The story behind the mocked 2014 Sports Illustrated cover that predicted the woeful Astros would be in the 2017 World Series

  • In June 2014 the cover of Sports Illustrated boldly predicted that the lowly Houston Astros would be World Series champions in just three short years.
  • The author of the story, Ben Reiter, has been carrying the prediction for three years, and is now closer than many would've imagined to being proven correct.
  • Business Insider reached out to Reiter to discuss the origins of the piece, what the playoff run has been like, and his prediction for the 2020 World Series.


In June 2014, the prestigious spot on the cover of Sports Illustrated went to the Houston Astros, who were at the time coming off of three consecutive seasons with 105 losses or more and sitting with a 36-48 record on the year.

The cover boldly predicted that the Astros would be World Series champions in 2017, and was backed up by a story from Ben Reiter entitled "Astro-Matic Baseball: Houston's Grand Experiment," which took readers through the process of the rebuild with an in-depth look at the team's front office as they prepared for the draft and planned their future.

With the 2017 World Series upon us and the Houston Astros just four wins away from bringing this bold prediction to fruition, Business Insider reached out to Reiter to discuss how the story originally came to be, how he decided on the year 2017, and his prediction for the 2020 World Series.

30 PHOTOS
2005 World Series: Houston Astros lose to Chicago White Sox
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2005 World Series: Houston Astros lose to Chicago White Sox
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Fans and members of the Chicago White Sox and the Houston Astros stand for the National Athem before Game One of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Juan Uribe #5 of the Chicago White Sox hits an RBI double against the Houston Astros in the second inning during Game One of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Infielder Craig Biggio #7 of the Houston Astros fields a ground ball out against the Chicago White Sox during Game One of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Infielder Adam Everett #28 of the Houston Astros throws to first base to complete a double play over Scott Podsednik #22 of the Chicago White Sox during the fourth inning of Game One of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Catcher A.J. Pierzynski #12 of the Chicago White Sox cheers his teammates on against the Houston Astros during the sixth inning of Game One of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series against the Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Roger Clemens of the Houston Astros pitches during the first inning of Game One of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago White Sox Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Jose Contreras of the Chicago White Sox pitches during Game One of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Astros 5-3. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 22: Willy Taveras of the Houston Astros leaps in vain for a home run ball hit by Joe Crede of the Chicago White Siox during Game One of the Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Cellular Field on October 22, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox beat the Astros 5-3. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
MLB World Series 2005: Houston Astros at Chicago White Sox - Game 1:Houston Astros against the Chicago White Sox AJ Pierzynski and Bobby Jenks during game one of the World Series in Chicago, Ill. Saturday October 22, 2005. The White Sox won 5-3. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Sporting News via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 23: Starting pitcher Andy Pettitte #21 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during Game Two of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 23, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 23: First base umpire Jerry Layne calls runner Tadahito Iguchi #15 of the Chicago White Sox out on a throw back to first baseman Lance Berkman #17 from pitcher Andy Pettitte #21 to end the fifth inning during Game Two of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 23, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 23: Chris Burke #2 of the Houston Astros slides safely into homeplate past the tag of catcher A.J. Pierzynski #12 of the Chicago White Sox as homeplate umpire Jeff Nelson watches in the ninth inning during Game Two of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 23, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 23: Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox celebrates his grandslam during the seventh inning of Game Two of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Houston Astros at U.S. Cellular Field on October 23, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
CHICAGO - OCTOBER 23: The Chicago White Sox celebrate with Scott Podsednik #22 following his game-winning home run in the ninth inning against the Houston Astros to win Game Two of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at U.S. Celluar Field on October 23, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox won the game 7-6 to put them up two game to none. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Craig Biggio #7 of the Houston Astros hits an RBI single in the third inning against the Chicago White Sox during Game Three of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Jermaine Dye #23 of the Chicago White Sox is congratulated by teammate Aaron Rowand #33 after scoring on an A.J. Pierzynski #12 double in the fifth inning against the Houston Astros during Game Three of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Infielder Craig Biggio #7 of the Houston Astros throws out Joe Crede #24 of the Chicago White Sox in the seventh inning during Game Three of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Brad Ausmus #11 of the Houston Astros argues with homeplate umpire Jerry Layne after being called out on strikes to end the eighth inning against the Chicago White Sox during Game Three of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Scott Podsednik of the Chicago White Sox steals second base as Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros applies a late tag during the eleventh inning of Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by John Grieshop/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Tadahito Iguchi #15 of the Chicago White Sox attempts a bunt in Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 25: Craig Biggio of the Houston Astros is pictured during Game Three of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 25, 2005 in Houston, Texas. The White Sox won 7-5 in 14 innings. (Photo by Brad Mangin/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Jermaine Dye of the Chicago White Sox reacts after being stranded on base in the 1st inning during game 4 of the World Series against the Houston Astro's at Minute Maid Park in Houston, Texas on October 26, 2006. The White Sox swept the series with a 1-0 win. (Photo by G. N. Lowrance/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 26: Mike Lamb of the Houston Astros bats during Game Four of the Major League Baseball World Series against the Chicago White Sox at Minute Maid Park on October 26, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Rich Pilling/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 26: Scott Podsednik #22 of the Chicago White Sox is safe at third base after hitting a triple while third baseman Morgan Ensberg #14 of the Houston Astros misplays the throw during the third inning of Game Four of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 26, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Lisa Blumenfeld/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 26: Starting pitcher Brandon Backe #41 of the Houston Astros throws a pitch against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of Game Four of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 26, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 26: Jermaine Dye #23 of the Chicago White Sox holds up at second base after hitting a double in the first inning against the Houston Astros during Game Four of the 2005 Major League Baseball World Series at Minute Maid Park on October 26, 2005 in Houston, Texas. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Oct 26, 2005; Houston, TX, USA; MLB Baseball: The Chicago White Sox against the Houston Astros during game 4 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX, Oct 26, 2005. The White Sox won 1-0 and swept the series four games to none. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Sporting News via Getty Images)
Oct 26, 2005; Houston, TX, USA; MLB Baseball: The Chicago White Sox against the Houston Astros during game 4 of the World Series at Minute Maid Park in Houston, TX, Oct 26, 2005. The White Sox won 1-0 and swept the series four games to none. (Photo by Jay Drowns/Sporting News via Getty Images)
HOUSTON - OCTOBER 26: The Chicago White Sox celebrate winning Game 4 of the 2005 World Series against the Houston Astros at Minute Maid Park on October 26, 2005 in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Astros 1-0 to sweep the Astros and give the White Sox their first World Championship title in 88 years.(Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
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This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity. 

