HOUSTON – Carlos Correa stood on the dugout steps watching as Yuli Gurriel grounded out to end Game 6 of the World Series before slowly walking away and heading into Houston's clubhouse for what could be the last time.
“I was just thinking this is crazy how you spend — and you give your life and everything you have to an organization and then one day you don’t belong to the organization anymore just in a matter of seconds," Correa told The Associated Press. “So it’s obviously tough to process."
Atlanta’s 7-0 victory over the Astros to win the World Series on Tuesday night could mark the end of an era in Houston.
After losing Gerrit Cole and George Springer in free agency the last two years, Houston now faces the distinct possibility that Correa will soon be gone, too.
An emotional Correa spoke to his teammates after the game and later reflected on his many years with the Astros.
“I did everything in my power to make this team a better club, this organization, to keep (moving) in the right way, and I’m proud of my time here," he said.
The star shortstop, who has been with the franchise since he was selected with the first overall draft pick in 2012, is a free agent and there’s concern the Astros won’t be able to keep him.
“I hope it’s not, that it’s not over yet," manager Dusty Baker said. “He’s a professional. He’s a real leader. ... He doesn’t give an alibi or any excuses. He just comes out and plays the game the way he’s supposed to play it."
Correa had a great season, hitting a career-high 26 homers with 92 RBIs. But perhaps as much as his play, his leadership and swagger has been invaluable to this team since he made his debut and won the AL Rookie of the Year award in 2015.
Game 6 of the Series marked his 79th postseason appearance since helping the Astros reach the playoffs for the first time since 2005 in his rookie season.
“I can tell how our guys gravitate towards him," Baker said. “I can tell even how the opposition always shows respect for him, especially when they’re around second base. ... He just plays the game the way it should be played."
Justin Verlander, who pitched just one game in the last two seasons because of injuries, is also a free agent, as is veteran starter Zack Greinke.
After the game, 73-year-old Brent Strom, the team's pitching coach since 2014, announced he won't return next season.
Houston reached the World Series in three of the last five years and advanced to the ALCS in each of the last five seasons. The Astros won the championship in 2017, a crown tainted by the team’s sign-stealing scandal, before losing to the Washington Nationals in seven games in 2019.
Houston’s rise to the cream of baseball’s crop came after losing more than 100 games in three straight seasons from 2011-13.
The Astros made the trip to the World Series this year after coming one game shy of advancing to the Fall Classic last season. Baker has led the team the last two years after being hired following A.J. Hinch’s dismissal after he was suspended for a year for his role in the cheating scheme.
Like Correa, Baker’s future with the club is also uncertain with his contract ending and no new deal in place.
After such an impressive run, the question becomes if the Astros can sustain this success or if their window for being a perennial contender is closing. While losing Correa would certainly be a huge blow, the Astros have plenty of stars who will be back next year, led by Jose Altuve, Alex Bregman and Yordan Alvarez.
“The guys that are going to hit free agency this year, we really hope that all of them come back because they’re going to make us a better team," Altuve said. “But we also have really good young players like Yordan, (Kyle) Tucker, that... they’re going to be really good superstars for a long time. So it will be like a good mix."
Jim Crane, who has owned the team since 2011, scoffed at the notion that Houston's run among the American League's elite could be ending when it was mentioned earlier in the playoffs.
“People always refer to the window, (say) the window may be closing,” he said. “Listen, when I’m here, the window’s always going to be open.”
After he finished discussing Houston’s window to win, the billionaire businessman made sure to keep the door on Correa’s future in the city propped open.
“I think we have a chance,” Crane said. “I never count anything out.”
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