Astros: Jose Altuve dealt with personal loss in tough 2020

Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports
Mandatory Credit: Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports /

Houston Astros star Jose Altuve dealt with more than just the scandal fallout in 2020.

By any metric, it was a rough 2020 season for Jose Altuve. The Houston Astros star never really looked like himself in the regular season before finally coming alive in the playoffs. While many attributed his struggles to the pandemic-shortened season and the fallout from the team’s sign stealing scandal, it turns out there was an even heavier weight on his shoulders.

Manager Dusty Baker said on Wednesday that the 2020 season was hard on everyone. “Then in the middle of that (Altuve) had some deaths in his family which he didn’t say anything about. There are things in life sometimes that people think don’t affect us and indeed they do.”

We don’t know any further details about who died or when, but the details don’t really matter, and I’m certainly not interested in prying into the man’s private life. Anyone who’s experienced loss will surely understand how multiple losses, in the midst of everything else going on, might make it difficult for someone to be their best at such a demanding job.

Altuve hit only .219/.286/.344 in 48 regular season games last year, becoming a lightning rod for the sign stealing scandal despite the fact that he did not engage in the trash can scheme. Opposing fans along with many people in the media seemed to enjoy his struggles and attribute them to the absence of trash can bangs or buzzers, which is flat out ridiculous.

While I might hope these rabid haters will feel some remorse for their treatment of Altuve after finding out this latest news, I’m not naïve enough to think so. These vile, soulless people will most likely continue to double down on their false narrative and attribute any success Altuve has to “the buzzers working again,” or some nonsense like that. Shame on them all.

Poised for a Rebound

Altuve looked more like himself in the playoffs, and he looks to be in position for a big year in 2021. His teammates have taken note, with Yuli Gurriel telling reporters on Wednesday that Altuve “looks incredible.” Baker also said, “He appears happy. He’s gonna have a big year for us.”

Michael Brantley also echoed those sentiments. “We had a long conversation on day one. He’s in a great mental spot, great physical spot,” Brantley said. “He looks great. He’s running around with a big smile on his face.”

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That smile, and everything that goes with it, is perhaps the biggest barometer of success for this team. If Altuve is himself, he’s the engine that makes the Astros lineup go. George Springer is gone, so it’s entirely possible that Altuve takes the leadoff spot. But even if he doesn’t, he’s still the heart of this team and its most important player.

He also experienced some issues throwing to first base in the ALCS, but insists those are behind him. He said he “definitely changed a lot of stuff” regarding how he throws, and Gurriel also noted how well he’s throwing the ball this spring. He may not be the Gold Glove winner he was back in 2015, but he should have no trouble handling the position.

The main thing to watch, though, will be his performance at the plate. It wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest to see Altuve win another batting title this year, and quite frankly I’d love to see it. Even if he doesn’t reach that lofty goal, though, he should still have healthy numbers this year. I’m expecting a vintage season from the true 2017 AL MVP.

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