NEW YORK (AP) – Houston Astros dynamo Jose Altuve won the American League MVP award on Thursday, towering over New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge by a wide margin.
The 5-foot-6 Altuve drew 27 of the 30 first-place votes in balloting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America.
Altuve batted a major league-best .346. He hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base.
“I was surprised that I won it,” Altuve said. “I wasn’t expecting this.”
It was a landslide long in the making. Altuve has been in Houston since general manager Jeff Luhnow took a scorched earth approach to developing a winner. The Astros lost 100-plus games in each of Altuve’s first three seasons, beginning in 2011.
Houston won its first World Series earlier this month, and it needed its longest-tenured player to get there. Altuve batted a major league-best .346 in the regular season, hit 24 home runs with 81 RBIs, scored 112 times, stole 32 bases and showed a sharp glove at second base. Voting for these honors was completed before the postseason began.
It’s been over a decade since Altuve signed with Houston from Venezuela — only after he was sent home from one tryout and told he was too short.
“They told me not to come back,” Altuve said. “It was something me and my dad, he went with me that day, we were like, ‘We have to go again. We have to try again.'”
“It’s not a rule that you have to be 6-foot or you have to be really strong to play baseball and become a good player,” he added.
Altuve beat out a player who couldn’t be more different. The 6-7 Judge won the AL Rookie of the Year award Monday after setting a rookie record with 52 home runs. Judge’s moonshot homers dominated the highlights, and his No. 99 jersey was the top seller in baseball. Even Altuve has said he would have voted for Judge.
Judge had 8.2 wins above replacement compared to Altuve’s 7.5, per Fangraphs, while baseball-reference.com’s WAR metric preferred Altuve 8.3 to 8.1. Yet Judge got only two first-place votes, with the other going to third-place finisher Jose Ramirez of the Indians.
Altuve was the second Houston player to win an MVP — Jeff Bagwell earned the 1994 NL award.
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