If nothing else, we can say that 2021, for Major League Baseball, was a better year than 2020. The shortened season was over and there were far fewer COVID-related issues than expected. The Astros were certainly happy to sweep 2020 under the rug after a rather miserable season, but 2021 was a year of ups and downs for the hometown team.
At the moment we are writing this, the league has locked players out and baseball in 2022 may be in jeopardy. So far, let’s look back on the good and the bad of 2021 here in Houston.
Justin Verlander draws again
After missing out on nearly two full years of action due to the Tommy John operation, the Astros essenet, despite all the rumors to the contrary, have signed a contract with the team for two seasons. As an unlimited free agent, many assumed he would end up with the Yankees or another ultra-rich big market franchise. Instead, he returns to a team now filled with solid starting pitching. Verlander’s experience will help the younger members of staff, and his arm – all indications are that he is fully healthy – will give a huge boost to a team that struggled to find their ace in the playoffs.
Yuli Gurriel wins batting title
At 37, Gurriel became one of the oldest players in MLB history to win the award. Since the day he joined the Astros, Gurriel has been a punching machine. And while his power numbers have dropped, his professional batsman mentality on the record makes him one of the most dangerous bats in the series. He also took his first gold glove at the start, a nod to both his offensive numbers and the fact that he has become an absolutely excellent first baseman.
George Springer leaves
Now to some of the bad. In January, Springer traveled through a free agency to Toronto and signed a $ 150 million six-year deal. The Astros allowed their midfielder to go mainly due to the fact that they did not want to invest long-term in a player on the wrong side of 30, even though he was essentially the heart and soul of the current franchise. Springer struggled in Toronto, mostly due to injuries, but seeing him in a Blue Jays uniform still stings for Astros fans.
The Astros return to the World Series
For the third time in five years, the Astros returned to the World Series, this time with home-court advantage against the surprising Atlanta Braves. The series went to seven games, with the Braves ultimately winning at Minute Maid Park in front of some very disappointed Houston fans. Despite a hugely successful regular season and a run through the playoffs, the Astros could not finish the young Braves. Missing a couple of starting pitchers certainly did not help them. But the team remains mostly intact in 2022 … for the most part.
The All-Star shortstop put together one of his best seasons in baseball in 2021 on the record and was the best defensive player in baseball. With 26 homeruns and a full 7.2 WAR, Correa was widely considered to be the most coveted young talent in the game when he reached free agency in late 2021. Thanks to the lockout, he remains in limbo after rejecting a five-year offer from the Astros. It is believed that he wants 9 or 10 years, something Astros are simply not willing to give. There is still an outside chance that he will return in 2022, but more likely he will follow the money out.