José Altuve / Capture of MLB Network
This week it happened again. When José Altuve went to bat in Chicago, as the starter of the Astros lineup, the fans greeted him with a loud boo. It was his turn, once again, to pay for the dishes that were smashed in Houston four years ago.
It was also his turn to shine. No one, in the last decade, has done it more than him in the major league playoffs. Nobody.
And is that the Venezuelan is already one of the most productive cops in the history of the MLB postseason.
Altuve was once again the target of rival whistles, as has happened since he took his first turn at Spring Training 2020. At that time the details of the scandal over the theft of signs using technology not allowed in the Big Top had just been released.
But this time it was because of the statements of reliever Ryan Tepera, stirring the waters during the Division Series.
Tepera reignited the controversy during the press conference held after the White Sox’s only win in their game against the Texans.
“When you play Minute Maid, they do things a little differently,” accused the fire extinguisher, throwing gasoline into the flames of animosity. “Obviously they have a reputation for doing weird things.”
Perhaps it was a rhetorical device to put pressure on his rivals. Or maybe it is Tepera and many others do not forget or forgive that the Astros won that World Series thanks to their great talent, but also with a help that they should not have used.
Altuve’s response was comparable to other times the same thing happened. Like in that Spring Training, like in Oakland this season, like every time they make him the target of the rival’s annoyance.
Exploded with a historic harvest for a contested clash in October’s decisive action.
Altuve had three hits, including a home run, scored four times, drove in three and stole a base. Baseball Reference immediately noted that at this stage that has only happened three times in the annals of the Big Show. The legendary Eddie Murray did it with the Baltimore Orioles in 1983. Lenny Dykstra repeated it with the Philadelphia Phillies in 1993. And now the Venezuelan does it.
“It doesn’t matter what happened,” replied the Astros bartender, questioned about Tepera’s words via FOX. “We came here to win and I’m happy because we did it.”
This is how Altuve has been throughout his career. He usually avoids direct confrontation with opponents and never assumes the leading role before the microphones. On the contrary, he always speaks in the first person plural, referring to the team and the group.
That is why, perhaps, he has not prevented his name from being part of the scandal, despite the evidence and statements in his favor.
Comrades at the time, such as George Springer and Carlos Correa, assured the media that Altuve was against the system to steal signs. There are testimonies that speak of their protests when arriving at the dugout if the sonic signal was emitted during their at-bats. Some independent research suggests that the famous “bang” hardly sounded when he was at home plate. His only responsibility, in the end, was to keep quiet, instead of denouncing his teammates. Difficult situation.
He has been able to assure that all this is true, that he did not take advantage of the trap. True to form, however, he never said that those tests and statements in his favor were true. He apologized on behalf of the organization and assumed to be the most visible face of the franchise in this long trance.
The numbers are proving him right. This year he set a career-high 31 home runs in one season. He had a .350 on-base average as the sidereal’s leadoff hitter. Scored 117 runs. And with his home run Tuesday, he reached 19 in the postseason.
Only Manny Ramirez, Bernie Williams and Derek Jeter have thrown more balls out of the park than he has in playoff games. And his way of playing is still unique.
“We have been constantly bombarded since last year,” said manager Dusty Baker at the press conference after that win. “But one cannot be overcome by negative energy. Because, if not, sooner or later that is going to eat you up ”.
Altuve is the most visible face of the Astros. It is because of his talent, because of his personality, because of his wonderful story of self-improvement. That explains why they gave him a multi-year extension to his contract and why Springer, for example, had to leave as a free agent. And Correa, another emblem of the ninth, may be the next to come out.
He is also the leadoff hitter. So the boos will break out early and break up against the most popular player; that is, they will almost always ring against him.
That is his other strength. As Baker said: “Take negativity and direct it toward something positive.”
Altuve will continue to be the one who pays for the broken dishes for what happened in 2017. But, from what he continues to demonstrate, he will also continue to be the inspiration for his team.