Culture / Sporting Life

Jose Altuve Puts Kyle Tucker in the Shohei Ohtani Conversation — ESPN Disrespect Aside, It’s Clear This Astro is a Future MVP

While Many Are Already Obsessing Over Tucker's Free Agency Future, The Show Is Real and Game Changing

BY // 08.13.23

Jose Altuve may still literally love Justin Verlander, but Kyle Tucker isn’t that far behind these days. The All-Time Greatest Houston Astro sounds ready to serve as the campaign manager for Tucker’s future MVP campaigns. Including this season. With Shohei Ohtani defying the usual boundaries of baseball, Tucker has no chance of actually winning American League MVP honors this season, of course.

But Altuve still doesn’t think Tucker’s name is being mentioned enough among the other candidates.

“I know Shohei is having a crazy season, an MVP type of season,” Altuve says when I ask him about Tucker’s impact on these now 68-50 Astros. “But Tucker is having a great, great year. He should be in there with the MVPs. I think that said it all. He’s that kind of player.

“It’s amazing the way he plays. He can win games with defense, running bases, hitting. Base hit, walk, a homer. He’s just one of my favorite players.”

Altuve has plenty of company among Astros fans. Obsessing over the possibility of losing Kyle Tucker in free agency has already become an Astros Twitter obsession — even though Tucker can’t become a free agent until after the 2025 season. By then, he actually may have won an MVP.

He’s certainly putting up an MVP orbit type season this year, up to 88 RBI, 22 home runs, a .297 average, 24 steals and several game-saving plays in right field after getting four RBI, three hits and a soaring homer in the Astros’ second straight 11-3 demolition of Ohtani’s free falling Angels.

Kyle Tucker is the superstar hiding in plain side. Or not really hiding. Just plain laid-back chilling, not making a big deal about himself. Just barreling up the baseball and doing damage. Lots of damage.

Tucker could use someone like Altuve, a former league MVP himself, to promote him. For Tucker certainly isn’t going to do it.

“I’m just feeling good right now,” Tucker says. “I try to swing at strikes and take balls. And put together good at-bats to help the team.”

The only thing missing is a shrug.

Kyle Tucker sometimes seems to go through life with the resting heartbeat of a blue whale. But plenty of joy comes through in his game. Even if it’s a little understated.

Tucker’s numbers do a fine job of selling him on their own, anyway. He already has three home runs and 12 RBI in 10 August games after hitting .359 with 23 RBI in July. Anything but coincidentally, the Astros are off to a 7-3 start this month, pushing themselves to a season-high 18 games over .500.

“Oh yeah, Tuck,” Astros manager Dusty Baler says. “That’s great. To see him swinging the way he is. I was more impressed with the base hit to left than the homer. Because you know he’s going to hit homers, but to hit that ball to the opposite field, on the line straight, that shows you he’s on the ball and staying through the ball.”

That tracking flare of a base hit single to right comes with the bases loaded, a situation where Tucker just absolutely mashes. Kyle Tucker is as good with the bases loaded as Dave Chappelle is on a stage. Just ask the Baltimore Orioles.

Yet, Tucker still somehow carries the profile of an underground garage band in some quarters. When ESPN ranked the Top 100 players in baseball earlier this season, it somehow placed Tucker 38th. Behind Mets bust Francisco Lindor, former teammate and free agency ping pong Carlos Correa and Yankees disappointment Carlos Rodon among others.

Things that make you go huh. . .

“I know Shohei is having a crazy season, an MVP type of season. But Tucker is having a great, great year. He should be in there with the MVPs.” — Jose Altuve on Kyle Tucker

King Tuck and the H-Town Love

Kyle Tucker isn’t underrated in the 713 though. He seems to become more of a fan favorite by the season with those King Tuck paper crowns one of the most coveted accessories at Minute Maid.

“I do notice it,” Tucker says of those crowns. “And I recognize it. It’s pretty cool. How it kind of started with a little small section and now it’s kind of grown bigger.”

It’s safe to bet that the Kyle Tucker bandwagon is only getting started in many ways.

Kyle Tucker is one of the Astros young superstars. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)
Kyle Tucker is one of the Astros young superstars. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

On Astros Hall of Fame Weekend, with underrated second base battler Bill Doran and beloved longtime Astros TV voice Bill Brown both going into the Hall that Jim Crane started in 2019, it is easy to imagine Kyle Tucker joining them one day. In truth, that orange jacket may be a limiting goal for an uber talent who should win a league MVP in his career and probably shoot for Cooperstown.

Kyle Tucker is that good, that talented.

If Tucker follows George Springer and Carlos Correa out of Houston after the 2025 season when he’ll become an unrestricted free agent, it will be the biggest loss of all. One that stings and hurts Astros fans on a whole new level. But it’s also part of the game. Few players play their entire career for one franchise. Jose Altuve is going to be an Astros exception.

Expecting Kyle Tucker to be another one makes perfect sense from a talent and production standpoint. But it may not be realistic. Yes, Astros general manager Dana Brown publicly spoke up about his desire to ensure that Tucker remains an Astro for life on the team’s flagship radio station.

That may mean something — but dollars and years will determine how this goes. Tucker is looking at a potential $350 million plus deal in free agency in a couple of years. And maybe even higher once Shohei Ohtani obliterates the old standards for baseball contracts this winter.

That’s a worry for another night, another year really. This is a time to appreciate how Kyle Tucker is lifting a Houston offense that suddenly looks special again with its igniter back. That’d be Jose Altuve, who got on base four times in the series opening romp over the Angels, added three more hits on Saturday night and is now 12 for 17 in the last four games.

That’s not a batting average. It’d be a great shooting percentage for a basketball center who never strays more than four feet from the basket.

Houston Astros beat the Cleveland Guardians behind J.P. France at Minute Maid Park
J.P. France has been a revelation for this Houston Astros pitching staff. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Once night after torching the Angels paper mache pitching staff for 11 runs and 15 hits, the Astros put up another 11 spot with 13 more hits. Ohtani may want to retire from the Angels before the end of his weekend in Houston. Chas McCormick even robs baseball’s supernova star of extra bases with a catch right up against the left field scoreboard in the eighth inning.

Bill O’Brien had a better time in Houston.

Tucker is looking at a potential $350 million plus deal in free agency in a couple of years. And maybe even higher once Shohei Ohtani obliterates the old standards for baseball contracts this winter.

“Oh, it’s huge,” pitching revelation J.P. France, the man with mustache and the 2.74 ERA, says of the Astros’ offense. “You still plan to go out there and throw zeroes up, but to have a four, seven, eleven run cushion, it’s awesome. It helps you relax a little more out there.

“. . . I can’t praise these guys enough on offense.”

That centers around Kyle Tucker in so many ways this season. No wonder why Jose Altuve is ready to manage his campaign.

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