BEST OF THE BEST

Next time you hear some Altuve slander, here’s the perfect response

Jose Altuve's numbers speak for themselves. Photo by Jason Miller/Getty Images.

Yeah, yeah, Jose Altuve's .274 batting average this year is 30 points below his career mark. His strikeouts are up and his stolen bases are down. And sometimes he bounces the ball on throws to first base. Perhaps the critics are right, Altuve may never get back to his MVP numbers.

But let's step back and appreciate the wonder of Jose Altuve who, mind you, is only 31 years old. He's still producing big time. He's the Astros leadoff home run leader. They're in first place in the American League West and headed toward another post-season run with Altuve gunning the engine.

Stop nitpicking Altuve. After 10 years in the big leagues, all of them in Houston, there can be no doubt, he is greatest Houston Astro of all time.

The numbers are overwhelming and speak for themselves: .308 lifetime batting average, American League MVP, seven All-Star Games, one Hank Aaron Award, five Silver Slugger Awards, three batting titles, two stolen base titles, AP Male Athlete of the Year, Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year. They add up to first ballot Hall of Fame when his time comes, which doesn't appear anytime soon.

When it really counts, in the post-season, Altuve has a .306 batting average and a Ruthian 18 homers, including some Hollywood drama shots, in only 63 games. If you define greatness by championships, Altuve was the team driver and league MVP in 2017 when the Astros brought home their one and only World Series title.

Not to compare Altuve to the Astros two Hall of Famers, Jeff Bagwell and Craig Biggio, but really there is no comparison. Altuve has a higher career batting average (Bagwell .297, Biggio .281). Altuve has more All-Star appearances than Bagwell (4) and more stolen base titles than Biggio (1).

When it comes to the post-season, Altuve steps it up, while Bagwell and Biggio underperformed. Bagwell hit .226 with two homers in 33 post-season games, while Biggio hit .234 with two homers in 40 games.

Maybe most important of all, Altuve looks, walks and talks like Houston – a hardworking embodiment of our town's diversity, the shortest player in Major League Baseball who overcame tall obstacles to achieve greatness. He is the undisputed team leader, admired and beloved in the clubhouse. He's a girl dad, soft-spoken, shy, so easy to root for, and he delivers in the clutch so many times his game-winning homers could fill a Greatest Hits album. Nobody has ever accused Altuve of being aloof or selfish.

Team player? In the aftermath of the 2017 (and beyond) cheating scandal, the Astros deservingly, at least understandably, have become baseball's villains. As a weird testament to his greatness, Altuve became the poster boy for the Astros sign-stealing crime ring. Chants of "F-Altuve" fill road stadiums when he comes to bat.

But from everything we hear, Altuve didn't do it! He reportedly did not want to know what pitch was coming and told the trash can banger to knock it off when he came to bat. Asked if that's true, you didn't participate in the cheating, all Altuve will say is, we're a team, I'm part of the team. He's taking the "F-Altuve" bullet for the Astros.

Think how lucky we are. Today's Astros fans have the privilege of watching the greatest player in their team's history. How many other teams have their GOAT on the current roster? I can think of only one, the Angels with Mike Trout, that is if Trout ever gets back in the lineup. He seems to be on the Spirit Airlines departure schedule – "DELAYED, see agent Alex Bregman."

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