By all standards, Jose Altuve is a great player, but it’s his height that has made him an internet sensation inspiring several memes and new systems of measurement. It has also made him one of the most atypical baseball players in recent history. As a diminutive second baseman, he is often compared to Dustin Pedroia of the Red Sox, although Pedroia is a bit taller at 5 feet 9 inches. All famous tiny baseball players in the game’s history, such as Joe Morgan, Jimmy Rollins, and Craig Biggio are all big in comparison to Jose Altuve. The times when nutrition meant a post-match drink was the only preceding time a player of Altuve’s height had achieved such glory. Phil Rizzuto, who hanged his “boots” in 1956 and is a Hall of Famer, was also 5 feet 6 inches tall. Although Rizzuto was one of the prolific players of his time, he never had an effectively offensive campaign as the one Altuve had in the 2017 season. Prior to Altuve, Bobby Shantz, who received the 1952 MVP award, was the only similar-sized player to receive the award. However, Shantz was more of a one-time wonder than a reliable star. Another player often compared to Jose Altuve, is the 1920s 5 foot 6 inches slugger, Hack Wilson. Although Wilson had some impressive stats, he wasn’t as all-rounded as Altuve.
When MLB historian John Thorn was asked to name the last diminutive player who was as good as Altuve, he mentioned a few former baseball players, but couldn’t think of anyone in the last century who definitively came close to matching Jose Altuve. Altuve is arguably the best short player to ever grace the baseball world since the 20th century 5 foot 4 inches outfielder Willie Keller. Keller is best known as the player who perfected the Baltimore chop, a technique that involves hitting the ball directly downwards, in a manner that makes it bounce to such a great height that the fast batter can hit it out of a single. During his 19- year career, Keller only managed to hit 33 home runs.
So one may ask, what makes Jose Altuve such an efficient player? Well, for starters, the player rarely misses when he swings, his impressive speed makes him effective in hitting leg out extra-base hits and infield singles. Altuve is also one of the top bunters in modern-day baseball. The fact that he managed to add power in the middle of his career is proof that the player made extensive preparations and conditioning. Victor Martinez, Altuve’s mentor, and friend, once described the player’s rigorous preparation as unbelievable.
Ironically, Jose Altuve’s main rival for the 2017 Most Valuable Player award, was another amazing baseball player–280 pounds, 6 foot 7 inch Aaron Judge of the Yankees, one of the widest position players in the history of baseball. In July 2017, a picture of Aaron Judge and Jose Altuve standing next to each other surfaced and went viral mainly because their mutual existence was sheerly absurd. How could two people who have such a drastic difference in size participate and excel in the same sport? It’s a testimony both to Altuve’s outstanding persistence and the nature of baseball. In baseball, a small player can hit 3 home runs in a playoffs match, win 3 batting titles, and win Major League Baseball’s highest honor. In the early stages of his careers, almost nobody could fathom that Jose Altuve could rise to become an exceptional baseball player. Yet, today he is considered one of the greatest players ever to grace the sport.