Jose Altuve has become a baseball superstar, even though many baseball fans don't know much about the 27-year-old Venezuelan. Playing for the World Series champion Houston Astros limits Altuve's media exposure. If he played in a bigger market, Altuve, who was named the American League Most Valuable Player on Thursday, would be a household name.
Although some baseball pundits thought New York Yankees rookie Aaron Judge deserved the honor, since he hit more home runs than Altuve, the sportswriters recognized how important Altuve's overall play was to the Astros.
In a year when Major League Baseball shattered its previous home run record, Altuve proved a player who excelled in every area in the game. For the second consecutive year, Altuve earned the AL batting title and Silver Slugger Award. In an era when most Major League hitters don't care if they strike out, Altuve struck out 84 times, compared to 58 walks. He scored the second most runs in the AL. His OPS was the third highest in the AL.
Altuve made his debut for the Astros in July 2011, and during that time, the Astros were rebuilding. Altuve has become the face of the organization. His teammates found inspiration from Altuve. His work ethic is second to none in the Major Leagues. Like Hall of Famer Craig Biggio, Altuve is a hard-nosed player who wants to excel in the game. Not many Major Leaguers have the same desire to play baseball as Altuve.
During the offseasons, he goes home to Maracay, Venezuela and shares his baseball knowledge with the youth. During the season, he sends baseball equipment to his country, enabling many poverty-stricken kids to play baseball. This year, Altuve won the Lou Gehrig Award, which goes to the player who exhibits the spirit demonstrated by Gehrig on and off the field.
Many baseball scouts were hesitant about Altuve because of his diminutive size. However, one experienced scout could look past his small stature to see the enthusiasm Altuve possesses for everything he does. He is the smallest player to win the AL MVP Award since Phil Rizzuto of the Yankees in 1950. His ability to defy the odds to become a successful and admired Major Leaguer inspires everyone who knows or watches Altuve. This year, Altuve also earned the Hank Aaron Award, which is given annually to the best offensive player in baseball.
He gets every ounce of talent out of his body. Although Altuve didn't win the 2017 Gold Glove Award for AL second basemen, his remarkable defense helped the Astros' pitching staff. Arguably, Altuve has the biggest range among current second basemen. Getting to balls that most second basemen can't enables Altuve to turn many possible hits into outs. He possesses a strong and accurate arm. His quick hands help him to begin and complete incredible double plays.
Although Altuve had 24 home runs in 2017, he can be called a throwback player. He values hitting the ball on the ground so that he can utilize his speed. His 32 stolen bases were third in the American League. He has marvelous hand-eye coordination.
It's difficult to say whether the Astros would have had 101 regular-season wins without the contributions from Altuve. During the AL Division Series with the Boston Red Sox, he hit three important home runs -- all in Game 1. During the AL Championship Series with the Yankees and the World Series with the Los Angeles Dodgers, Altuve made significant contributions both offensively and defensively. His incredible enthusiasm spurred his teammates to do their best. He also helped in the recovery efforts after Hurricane Harvey in Houston.
It was nice to see sportswriters recognize outstanding overall play in an era when home runs dominate the game.