Tyler Lauletta: Have you been busy in the past few days since the Astros wrapped up the AL pennant?

Ben Reiter: Yeah. A lot of people seem to be remembering the cover all of a sudden.

Lauletta: Did the rush just start or has it been happening all postseason?

Reiter: In all honesty, it's kind of been happening for three years now. I've written 20 cover stories for SI and none of them made a splash like this one, and it's really followed me. First people hating on it, thinking it was a ridiculous prediction — that the Astros were kind of violating the social contract of sports by essentially tanking so blatantly. And then it started to turn in 2015 when it was like, "Oh man, this team might actually be on to something."

Lauletta: "This George Springer guy..."

Reiter: Yeah! All of a sudden the worst team in the world is looking pretty good. But really since Saturday night it's been blowing up.

Lauletta: How did this story initially come to be? Was this something you pitched? A story assigned to you?

Reiter: It was one of those slow-developing ideas. The Astros were so bad. Losing 105 games three seasons in a row, Alex Trebek is making fun of them on Jeopardy, they're putting up 0.0 local television ratings — it just seemed from afar like a total disaster. So we were thinking, "What is going on down here? What's the plan?" And this was before the Sixers started "The Process" — this hadn't really happened in sports to this degree.

So for probably around a year we were talking about doing something on this, reaching out to the Astros — we knew we were only going to do it if we got some legitimately special access. And finally, ahead of the 2014 draft, they agreed they would give us that access, in terms of letting me sit in on some of those meetings, letting me talk with everyone I needed to, and that's when we decided to pull the trigger.

As far as the cover — No, it wasn't supposed to be the cover. It seemed ridiculous to me, even. But it turned out that the story had such unusual access and seemed to be such a different thing that it was worth it to the Editorial Director of Sports Illustrated Chris Stone to not only put it on the cover but to make a pretty bold proclamation.SI Cover George Springer Astros World SeriesSports Illustrated

Lauletta: About that proclamation — how did you come to decide on the year 2017? Were there conversations around that?

Reiter: Well, you know, writers aren't always consulted on covers and things like that — that's really the editor's call, but in this case I really was, because I wanted to nail the proper timeframe for this turnaround.

First of all, the Astros never outright said it, but they kind of intimated that this would be a realistic point at which they would be competitive. In the story, [Astros general manager] Jeff Luhnow says "When you're in 2017, you don't really care that much about whether you lost 98 or 107 in 2012. You care about how close we are to winning a championship in 2017." So they were intimating that that might be a target for them. But that's their opinion.

We looked at who the key pieces would be. Obviously we had no idea Justin Verlander would be coming, but you could see what the nucleus was. And I think that this was the sweet spot because Carlos Correa, who hadn't even reached the majors at that point, was going to be 23, and a few of the other centerpieces would be hitting their prime — George Springer would be 28, Jose Altuve would be 27. It just seemed like if this plan was going to work, this would be the time they'd be ready to take the team to the next level.

Lauletta: Going into this season, how much were you thinking about this prediction?

Reiter: Well, I definitely picked them as my personal prediction! Look, I haven't had any control over this obviously, I'm probably getting too much credit for this prediction — all credit to the Astros front office and players. But I was certainly aware of it, and essentially any time I do TV or radio about baseball, it's kind of become my legacy.

Lauletta: How do you feel about that?

Reiter: Pretty good about it now! My big regret is that I didn't go to Vegas at any point. What an idiot right? The greatest prediction in sports history and I'm not gonna make a dime.

