Culture / Sporting Life

Is Jose Altuve Really This Humble?

Astros Star Keeps Defying Modern Celebrity as He Shadows J.J. Watt, Builds Up Bregman and Dominates On the Reg

BY // 07.16.18

If it is any other athlete besides Jose Altuve, no one believes him. With anyone else, it comes across as forced false modesty — a play at being humble, an easily seen through PR ploy.

But with Altuve, there’s never any doubt it’s real.

Somehow through the American League MVP season, driving the Astros to the first championship in franchise history, earning the most All-Star votes in baseball and being the player that every kid in Houston wants to grow up to be, Jose Altuve remains ridiculously self-effacing.

So when I ask him if he ever thought of participating in the Home Run Derby like Alex Bregman is tonight in Washington D.C., he quickly shoots back, “Nah, I don’t have that power.”

This is a superstar who hit three home runs in a single playoff game in one of the greatest postseason performances in Houston sports history. This is a guy who hit 24 home runs in 2016 and 2017 while batting .338 and .346. (Bregman, incidentally, has 47 home runs in his career to date.) This is Jose Freaking Altuve, who can do anything with a bat that he damn well pleases.

Much like the ever underrated Wade Boggs (check out some of the WAR numbers the fried chicken king put up) and Baseball’s True Hit King Ichiro Suzuki before him, Altuve could likely rather easily hit more home runs if he focused on it. He could put on a show.

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But you get the idea that unlike Boggs and Ichiro (who both would have told you as much), Altuve does not think of himself in this way. He does not see the superstar that everyone else sees.

So he goes on about how excited he is to see Bregman in the Derby, even jokes about fetching water for his younger teammate.

“I like it,” Altuve says. “I’m obviously going to be rooting for him and try to get some camera time during the Derby. Get him some drinks or something.”

With any other star athlete, you’re almost rolling your eyes at that. With Altuve, you know it’s absolutely real. That’s how different this superstar is. A Jose Altuve is rarer in professional sports than a Northern hairy-nosed wombat is in nature.

Somehow, against all modern prima donna odds in this Kardashian world, this is how Jose Altuve rolls. It’s about every man but himself.

He remains one of the most humble people in sports (there are plenty of general managers with much bigger egos than Altuve’s — heck, there are scouts with bigger egos than Altuve’s) even as he dominates his game like few others.

Take Atuve’s relationship with NFL icon J.J. Watt. Watt and Altuve are contemporaries at this point.

They shared Sports Illustrated Sportsperson of the Year honors. They’re equals in so many ways and clearly the two most influential and important athletes in Houston by a mile. Watt is still probably No. 1 (only the Houston Chronicle could rate the force who raised an astounding $37 million for Hurricane Harvey relief the Ninth Most Influential Athlete in his own city and not realize the joke they were making of their list). But Altuve is right there by Watt, right at his giant heels.

Only Jose Altuve would never talk about himself like that.

Instead, he defers to J.J., who’s become a real legitimate friend of his, on everything. And Altuve completely means it. He’s beyond thrilled to just be in Watt’s orbit. Take his take on being presented his All-Star Game jersey by Watt in a Minute Maid Park pregame ceremony.

“To get the jersey from, to me, the most popular sports person in Houston — and maybe all over the country — J.J. Watt is an honor,” Altuve says. “I’ve got a great relationship with him.”

Many sports superstars practically scream, “Look at me!” Jose Altuve all but yells, “Look at him!” instead.

This still causes Altuve to get overlooked and underrated in some ways even today. If you’re wondering if it’s possible to be a league MVP and a leading vote getter and still be underrated, Jose Altuve proves without a doubt that it is. Just see how often (or more accurately, how little) he is mentioned on all those sports talking head shows (including the shows on MLB’s own channel) when the subject of the best player in baseball comes up.

Still, Jose Altuve will never stand up and demand that he be included. He’ll never rail against the snubs. He’ll never even drop a “I’ll see you all, next year,” a la James Harden. That’s not just who he is. Heck, Altuve spent half of his AL MVP media conference call talking about what a great player Yankees slugger Aaron Judge is.

He had more praise for the guy who finished a distant second than himself.

This humble is real.

“That guy’s Superman,” Bregman says of Altuve.

No, Superman never downplayed his powers while in uniform. The Man of Steel could learn a little something from Jose Altuve, too.

The All-Star Truths

When Altuve is cheering you on in the Home Run Derby, you know he’s really pulling for you. This star doesn’t steal camera time. He sprays credit elsewhere in the same way he sprays hits. Altuve’s friendship with Watt has clearly made him even more invested in how the other Houston professional sports teams do.

“We all support Rockets and Texans,” he says. “They all support us.”

No one supports quite like Jose Altuve. When the American League’s reigning MVP steps into the batter’s box against Washington Nationals super ace Max Scherzer in the top of the first inning in Nationals Park Tuesday night, there is a good chance he could do something special.

There is a guaranteed chance that he’ll talk about someone else instead. Somehow, against all modern prima donna odds in this Kardashian world, this is how Jose Altuve rolls. It’s about every man but himself.

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