Winning mentality a big part of what makes Bregman ... Bregman

March 9th, 2024

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. --- was a star shortstop at LSU before he became a star third baseman for the Astros. But Bregman, because of the way he plays the game and how hard he plays the game, really makes you recall something former UMass men's basketball head coach John Calipari once said about one of his star players, Marcus Camby.

Camby was 6-foot-11, long, fast and versatile, and one day, someone asked Calipari if Camby’s true position was either center or forward. And coach Cal simply said, “His position is basketball player.”

That has been Bregman’s position with the Astros since he made the big club in 2016 and became a star the next season after that. And his true position is even more than that, as he enters what might be his last season with the Astros before becoming a free agent:

Bregman’s true position is winner.

He has been one of the great winners of his time in baseball, along with , who plays across the infield from him at second base. Year after year, through seven straight American League Championship Series for the Astros and four trips to the World Series since 2017, Bregman and Altuve have become a storied pair in Houston -- for this time or any time the Astros have ever had or will ever have. Carlos Correa left. Bregman and Altuve are still there.

Altuve signed a new contract with the Astros, one that will likely keep him in Houston for the rest of his career. There is no way of knowing what will happen with Bregman, every bit as much of the heart and soul of the team that Altuve has been.

But on Friday morning, with a lot of the Astros on their way across the state to play a game in Clearwater, Fla., and Bregman one of those who has remained behind to work out at CACTI Park of the Palm Beaches, he was so more interested -- as usual -- in talking about his remarkable baseball team than about himself.

“Nothing changes here, this year or any year,” Bregman said. “We always want the same thing: To get back to October, and then get back to the World Series. It’s why we play the game. It’s why I play the game. And there’s no reason for me to change now.”

I asked him what he expects from the 2024 Astros, who made it all the way to another Game 7 of an ALCS before losing to the Rangers in the end.

“Who are you guys going to be this season?” I asked.

“We’re going to be the Astros,” he said.

I asked then if he is ever able to step back and fully appreciate what he and his teammates have accomplished.

“What I know is how close we’ve come to playing in seven World Series while I’ve been here,” he said of a team that during his tenure has won two World Series, lost two and lost in the ALCS three other times, “how many times we were just one game away. It’s something that drives everybody in this room and makes us want to do it again.”

He talked about what a special player Altuve is. He talked about how , through all his injuries, has been around with the Astros a year longer than Bregman has been. He talked about how , who only played a few months for the Mets last season, has basically been around for all the winning, too.

“We’ve all been part of the machine,” Bregman said.

He has played a career full of big games, has had all those Octobers. He talked about how when kids come up through the Astros' farm system and how they know full well what the expectations are once they do make it to the Major Leagues. And they keep finding way to keep the machine running. Correa left the Astros after the 2021 season, which is the year when began to blossom as one of the best and most gifted and most dangerous hitters in the game.

Bregman then spoke of how he and some of his teammates were doing offseason workouts this winter when all of their phones practically blew up with the news that the Astros had signed Josh Hader, one of the elite closers in the sport.

“It was 10:30 in the morning, and we looked at each other and it was like, ‘Is this real?’” Bregman said. He smiled. “And yeah, it was real. And we were ready to go right there.”

Then he was talking again about the upcoming season, and how Verlander will eventually be healthy and join a rotation that includes Framber Valdez, Cristian Javier, José Urquidy, Hunter Brown and J.P. France. And what it is like adding Hader to the back of a bullpen that already includes Ryan Pressly. The Rangers are the team that won it all last year. But how can anybody possibly bet against the Astros going deep into October again? October, by now, is a part of the team’s DNA.

“I take pride in winning,” Bregman said.

It’s who he is. It’s who they are. A long way to October from West Palm Beach. Bregman knows the way.