5) Michael Brantley
Michael Brantley signed a two-year deal with the Astros before the 2019 season, immediately slotting into the 2-hole and becoming a key cog in a historic offense. After the Astros went down in the 2019 World Series, news broke of their now infamous sign-stealing scandal.
Nobody would have blamed Brantley if he played out the duration of his contract in the empty stadiums in the 2020 season and then left for greener pastures. Why face the vitriol for something he had no part in?
Instead, Brantley resigned heading into 2021, continuing to play a massive role for the team with his bat and steady defense in left. After playing in only 64 games this season, Brantley was lost for the year with a shoulder injury. He remained a consistent presence in the Astros clubhouse, helping to mentor the younger players.
A soft-spoken veteran, when Brantley does speak up, those around him listen. Speak up he did.
After the Astros demolition at the hands of the Phillies in Game 3, Brantley spoke up, telling the team in a player’s only meeting to stop being complacent no more losing, and uttering the now legendary line:
"“I’m sick of sad hugs.”"
The Astros responded, ripping off three straight wins. Brantley had lost the World Series as a member of the 2016 Cleveland Indians. Since signing with the Astros, he had gone down in both 2019 and 2021. While he wasn’t able to contribute on the field, Uncle Mike’s off the field contributions helped ensure his record in the Fall Classic didn’t fall to 0-4.
“The professional hitter” has more than lived up to his name during his time as an Astro, slashing .306/.368/.464 in his four seasons in Houston. Now a free agent, if his time in Houston has come to an end, Brantley goes out on top, a champion at last.