Jose Altuve was left out of the starting lineup Sunday to protect his batting average lead. But Altuve insisted on playing and still won the title in an 8-3 loss to the Mets which closed the regular season.
Altuve: Crown jewel of lineup
(c) Associated Press
Altuve spanked an infield hit and a ground rule double to finish at .341, claiming the first batting title in Astros history. He not only had the best mark in the American League but the top percentage in the majors of all qualifiers.
And that's not all. Mighty Mouse led the majors in hits with 225, smashing Craig Biggio's team record of 210 in the process. He also led all American Leaguers with 56 stolen bases.
It was a bittersweet day overall at the Replacement Shea. Long Island native Nick Tropeano had over 100 friends and family supporting him in the stands but allowed four runs over five innings and took the loss. Former Astros prospect Bobby Abreu called it quits after a very successful 18-year career.
The 70-92 Astros showed a 19-win improvement from 2013, second only to the Angels among big league clubs. Chris Carter led the team in home runs (37) and RBIs (88), both career highs. Dallas Keuchel (12-9, 2.93 ERA) and Collin McHugh (11-9, 2.73) emerged to become the top two hurlers on the club while Chad Qualls led the team in saves (19).
Houston still finished with the fourth-worst record in the majors and will take the second and fifth spots in next June's draft. They get the second pick as compensation for not signing the first overall pick this summer.
In the coming weeks, the Astros will announce a permanent manager for next season. Interim skipper Tom Lawless looked promising for awhile but the team ended on a 3-9 tailspin that may have ruined his chances. A host of names have been floated and some have already interviewed. It won't really matter who gets the job since the Astros seem to want puppets in these posts who will back the policies of the front office first and foremost.
Decisions will need to be made about free agents and players eligible for arbitration. The front office will also need to consider bolstering the roster for next year with a name player or two. Finally, the broadcast rights saga may, at long last, be coming to a close if bankruptcy judge Marvin Isgur rules for the new DirecTV/AT&T partnership's bid to take over CSN-Houston and negotiate new carriage deals that should expand the number of homes that can actually view the marvelous Mr. Altuve and his friends in their own living rooms.
It should be relatively quiet around Texas and Crawford while the post-season is played out but you can expect the Astros will be busy once the bell rings on a new winter off-season. The time is fast approaching that the Astros can no longer rely on worn excuses to not be competitive. Fans will expect to see a further upswing next season.
- Bob Hulsey