I was standing by the Busch Stadium visitors' dugout in July when he walked by. We didn't say anything, but we looked eye-to-eye, and as Jose Altuve passed me, I thought to myself: “There goes my king.”
I'm pretty short. 5-foot-7 on the driver's license, 5-foot-8 on the 1996 Clayton High School JV basketball roster, 5-foot-6 in the doctor's office. I'm not an actual fan of the Astros or Altuve, but I clearly have admiration for this 5-foot-6 giant. His abilities have been well-documented over the years, but his recent October triumphs are topical, considering he hit a walk-off homer to win the ALCS … and won the ALCS MVP … and will play in World Series, beginning Tuesday night, facing St. Louis native Max Scherzer.
And on the Nationals' side is another 5-foot-somethin' second baseman who won the LCS MVP. Cardinals fans recall the mashing of the Nationals' doubles machine, the 5-foot-10 Howie Kendrick. In the Game 3 Washington win (they all were Washington wins), he became just the fourth LCS player to hit three doubles in a game.
And of course, the 5-foot-9 Kolten Wong had perhaps the best Cardinals season of any non-pitcher. And he returned to October and twice tallied two RBIs in the NLDS, including the historic Game 5 win at Atlanta.
How good was Wong's 2019? He had a 4.1 WAR per baseball-reference.com (second on the Cardinals to pitcher Jack Flaherty's 6.0). He hit .285 with a .361 OBP, while drawing a career-high 47 walks and stealing a career-high 24 bases (while being caught just four times).
Defensively, he was a St. Louis wizard. Wong had 14 defensive runs saved, most of any National League second basemen. Coming in second (with eight defensive runs saved) was yet another short second baseman who played in this postseason – Atlanta's 5-foot-8 Ozzie Albies.
Wong should win the Gold Glove – then again, he should've won it last year, but they gave it to then-Rockie DJ LeMahieu, who at 6-foot-4 is the Manute Bol of second basemen, but joined the other second basemen with some October heroics. The Yankee LeMahieu homered in the top of the ninth inning of Game 6 to tie it up … prior to Altuve's walk-off pennant-winner.
As for Altuve, he is the first second baseman ever to win both an MVP award and a postseason series MVP award.
He's playing just splendid baseball. In the second half of this season, he had a .622 OPS, and he leads all hitters in postseason total bases (as ESPN.com pointed out, more than the next two Astros combined).
"The playoff version of him is spectacular,” Astros manager AJ Hinch told reporters. “We talk about his Division Series homers and then his attention to detail in every facet of the game.
"He's turned himself into a star in his career here, and yet he's remained humble, he's remained hungry. He's driven. He's engaging with his teammates. It's the same old quote of, 'Everything that's right about the Astros is Jose Altuve.'
"He's been here the longest and seen this organization grow from the ground up. I'm so proud of him.”
And I look up to him.