Twitter/Ben Reiter George Springer

Winning baseball games takes a lot of strategy. Some of that is in-game strategy, but for MLB executives, a lot of that comes behind-the-scenes.

The Houston Astros' organization began strategizing for 2017 a long time ago. After making the World Series in 2005 -- losing to the White Sox in four games -- the Astros missed the playoffs for nine straight seasons. The franchise did not have a winning season from 2009-2014. But at the end of that misery, the Astros constructed a loaded farm system.

In 2014, Sports Illustrated took notice. In a cover story by Ben Reiter, the magazine called the Astros, "Your 2017 World Series Champions." On Saturday night, the Astros finished off the Yankees in seven games to win the ALCS. That means only the Dodgers can stop this cover from becoming a reality.


The official cover date is June 30, 2014. On that day, Jose Altuve had made one All-Star Game, Dallas Keuchel had never completed a full winning season, Carlos Correa had not played an MLB game, George Springer was a rookie, Alex Bregman still had one more year left at LSU and Yuli Gurriel had not yet defected from Cuba.

Reiter's piece details the development of Jeff Luhnow, the Astros' general manager, who was hired in 2011 after an eight-year stint in the Cardinals' front office. It also mentions Reid Ryan, the son of Nolan Ryan, who was hired as Astros President of Baseball Operations in May 2013. Nolan became an executive adviser to the team in February 2014.

Of course, the Astros have added veteran pieces such as Justin Verlander, Carlos Beltran, Brian McCann, Luke Gregerson and Josh Reddick since 2014, but the infrastructure for a championship team was clearly in place even if the win total did not suggest so.

Or Sports Illustrated owns a flux capacitor.

-- Follow Jeff Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband. Like Jeff Eisenband on Facebook.

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