By Robert Dominguez
Size doesn’t matter. At least not in baseball.
Jose Altuve, the Houston Astros’ dynamic — and diminutive — second baseman, handily beat out Aaron Judge, the New York Yankees’ gentle giant, for the American League MVP honor announced Thursday night.
But it was hardly a David vs. Goliath battle to see which of the two heavily-favored players would be the one to bring home the hardware for most valuable player.
It was no surprise the 27-year-old Altuve, who is generously listed at 5 feet, 6 inches, um, tall — he’s the shortest player in the game — added his first MVP award to an already remarkable list of career achievements thanks to a 2017 campaign that saw him hit .346 — a career best and good for his third batting title in just seven years in the majors, and third in four seasons.
The Venezuela native also bashed 24 homers, tying a career high, knocked in 81 runs, swiped 32 bases (second in the AL), scored 112 runs (also second), and had his fourth straight 200-hit season, with 204.
And, of course, he was the heart and soul of an Astros team that won its first-ever MLB championship, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in a seesaw series that went seven games.
Judge — the game’s tallest position player — became a larger-than-life figure in his first full season with the Yankees, breaking the rookie record for home runs (52, best in the AL), and driving in 114 runs.
But the 6-foot, 7-inch right fielder’s breakout season was marred by a horrible summer slump that added mightily to his league-leading 208 strikeouts, though he did recover with a torrid September that helped the Bombers make the playoffs.
Altuve, however, was a consistent force in the middle of the Astros’ lineup throughout the season, as the team peeled away from the rest of the AL West even with shortstop Carlos Correa, Altuve’s buddy and double-play partner, missing more than 50 games to injury.
The MVP voting tally wasn’t even close: Altuve picked up 27 first-place votes and three seconds, while Judge had two first-place votes, 27 seconds and one third. Cleveland second baseman Jose Ramirez was third in the voting, with the Angel’s Mike Trout fourth and Indians shortstop Francisco Lindor fifth.
For Judge, a budding superstar on a young and packed Yankees team, the AL Rookie of the Year award he won Monday is a pretty solid consolation prize.
But Altuve, widely considered the best all-around player in baseball, once again proved great things do come in small packages.
Robert Dominguez, a senior editor at the New York Daily News, is also the managing editor of Viva, The News’ Latino lifestyle magazine, and is the co-author of “Bronx Bummers: The Unofficial History of the New York Yankees’ Bad Boys, Blunders and Brawls.” firstname.lastname@example.org
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