Short guys rejoice! 5’5 Jose Altuve of the Houston Astros has just secured thetitle of MLB Batting Champion. The team was so insistent upon protecting his lead in the race toward that title that the their managers attempted to bench him against his wishes. He was later re-added to the line up to play against the New York Mets at Citified in Queens, NY.
You can’t question his work ethic. He told reporters that he’d rather be out playing than waiting for something. Adding, “If you want to win something, you’ve got to win it on the field”. And getting on the field he did. The title was clinched after Altuve went 2 for 4 with a ground double and a run scoring infield single. Though the Astros lost to the Mets 3-8, Altuve ended the season with 225 hits and a .341 average, both of which are the best for the entire season. Go Altuve! The night ended with a bunch of photo ops, autograph signings and champagne toasting in the clubhouse.
Astros’ minor league manager and scout Omar Lopez liked everything about Altuve when he was looking for talent back in 2006 except for one thing, Altuve’s height. An article in the New York Times back in 2012 mention Lopez being almost embarrassed when mentioning Altuve to team officials recalling that when he first saw him in Venezuela, his seat was too off of the ground creating an unnatural vantage point. In other words, he couldn’t tell that Altuve was “so small’. Altuve himself recalls him and smaller players having to convince coaches that they were every bit as good much their taller counterparts.
Well, so goes the story. Altuve is the shortest player in Baseball in more than 3 decades. The last player in his height range was 5’4 Freddie Patek, who played for the Pittsburgh Pirates, Kansas City Royals and California Angels between 1966 and 1981. Altuve dwarfs the former because of his overall performance, especially for being in the league for a short amount of time. In 2013, he resigned with the Astros on a $12.5 million extension with club options for later in the decade. He also received a $750,000 sign on bonus.
Wait There’s More
His title isn’t the only record worth mentioning in his already amazing careers. By the middle of the season, he is the first MLB player since 1933 to have 130 hits and 40 stolen bases before All-Star Break. He’s also the first since 1917 to steal two or more bases in four consecutive games. He is now the first Houston Astros to win a batting title.
When we look at athletes like Altuve and others in his height range like MugsyBogues, we have to think about the obstacles they had to get beyond to receive the same respect that their taller counterparts receive almost automatically in comparison. This is another case of performance over appearance. While I am are not suggesting that taller players don’t work as hard, something has to be said about our shorter brethren who beat the odds and shine brighter in the end. Players like Altuve will hopefully influence future managers and scouts to not think twice about an athlete because of their size and concentrate on what they have to offer their team and fans.