If you think about it, there are probably a half dozen guys who arguably deserve to win the American League MVP crown. Simon says Mike Trout can do it all, and the Los Angeles Angels slugger is looking good as the frontrunner. But what about Adam Jones, another five-tool player and what he has meant to the Baltimore Orioles, the AL East champions?
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There are some Latinos in the mix, too. Who would have thought that a juice-free Nelson Cruz, a Jones teammate, would have a career year and lead the world in home runs? Robinson Cano didn’t hit many big flies this season, but his overall play and winning swagger did wonders for the Seattle Mariners. And it’s hard to ignore the clutch hitting of Victor Martinez, who has picked up the slack for a crippled Miguel Cabrera. Without V-Mart, the Detroit Tigers would not have won the AL Central.
Then something popped into my head. Would someone actually dare to cast a vote in favor of Jose Altuve for MVP? That would be ridiculous, of course. The kid plays second base for the lowly Houston Astros, and all the other candidates perform for top-tier teams. Besides, Altuve seldom jacks a ball out of the park because he stands 5′-6″ and weighs 170 pounds. But there’s certainly no question about the Venezuelan’s huge numbers.
In case you haven’t heard, Altuve hit .341 for the season to win the American League batting title, the first Astros player in history to gain that achievement. In addition, he led the league in hits, was second in doubles and tops in stolen bases. He also ranked third in offensive WAR, which would impress most fantasy-league addicts.
Defensively, Altuve was stellar. His .986 fielding percentage in 729 chances was second only to Ian Kinsler of the Tigers, but he led all second basemen in completed double plays. Altuve also made the All-Star team for the first time in the junior circuit, while Houston climbed out of the cellar in the AL West with its best record in four years. Did that accomplishment have anything to do with Altuve’s best season in his brief career? You bet it did.
“I’m so proud of Jose,” says Astros hitting coach John Mallee. “He knows how important (his success) is to this organization and the city of Houston.”
Jose Altuve could have enhanced his chances of winning the batting title by sitting out the last game of the season, since he held a slight lead over Detroit’s Martinez. But that’s not his style and there were other goals within reach. Going into the season’s final weekend, Altuve needed only four more doubles to join some exclusive company. The last major league player to get over 220 hits, 50 doubles and 50 stolen bases in a single year was Tris Speaker in 1912. Jose fell shy of that goal, but his 225 base knocks were the most for a second baseman since 1936.
So, will any member of the Baseball Writers of America be a maverick and select Jose Altuve as the league’s best player. Hell no. But maybe they should at least think about it.