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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Here's why the Texans will make the playoffs under Lovie Smith

1. The Houston Texans had a mentally tough practice Saturday. The team has worked a lot in pads and Lovie Smith noted the days starting to build up on them during this practice. The head coach said this is a good practice because it is like the fourth quarter of the games the team will end up playing.

2. Davis Mills threw one of the best passes he has thrown all camp on Saturday. In a red zone drill, he dropped back and whipped a pass between two defenders into the tightest window he has had all camp. Nico Collins hauled in the threaded pass for a score.

3. A few reps later Davis Mills struck again. With traffic from linebackers and defensive backs, he found Chris Conley for a score. It wasn’t as tight of a window as the first one, but Mills snapped it off nonetheless.

4. Pharaoh Brown made something hard look very easy on Saturday. With Mills rolling out and tossing the ball to Brown in the back corner Brown hauled in a one-handed catch and had both feet down. Touchdown. Brown then acted like it was no big deal.

5. Pharaoh Brown has had a wonderful camp. Lovie Smith named him the starting tight end. The thing that really jumped out to me today is he makes his work look easy. He isn’t straining to excel in his opportunities. The good ones always make it look easy and it has looked easy for Brown so far.

6. Rookie linebacker Christian Harris is on the shelf for a few days. He joins fellow rookie Kenyon Green as players who are injured. Max Scharping played left guard with Green down. Wide receiver Phillip Dorset practiced while veteran wideout Chester Rodgers did not.

7. Roy Lopez flashed again today. While Friday was about the rushing attack and Lopez made his presence felt at defensive tackle, he got into the pass rush Saturday. Lopez would have had a bone-crushing sack in a live rep.

8. Ross Blacklock hasn’t been consistent. A statement like that is good and evil. There are some plays where Blacklock looks like he isn’t a factor. I watched one today. A play later he had what would have been a sack on the play. He’s a player to watch in the preseason games closely.

9. Don’t expect to see Derek Stingley in the preseason opener next Saturday. Lovie Smith wouldn’t commit to the rookie cornerback playing in the preseason. Smith did say Stingley is on track to play week one in the regular season.

10. Brevin Jordan has had a nice camp and should be an important piece for the team. Jordan had a bad drop in 7-on-7 drills that he was beating himself up over for a few minutes. That was out of the norm. He’s been used a lot and will be on the field a bit it seems for the Texans.

11. Brevin Jordan also rattled off a few contenders for the quote of the day. He exclaimed he had taken care of himself this offseason and he finally had abs. He also revealed he’s quite the fisherman and once caught a 125-pound tuna. When asked what he did with the tuna Jordan laughed and said “RIP tuna!”

Listen to Cody Stoots weekdays afternoons 3-7pm on his show "The Wheelhouse" live on ESPN 97.5 + 92.5 FM or anytime on demand at the podcast here.

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