THE PALLILOG

Pallilo's View: An ode to Altuve, the AL MVP for 2017

Jose Altuve has another reason to celebrate: The MVP Award. Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

The freshly minted American League Most Valuable Player had the best season any second baseman has had since Joe Morgan’s awesome 1976. Jose Altuve is just the 10th different keystone sacker (baseball lingo!) to win an MVP award since the Baseball Writers Association of America started handing them out in 1931. Morgan is the only to win twice (1975 & 1976). He’s a top five second basemen of all-time. The others with an MVP trophy: Frankie Frisch (1931), Charlie Gehringer (1937), Joe Gordon (1942), Jackie Robinson (1949), Nellie Fox (1959), Ryne Sandberg (1984), Jeff Kent (2000), and Dustin Pedroia (2008). All but Kent and Pedroia are Hall of Famers. It’s ridiculous that in his four years on the ballot Kent has not received more than 17 percent of the 75 percent yes votes necessary for election. Pedroia needs a serious second wind in his mid-30s if he is to be Hall-worthy.

Altuve had outstanding 2014 and 2015 seasons that fit very well on a Hall of a Fame 2B resume, but the last two seasons have raised the bar dramatically. Altuve’s improvement in both power and strike zone judgment elevated him from star to superstar.  Not turning 28 until May, there is no reason to think him incapable of at least a couple more seasons in range of what he did this year, and those would make Altuve highly likely to punch a ticket to Cooperstown down the line.

Those “couple more” superstar seasons segue to the elephant in the room, Altuve’s contract. If Jose had gone year by year, he would have become a free agent five days after the Astros won the World Series. On the open market Altuve would plausibly have commanded a contract worth, say, seven years and 175 million dollars--with 200 million plus conceivable. Heck, Robinson Cano got 10 years 240 million from the Mariners when he was already 31 years old. Altuve’s last two seasons are better than any Cano put up during his tremendous tenure with the Yankees. But Altuve is not a free agent, and can’t become one until after the 2019 season. He is not deserving of a pity party (and hasn’t asked for one). Back in July of 2013 Altuve was a fine young player but not yet a star, nowhere close to superstar. At that point the Astros guaranteed Altuve life changing money: 12 and a half million dollars over four years. In exchange the Astros got options for the 2018 and 2019 seasons at six and six and a half million dollars. So Altuve is now spectacularly underpaid for the player he has become, but what is to be done about it?

Altuve dumped agent Scott Boras in 2013, then re-hired him in the summer of 2016. Boras typically pushes his clients to get to the open market. Altuve would be 29 when he gets there, still in his prime and in position for a monster contract. What if the Astros went to Altuve and said “what about a four year 100 million dollar extension?” Life changing money for generations of Altuves. Would you leave that on the table? It would seem at least a reasonable point from which to negotiate.  Five years 125 mil? Altuve is the second best player in the game right now (Mike Trout is still the best), and an absolute class act. Basically he’s everything you want in a ballplayer on and off the field, including terrifically durable. Altuve has played a minimum of 152 of the Astros’ 162 games five seasons in a row. An extension is warranted and for the Astros smart business in these glorious times for them. But not at whatever terms Scott Boras demands.  So for now, the Astros pay Altuve six mil for 2018 when they will pay Jon Singleton (!) two mil. The Astros hold the six and a half million option on Altuve for 2019. They hold a 10 and a half million dollar option on Singleton for 2019, seems likely they’ll pass on that one.

Amazing that for all the accolades rightfully poured in for Altuve, it’s no better than 50/50 that is he their best player next season. Had Carlos Correa not missed a quarter of the season because of a torn thumb ligament, it may have been unclear whether Altuve was even the Astros’ MVP. Correa is just 23 years old and under Astros control for four more seasons. Which is why if forced to choose one or the other, Correa would almost have to be the choice.

