Alex Bregman and injured Astros vet Michael Brantley shared a moment. Brantley didn't play a minute in these playoffs, but he still helped turn around the Astros season with his speech in Philadelphia. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros manager Dusty Baker finally won that long elusive world championship last season. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley is a professional hitter in every sense. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Yuli Gurriel took delight in pumping up all those happy Astros fans. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley knows what it takes for the Astros to win. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
As golden confetti floated down, the Houston Astros enjoyed every moment of the championship presentation. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros left fielder Michael Bantley, with wife Mariah and children, Michael Brantley III, Melissa Brantley (Photo by Todd Parker, STP Images)
The Houston Astros are world champions again and Core Astro Yuli Gurriel is beyond pumped. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Houston Astros outfielder Michael Brantley is an offensive force. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Astros general manager James Click has a championship, one built on the depth he helped create on this beyond complete Astros roster. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley is a hit machine. He can play defense too. And occasionally you'll get a big smile. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Michael Brantley hasn’t played a game for the Houston Astros since June 26th. He’s not even completely sure if he’ll be healed and physically ready for the start of next season yet. But the beloved veteran dubbed Uncle Mike still helped completely shift this World Series the Astros way.
Brantley did it by delivering a speech for the baseball ages after Houston’s Game 3 loss in Philadelphia. The one where the Astros got rocked for five home runs and ended up losing 7-0. The one that put them down 2-1 in the series to a Phillies squad that suddenly looked like a team of destiny.
As he looked around the visitors clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, Michael Brantley could sense some doubt, some uncertainty amongst his teammates, a number of whom had already been part of two World Series losing teams. Brantley could see how down his guys were.
So Uncle Mike did what he says he almost never does. He stood up in front of the whole team and told them what needed to happen.
“Uncle Mike laid it out for us in the most beautiful way,” Astros rookie David Hensley tells PaperCity. “He told us that we needed to keep believing, to keep playing the way we can play. To keep going. He told us to forget about worrying about losing. To just keep playing our game.”
The Astros would not lose again after Brantley’s speech. In fact, they no-hit the Phillies the very next night and outscored them 12-3 over the final three games of the World Series, capturing the world championship on an unforgettable Saturday night in Houston.
“That guy’s a legend in this clubhouse for a reason,” Hensley says. “We call him Uncle Mike because of stuff like this.”
A number of Astros bring up Brantley’s speech as a turning point unprompted. And no one is surprised that when these Astros most need someone to say something that it’s the 14-year veteran Brantley who steps forward.
“Even if Mike’s not playing — and I know he wants to be out there just as bad as anyone — that’s kind of the stuff that people don’t really see,” Astros right fielder Kyle Tucker tells PaperCity. “He does a lot behind the scenes for everyone.
“I love the guy. And I know everyone else in here does too. Even though he’s not on the field producing during the game, he’s still helping everyone in the dugout and the clubhouse. That takes a special guy.”
Brantley’s speech after Game 3 of this reminiscent of the one that veterans Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran delivered after the Astros lost three straight games in New York to stagger home down 3-2 in the 2017 American League Championship Series. Of course, the Astros came back to beat the Yankees and then took down the LA Dodgers in seven games to win the franchise’s first world championship ever after that speech.
“I just saw us kind of down. And I wanted to remind each and every one of my teammates how special this team is. And that we’re not letting this one slip away.” — Astros veteran Michael Brantley
Now Michael Brantley has one of those speeches, one of those behind-the-scenes moments that help change everything.
“Michael Brantley really got everyone going and refocused after Game 3,” Lance McCullers Jr., one of the now two-time champion Core Astros, says. “The talk he gave meant a lot.”
Michael Brantley Steps Forward
Brantley did not plan to step up and deliver those words, create something of an impromptu team meeting. He just felt the need in the moment. Saw what his guys, his team, needed most.
“He told us it’s just not over,” Tucker says. “That we’ve got to keep our foot on the gas and keep going. It doesn’t matter if we’re up or down, we got to keep pushing and keep putting together good at-bats. Together. As we can.”
A few phrases from Brantley’s speech still stick out to Tucker. To him, they almost became the Astros’ battle cry.
“This is ours. We’ve just got to go get it.”
For his part, Michael Brantley never expected his speech to become public. In fact, he seems half annoyed, albeit in a somewhat amused, champagne soaked way, that it’s getting out there.
“Who told on me about Game 3?” Brantley asks me, shaking his head with a grin.
For Brantley, the speech was about being there for his team in one way he could even while injured.
“I just saw us kind of down,” Brantley says. “And I wanted to remind each and every one of my teammates how special this team is. And that we’re not letting this one slip away. Don’t take this for granted. And I wanted to make sure that we understood that.
“That this is a special opportunity and we can celebrate this for the rest of our lives. And all we’ve got to do is play our brand of baseball. And get back to what we do well. That’s all it was. It was really simple. But the guy’s responded and now we’re World Series champs.”
Thanks in no small part to Uncle Mike.
This is ours. We’ve just got to go get it.