series out, it’d be the second year in a row a high-profile corner of the media accurately called the result of the fall classic.
In the final season of Parks & Recreation, which aired in 2015 but took place in 2017, the Chicago Cubs had been victorious in the 2016 World Series.
Two years ago, in a season that took place in the summer of 2017: pic.twitter.com/p8jaYZNwcT
— Ken Tremendous (@KenTremendous) November 3, 2016