Props go to the best all-around player of 2014 that few fans outside of his hometown team were much aware of back in April. You’ve got to admire what Houston Astro Jose Altuve has accomplished for one of the worst teams in Major League baseball this summer.
Even those with a master’s degree in baseball would have been hard-pressed to predict the season that Altuve is having. As much science would have gone into picking him as a best player in the league as choosing the winner of the Kentucky Derby, always the wildest of betting longshots in sport.
As the season heads into the homestretch, it seems certain that Altuve, a 5-foot-5 (or 5-6, depending who is answering), 175-pound second baseman from Venezuela will win the American League batting title. He has not backed into it, either, heating up all over again in September in much the same way as he began the season.
The votes from the outlying precincts are not in yet, but Altuve is hitting 345. He is leading the league in hits, with 220, and he is leading the league in stolen bases with 54. At the same time he is not much larger than Freddie Patek, who may have set all-time records for diminutiveness.
Shame he plays for Houston
Altuve is just 24 and this is his fourth year in the majors for those who haven’t been paying attention. To be honest, not a whole lot of baseball fans have been paying attention to the Houston Astros in recent years.
The Astros have been in contention for Worst Team In Baseball for about a half a decade straight at this point. They were so lousy that when they were traded from the National League to the American League for nothing for the 2013 season, nobody complained. There are probably thousands of American fans who still believe the Astros play home games in the Astrodome.
Way back in 2012, when Houston was still situated in the NL, Altuve batted .290 and made an All-Star team. Practically no one outside of his immediate family noticed. This year when Altuve made the American League All-Star team trumpets blared because he was one of the leading hitters in the league. He has kept it up.
Shortest Player in MLB
Altuve is definitely the little man’s hero. He is the shortest player in the big leagues and just the other day he broke Craig Biggio’s Astros record for most hits in a season. Although it has not occurred yet, Biggio is a likely Hall of Fame inductee. Altuve has scrapped his way to the top. He was an undrafted amateur free agent in 2007 when he signed with Houston for $15,000.
He has demonstrated improvement each season. Still, nobody saw this explosion coming. Most players cannot dream of having the all-around season that Altuve is putting together in 2014. If this is not his peak, then all baseball fans are in for a treat in the coming years because it is difficult to see how much better Altuve can play.
If 2014 is a fluke, so be it. A once-in-a-lifetime-season such as this one is still plenty worthy of special recognition and something to be proud of for a career. If this year’s stats represent Altuve’s new standards at the plate and on the base paths, the rest of the league better watch out.