The Astros should probably start thinking about where they’re going to place the statue of Jose Altuve once his career comes to an end. Altuve is the greatest player in franchise history and is likely to end his career where it started after signing a five-year contract extension with the Astros on Tuesday.
Altuve was set to be a free agent at the end of this coming season, but he has always expressed his desire to remain in Houston, where he’s put down roots with a young family and is revered by fans. Not only is he the most accomplished player in the history of the Astros, he challenges Hakeem Olajuwon of the NBA’s Houston Rockets as the greatest team sports player in Houston history.
Olajuwon, who led the Rockets to back-to-back championships in 1994 and '95, finished his career with one season in Toronto. It just didn’t look right seeing Olajuwon in a Raptors uniform, the same way it would have been a shame to see Altuve wearing any colors other than the orange, blue and white of the Astros.
Astros owner Jim Crane, who purchased the franchise only months after Altuve made his Major League debut in 2011, agrees and spearheaded the signing.
“Altuve was here when I got here in 2011,” Crane told MLB.com. “We're the only two guys that have been here that long. Not only has he performed well, but to have him hopefully retire here is a big deal for the franchise, and I think it’s a big deal for him and a big deal for the fans, more importantly.”
Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell, both of whom are in the Hall of Fame, have statues outside Minute Maid Park and their numbers retired by the team. They were career Astros -- Biggio played 20 seasons in Houston and Bagwell played 15 seasons. And they were star players on an Astros team that won four division titles in five seasons from 1997-2001 but couldn’t get over the hump in the playoffs. With the help of Lance Berkman, Roger Clemens, Andy Pettitte, Roy Oswalt and others, Biggio and Bagwell won their first playoff series in 2004 and reached the World Series in '05 -- Bagwell’s final season.
The postseason resume is what sets Altuve apart. He’s one of the sport’s most clutch performers in the playoffs. His 27 career homers and 89 runs scored both rank second in AL/NL postseason history. His 117 postseason hits are tied for third. Altuve is one of only a handful of players to hit a walk-off homer to clinch a pennant, doing so in 2019 against the Yankees in Houston.
By staying with the Astros for at least six more seasons, Altuve will have a chance to reach 3,000 career hits in an Astros uniform -- just like Biggio did. Biggio notched his 3,000th hit in his 20th and final season in 2007. Altuve collected his 2,000th career hit last season. His 2,047 career hits are the fifth most among active players, trailing Joey Votto (2,135), Freddie Freeman (2,114), Elvis Andrus (2,091) and Andrew McCutchen (2,048).
Altuve’s extension will take him through his age-39 season, giving him six more years to pad his resume. Even if he retired after this season, Altuve -- the 2017 American League MVP -- is likely headed to the Hall of Fame. Sure, he was on the 2017 Astros team that was penalized by Major League Baseball for stealing signs, but Altuve and his teammates have always maintained that he wasn’t involved much, if at all.
Still, there will be some Hall of Fame voters who may hold that against Altuve and will at least make sure he’s not a first-ballot Hall of Famer. It doesn’t really matter much. Altuve will be remembered as one of the best players of his generation -- and nowhere is he more beloved than Houston, which has embraced him as one of its own. By signing a five-year extension to remain with the Astros, Altuve has signaled the feeling is mutual.