Carlos Correa knows that Jose Altuve deserves plenty of love for his playoff heroics. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve is used to changing everything for the Astros with one lightning quick swing. (Photo by F. Carter Smit
Giannina and Jose Altuve
Jose Altuve and the Houston Astros know how to celebrate a big night. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve is still the straw that stirs the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
José Altuve gets a bear hug from Justin Verlander at the fundraiser at Tootsies.( Photo by Daniel Ortiz)
Carlos Correa and Jose Altuve celebrated another big Astros moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve brings plenty of fire to the Houston Astros. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Jose Altuve and Alex Bregman shared a moment. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Carlos Correa likes to lift Jose Altuve up in the air. The two share more hugs than most bridal parties. Their handshakes are as elaborate as the routines of the Ohio State marching band. And in really big moments, Correa is liable to rip off Altuve’s clothes. At least his jersey.
These double play partners are the heart and joy of a Houston Astros team that ended a 56 year title drought, made two World Series in three years and royally annoyed the rest of baseball in the process. But they’re not exactly made for social distancing.
This is a touchy feely partnership, one in which two grown men (one a 30-year-old former MVP from Venezuela, one a a 25-year-old former No. 1 overall pick from Puerto Rico) bring out the happy in each other. Correa plays the game with a little kid’s joy and his enthusiasm clearly delights the more serious Altuve, too.
Of course, these are different times, coronavirus times, times when ripping someone’s jersey off with joy is going to be frowned upon.
Maybe it’s no surprise that Altuve volunteers that having to keep some distance from Correa is the toughest adjustment of all.
“Not being able to shake hands,” Altuve says on a Zoom call after one of the Astros early “spring” training part II workouts at Minute Maid Park when asked about the hardest change. “Not being able to get close to Carlos because he’s my double play partner. And talk to him.
“But I think we’re doing fine.”
How well Altuve and Correa can adjust to the new realities — which also increasingly looks like no fans in the stands at all this year (thanks anti-mask fanatics!) — will go a long ways toward determining what the Astros can do in this most bizarre of seasons. Correa and Altuve will have to create their own joy without the usual buzz in the ballpark. While maintaining some semblance of social distancing between each other.
Another stark reminder of this new reality came Monday when the Astros canceled their planned workout because their coronavirus test results were delayed. This one day after Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle ripped Major League Baseball’s time-challenged testing program and lack of personal protection equipment. The Nationals also canceled their scheduled workouts Monday — on the same day that MLB finally released the 60 game schedule. (Of note — the Astros host the Dodgers July 28 and July 29, play at Dodgers Stadium September 12 and 13 and have no regular season games against the New York Yankees, arguably their biggest obstacle in the American League, under the division and corresponding cross league division format.)
If there is a season (and who can be sure at this point?), Altuve seems poised to take advantage of this rare full-out baseball sprint. If there is a short list of hitters who could flirt with hitting .400 in a 60-game season, the 2017 American League MVP has to be near the very top of it. From July 24 to the end of the season last year, Altuve hit .317 with 17 home runs and 40 RBI in 232 plate appearances. With the Astros season scheduled to start on July 24 at Minute Maid Park against the Seattle Mariners this season, almost everyone with the club would welcome a repeat of that Jose Binge.
Altuve’s new manager has already been wowed by his brief summer workout return so far.
“I tell you one thing— he’s been working,” Dusty Baker says. “I told him that he took some of the best batting practice the last few days that I’ve ever seen. And I’ve been around some good ones. This guy works. And he has an idea what he’s doing. He’s strong as heck. And an intelligent baseball player. I’m looking forward to seeing this guy on an everyday basis.
“I saw him across the field and didn’t really appreciate what he could do till I’ve been around him everyday.
Now Altuve and Correa just need to figure out how to stay close while staying somewhat apart. Some duos just aren’t made for social distancing.