Lauletta: Sports Illustrated recently posted their World Series predictions. I noticed that you were the only writer to pick the Astros. You couldn't get one guy to come over and back the Astros with you?

Reiter: I love it. I guess, while maintaining my journalistic neutrality, it's me and the Astros vs. the world.

Lauletta: Have you spoken with members of the Astros front office that you talked with for the original story about the cover? Has it come up this season?

Reiter: Yeah I've done a few other stories on the team  — I did a big thing in September, a minute-by-minute breakdown of how they got Justin Verlander. And look, one thing I'll say, is they were okay with the cover, but it's not something they necessarily wanted [laughs]. Some people were saying, "Oh you gave them this cover, such a great thing for them." It actually wasn't that great for them because it put this extremely public deadline on this unprecedented process they were trying to put in place.

But they were definitely aware and have said that the story had put a deadline for them on this year. They were very aware of the importance of this year.

Lauletta: Who's your prediction for 2017 World Series MVP?

Reiter: I haven't thought about that yet — you know, I'll go with Jose Altuve. I can see him doing some damage against all those Dodgers' lefties, as good as they are.

Lauletta: Do you have a prediction for the 2020 World Series you want to put on record?

Reiter: I do — unfortunately for fans around baseball, it's the Yankees.

18 PHOTOS
1988 World Series: Dodgers defeat Oakland Athletics
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1988 World Series: Dodgers defeat Oakland Athletics
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Manager Tommy Lasorda of the Los Angeles Dodgers and Tony LaRussa of the Oakland Athletics, shake hands during the player introductions during the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October 15, 1988. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: First Lady Nancy Reagan throws the ceremonial first pitch of the 1988 World Series featuring the Oakland Athletics and the Los Angeles Dodgers at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 15, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game one of the series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 1988: Mickey Hatcher #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers stands on deck circle and waits for his turn to bat against the Oakland Athletics during the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October of 1988. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Dave Stewart #34 of the Oakland Athletics throws the first pitch of the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 15, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game 1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Los Angeles Dodgers teammates rush Kirk Gibson #23 after he hit a home run against the Oakland Athletics during the World Series at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 1988 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game 1 of the series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 15: Jose Conseco #33 of the Oakland Athletics and Mike Davis #20 of the Los Angeles Dodgers, former teammates, pose before the competition during the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October 15, 1988. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Los Angeles Dodgers' Kirk Gibson #23 gestures to the crowd after hitting a home run during the World Series against the Oakland Athletics at Dodger Stadium on October 15, 1988 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 5-4 in game 1 of the series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 16: Orel Hershiser #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers throws the first pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the 1988 World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California on October 16, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 6-0 in game 2 of the World Series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES - OCTOBER 16: Alfredo Claudino Griffin of the Los Angeles Dodgers runs across home plate against the Oakland Athletics during game 2 of the World Series at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California in October 16, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 6-0. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 16, 1988: Infielder Steve Sax #2 of the Los Angeles Dodgers slides in at second base ahead of the tag of shortstop Walt Weiss #7 of the Oakland Athletics during game 2 of the 1988 World Series, October 16, 1988 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 19: Mark McGwire #25 of the Oakland Athletics bats against the Los Angeles Dodgers during game 3 of the World Series at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on October 19, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 4-3 in game 4. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20: Orel Hershiser #55 of the Los Angeles Dodgers pitches against the Oakland Athletics during the 1988 World Series at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, CA on October 20, 1988. The Dodgers defeated the Athletics 4-3 in the decisive game 5 of the World Series. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 15: Kirk Gibson #23 of the Los Angeles Dodgers bats in the bottom of the ninth inning of game one against the Oakland Athletics during the 1988 World Series, October 15, 1988 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20, 1988: Third baseman Carney Lansford of the Oakland Athletics makes a diving catch in game 5 of the 1988 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Oakland Athletics, October 20, 1988 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20, 1988: Picher Orel Hershiser (L) of the Los Angeles Dodgers is lifted in the air with jubilation by catcher Rick Dempsey (R) while teammates Jeff Hamilton #33 and Mickey Hatcher #9 rush to the scene after Hershiser pitched a complete game to win game 5 and the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics, October 20, 1988 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. Hershiser was the series MVP and played for the Dodgers from 1983-94, 2000. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20, 1988: Picher Orel Hershiser (L) of the Los Angeles Dodgers is lifted in the air by catcher Rick Dempsey (R) while teammates Mickey Hatcher and Tracy Woodson #21 Jump with jubilation after Hershiser pitched a complete game to win game 5 and the 1988 World Series against the Oakland Athletics, October 20, 1988 at the Oakland Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the series 4-1. Hershiser was the series MVP and played for the Dodgers from 1983-94, 2000. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 20: Franklin Stubbs #22 of the Los Angeles Dodgers receives a champagne shower in the clubhouse after winning the World Series against the Oakland Athletics on October 20, 1988 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California. The Dodgers won the game 5-2 and won the series 4-1. (Photo by Focus on Sport/Getty Images)
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SEE ALSO: A mocked 2014 Sports Illustrated cover predicted the Houston Astros' 2017 run to the World Series

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