Jose Altuve

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By: TR Sullivan

Jose Altuve stands 5-foot-6, making him the shortest player in the Major Leagues.
That doesn’t seem to bother him, especially when he steps into the batter’s box.
Altuve, who was once told he was too short and too young to try out for the Astros,
is the ultimate “hit machine” in the Major Leagues. Over a five-year period from
2014-18, Altuve hit .331 with a .389 on-base percentage and a .489 slugging
percentage that showed he was not just a mere singles hitter.

He not only averaged 203 hits per season in that five-year stretch but also 39
doubles, 17 home runs and 73 RBI. He also has speed to go with that muscle,
averaging 35 stolen bases per year.

Besides being an All-Star in each of those five seasons, Altuve was a three-time
batting champion and the 2017 American League Most Valuable. That was his
crowning achievement for a year in which the Astros won their first World Series.
Altuve and Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt shared the Sports Illustrated
Sportsman of the Year Award.

During the Astros 18-game run through post-season, Altuve hit .310 with 14 runs
scored, seven home runs and 16 RBI. He tied a Major League record with three
home runs in Game 1 of the ALDS against the Red Sox. Altuve hit a couple of
home runs in Game 6 and Game 7 of the ALCS to help the Astros – down 3-2 in
games – to come back and beat the Yankees.

Altuve had two more home runs in the World Series, both proving to be crucial
blows in a pair of extra-innings wins in Game 2 and Game 5. Altuve missed 35
games in 2019 with a strained hamstring and his batting average dropped to .298.
But he still hit a career-high 31 home runs along with a personal best .550 slugging
percentage.

Altuve was also a force in the post-season even though the Astros lost to the
Nationals in seven games in the World Series. Altuve finished off the Astros
ALCS championship with a walkoff two-run home run in the ninth against
Yankees closer Aroldis Chapman for a 6-4 win in the deciding sixth game.
Altuve struggled in 2020 in a season cut short because of the pandemic and the
Astros dealing with the fallout from their sign-stealing scandal. Altuve hit just .219
during the regular season, but the Astros still reached post-season. Once there,
Altuve was once again at his best as the Astros upset the Athletics in the ALDS
before losing to the Rays over seven games in the LCS.

Over those 11 games, Altuve was 18 for 41 (.439) with five home runs, 11 runs
scored and 10 RBI. Altuve now has 18 career home runs in post-season, tied for
the sixth most in Major League history. He is the all-time leader for a second
baseman.

Altuve grew up in Maracay Venezuela along with Royals catcher Salvador Perez.
The Astros held a tryout camp in Maracay one year and Altuve, age 16 at the time,
showed up hoping to get a chance. Astros scouts looked at the 5-foot-4 hopeful and surmised he was too short and probably too young to try out. He was sent home but Altuve, encouraged by his father, showed up the next day with his birth certificate and was given a chance.

Scout Al Pedrique saw heart, desire and superb hand-eye coordination. He was not dismayed by Altuve’s size. He just added a few inches on his scouting report and signed Altuve to a $15,000 bonus. It has to be the best bargain ever in club history.

TR Sullivan covered the Texas Rangers for 32 years for the Fort Worth Star-Telegram and MLB.Com. He retired after a 40-year career in journalism that began in 1981 for the Denison Herald. You can follow TR at https://twitter.com/Sullivan_Ranger