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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DeMeco's presser was electric. Photo by Bob Levey/Getty Images.

The Houston Texans hit a home run with the hiring of DeMeco Ryans to be the franchise’s next head coach.

For the first time in a long time, there is a sense of optimism with the organization. Ryans’ introductory press conference only solidified that.

Ryans said it was a “no-brainer” to choose the Texans over any other head coaching gig in the league. It is a homecoming for the former linebacker that was selected by Houston in the 2006 draft. This is his dream job, and his level of commitment to rebuild the team to prominence is infectious.

When general manager Nick Caserio and owner Cal McNair met him during their Zoom interview a few weeks back, they both caught the Ryans fever. It was one of the most impressive interviews they’ve ever had, Caserio told reporters on Thursday.

Even though San Francisco was just a few days away from playing the Dallas Cowboys in the playoffs, Ryans knew where he wanted to be for the 2023 season and beyond.

“I want to come home. This is my dream job. Let’s make this thing happen,” were the parting words Ryans told McNair and Caserio at the end of their meeting.

From that point on, it was a matter of waiting.

Since then, it appears a majority of the city has caught the Ryans fever too. Fans and followers of the Texans almost unanimously approve of the move. Even former players have it as well. NRG Stadium was filled with notable former Texans, including Andre Johnson and Brian Cushing, on Thursday. Numerous current players also showed up.

Now the real work begins

Houston has a lot of work to do with numerous resources to help. With two first-round draft picks and a plethora of draft capital and cap space over the coming years to go along with it, Ryans will be tasked with helping lead the team back to relevance.

He will not do it alone. One of the biggest lessons he’s learned in his young coaching career is that it is all about collaboration with the front office, Ryans said. It is something that must be music to Caserio’s ears.

Ryans and Caserio will be looking for players that play with precision, effort, and physicality. Ryans, who has starred as a defensive coordinator in his young coaching career, even has a vision for the Texans’ offense too.

Ryans want to own the line of scrimmage. He wants the team to establish the run game first, but he also wants to be balanced and be able to operate with play action and be efficient.

When it comes to coaching, Ryans knows he needs to be adaptable. That goes for everyone he brings into the organization. He wants a diverse coaching staff, and what he means by that is having coaches with different levels of experience. He wants coaches that are great teachers. He wants guys that are positive and that can connect with players.

Ultimately, a reason why a lot of people have the Ryans fever is because for the first time in a long time, it seems like the Texans have a plan. They have a specific vision. Above all else, Ryans wants to be here just as much as Houston supporters want him to succeed.

“We want to bring a winning team,” Ryans said. “That is what we want to bring to Houston. We want to bring you guys a team that you’re going to be proud of as fans. We want to fill up NRG Stadium and we want you guys to truly make this a home field advantage for us again.”

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