The sport-wide hatred of Houston Astros star Jose Altuve is baseless and unwarranted.
The Houston Astros have borne a continuous tidal wave of criticism over the past few months, much of which is justly deserved. But I simply won’t stand for the slander of Jose Altuve any longer. In the immortal words of Howard Beale, “I’m as mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”
For me, the final straw came on Friday night when Oakland Athletics broadcaster Ray Fosse made a buzzing noise while Altuve was at the plate, obviously for the purpose of making a joke about the oft-repeated conspiracy theory that Altuve and the Astros wore buzzers in 2019 as a way to be told what pitch was coming.
But the buzzer accusation holds absolutely no water. For one, the Commissioner’s report on the Astros sign stealing scandal noted there was zero evidence anyone used buzzers at any point, including in 2019. Considering Rob Manfred has effectively turned the Astros into a scapegoat for a league-wide issue while protecting other teams (cough, cough, Yankees), I would imagine he would’ve been happy to tell the world they used buzzers if there was any indication they had.
The Beat Goes On
So why is Altuve at the center of this nonsense? Because he had the audacity to beat the Yankees, of course. Altuve’s series-ending home run off Aroldis Chapman in the 2019 ALCS is where this all started, as the Astros haters have proclaimed that the only way Altuve could’ve hit that pitch is because he knew it was coming.
As we explained in detail on Twitter last month, it makes perfect sense that Altuve would’ve looked for a slider in that situation. Chapman had shown he couldn’t control his fastball, having missed badly to both Altuve and George Springer. Any knowledgeable hitter would’ve been sitting slider, and it helped that Chapman left one right over the plate.
But the haters will grab onto anything to perpetuate their story. A piece of confetti stuck to Josh Reddick’s chest, Altuve’s desire to avoid having his teammates rip off his jersey — it’s all hard evidence to the Twitter mob. To quote Simon & Garfunkel, “a man hears what he wants to hear and disregards the rest.”
It all defies logic, of course. If Altuve had been wearing a buzzer, his teammates would’ve known about it, so why would they have tried to rip off his jersey? A theory that Altuve immediately went down the dugout tunnel following his home run (ostensibly to take off the buzzer) is just plain false, as seen in the video here.
The Least Guilty
I’m not attempting to absolve the Astros of their sins. Yes, they illegally stole signs in 2017 and 2018, and they deserved their punishment for it. Much of the outrage is overblown considering that several other teams were doing it, and the LA Times (of all publications) concluded the Astros weren’t really helped by their sign stealing. But they still broke the rules, and that’s on them.
Trash can jokes aimed at guys like Carlos Correa, George Springer and Alex Bregman are fair game. They’re worn out at this point, but they’re fair game nonetheless. Those guys participated in it, so the ridicule isn’t wholly undeserved. But for some reason, Altuve seems to bear the brunt of the vitriol that we’re seeing both on social media and in the media in general.
This makes no sense, as Altuve was probably the one hitter on that 2017 team who didn’t participate in the sign stealing. Correa said as much, and the LA Times article essentially confirmed it. Yet people claim Altuve stole the 2017 MVP award from Aaron Judge, despite the fact that the Yankees were known to be cheating as well. They also conveniently ignore that Altuve’s numbers were much better on the road that year, while Judge’s were significantly better at home.
The critics will say that even if Altuve didn’t participate in the cheating, he knew about it and kept silent. This is true, but can you blame him? Other teams were known to be doing it, and the Astros were told as much by clubhouse veteran and former Yankee Carlos Beltran. What reason would someone have to speak up if it’s a league-wide issue? Why would anyone want to be like Mike Fiers?
More from Climbing Tal's Hill
- Just how much better is the Houston Astros playoff rotation than the rest?
- Houston Astros: A Lineup Change to Spark Offense
- Astros prospect Hunter Brown throws 6 shutout innings in debut
- Always faithful Astros World Series champion Josh Reddick defends the title
- Michael Conforto declines Astros’ 2-year, $30 million offer
This is the same reasoning why so much hate is directed at Justin Verlander as well, even though he clearly would not have participated in the sign stealing given his status as a pitcher. People can argue that he benefited from it, but even that is questionable given the team’s questionable results from their scheme.
Haters Gonna Hate
Why the Altuve hate? Maybe people don’t like that such a short-statured guy is so good at baseball. Maybe they’re bitter about him winning the MVP over Judge and then beating the Yankees in 2019. He’s the most accomplished hitter in the Astros lineup, so maybe he’s just a natural lightning rod.
But here’s what Altuve really is: a ridiculously good hitter and a great person. He’s the perfect player to be the face of a franchise — someone who’s overcome the odds to develop into one of the best players in the game. There are precisely zero legitimate indications that he has actively participated in cheating of any kind.
So, please, save the jokes and the hate for people who actually did something to deserve it. And maybe opposing fans should stop and take a look at their own glass houses before throwing stones at a team that probably isn’t much worse than their own.