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Houston now trails in the fall classic

Astros fall in World Series Game 1 as Braves come out swinging

Framber Valdez had a forgettable start in World Series Game 1 as the Braves tagged him with five runs. Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

After a dominant end to win the ALCS and American League pennant, the Houston Astros welcomed in the National League champion Atlanta Braves for World Series Game 1 at Minute Maid Park on Tuesday. With Houston favored to win not just this game but the entire series, the Braves shook up those expectations by finding early success at the plate to build a lead they would hold to take a 1-0 series lead.

Final Score: Braves 6, Astros 2

World Series (Best of Seven): Atlanta leads 1-0

Winning Pitcher: A.J. Minter

Losing Pitcher: Framber Valdez

Valdez unable to replicate ALCS Game 5 success as Braves mount early lead

For the optimist, not having home-field advantage in an MLB postseason series affords you a benefit: you can score first and take captive momentum first in the series. The Braves did that against Framber Valdez, as Jorge Soler became the first player in league history to hit a homer in the first plate appearance of a World Series, putting Atlanta out to an immediate 1-0 lead. They would get another in the first frame, getting a one-out infield single by Ozzie Albies, who would steal second to get in position for an RBI double by Austin Riley.

Houston had the chance to respond in their first inning against former teammate Charlie Morton, getting a single and two walks to load the bases with no outs. They'd strand all three runners, though, as Morton made it through unscathed but having used 26 pitches. Atlanta kept putting stress on Valdez, extending their lead to three runs with back-to-back singles to start the second before later getting an RBI groundout.

Valdez gave up two more in the top of the third, once again allowing a leadoff single, this one setting up a two-run homer to make it a 5-0 Braves lead and forcing Houston's starter out of the game early. Yimi Garcia entered and was able to retire the three batters he faced to end the frame.

Braves lose Morton to injury as both bullpens begin long night

After stranding the bases loaded in the bottom of the first to keep the Astros off the board, Morton followed it up with a 1-2-3 second. He started the bottom of the third by retiring his fifth batter in a row, getting a strikeout of Jose Altuve. He would immediately call trainers to get him out of the game, though, as he would later be diagnosed with a fractured fibula, presumably from a ball that ricocheted off his leg in the prior inning, ending his season in a disappointing turn of events for the Braves.

That set up a long night for both bullpens, and next up for Houston was Jake Odorizzi. He started with a scoreless fourth, working around a two-out error to keep it a five-run game. The Astros began a rally in the bottom of the fourth, getting runners on the corners with one out on a Kyle Tucker double and Yuli Gurriel single. Chas McCormick brought in the first run of the board for Houston, but that's all they would get as Atlanta's lead remained four runs.

Astros drop Game 1

Odorizzi kept going on the mound, tossing a 1-2-3 fifth, then getting one out before a one-out single in the top of the sixth would prompt Dusty Baker to move on to Phil Maton, who finished the inning. Maton returned in the top of the seventh, getting a strikeout before a double and a walk would result in the call to bring in Ryne Stanek.

A double play against his first batter allowed Stanek to finish the seventh, and then he returned in the eighth. He faced three batters that frame, getting one out before a walk and a single would put runners on the corners as Houston moved on to Brooks Raley. A sac fly by Freddie Freeman off of Raley made it a five-run lead again, but a leadoff triple by Yordan Alvarez in the bottom of the inning would set up Carlos Correa for an RBI, a groundout to make it 6-2.

Atlanta's bullpen continued to do well, though, limiting the damage to that one run in the eighth, then returning to hold on to the four-run lead in the bottom of the ninth to give the Braves the upset win to start the series. The loss extends their home losing streak in the World Series to five games (having lost all four at home in the 2019 World Series against the Nationals) and puts them down 0-1 and in need of a win in Game 2 to try and reset the series into a best-of-five.

Up Next: World Series Game 2 will be another 7:09 PM Central scheduled start time on Wednesday from Minute Maid Park. The expected pitching matchup is Max Fried, who is 1-1 with a 3.78 ERA in three postseason starts, for the Braves, and Jose Urquidy, who went just 1.2 innings while allowing six runs (five earned) in his start in the ALCS.

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