Shipwreck At The Sticky Wicket

By Gyle Konotopetz

A man from Los Angeles politely requests a sample of the local IPA draught, and Yasiel Puig of the Los Angeles Dodgers is licking his bat on the big screen at the Sticky Wicket. Yes, licking his bat.

“Jackie Robinson…now there was a ball player,” pipes the gentleman from Los Angeles, his piercing blue eyes dancing at the memory.

I used to listen to Sugarfoot Anderson, the one-time Canadian Football League star, spin yarns about his friend Jackie – the man who broke baseball’s color line.

And now I have almost been knocked me off my bar stool at Victoria’s cricket themed pub. I can’t remember ever meeting anyone who was actually at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn to watch the great Dodger Jackie Robinson, the antithesis of Yasiel Puig.

“I watched Jackie Robinson steal home,” gushes the man from Los Angeles, gazing down the bar as if to challenge anyone to top that. “I’m 86, ya know. Nine decades I’ve rooted for my Dodgers…”

He nods his approval to the bartender and orders a pint of the local craft beer. He is obviously a man of fine tastes but appears a wee bit nauseous as the bat licker settles into the batter’s box.

He is visiting Los Angeles with his daughter. He is a dyed-in-the-wool Dodgers’ fan who moved from Brooklyn to L.A. when the team moved from Brooklyn to L.A. His daughter lives in San Francisco, roots for the Dodgers’ arch rivals, the Giants, and refuses to drink the beer of a Dodgers’ fan. She orders Guinness.

“Red Sox will win the World Series, right pop?” she teases, even with the Dodgers ahead 1-0 and on the verge of evening the series at 2-2.

She gazes down the bar and winks: “I’m from San Francisco and we don’t like much of anything about the Dodgers so I have to cheer for the Red Sox.”

I grew up listening to the Russ Hodges’ call of Giants’ games in the 1960’s late at night in Saskatchewan on the radio of the 1964 Galaxy 500. I idolized Willie Mays, who never once licked his bat or his biceps or his teammates as the Cuban showboat Puig does. So I switch to Guinness and propose a toast to the Giants’ fan and her father, the Dodgers’ fan.

While Puig waggles his bat and waggles tongue, the man from Los Angeles raves about the boys of Brooklyn summers, the Dodgers who were chronicled by sports writer Roger Kahn in The Boys Of Summer.

“Of course I read The Boys Of Summer,” he spouts matter of factly. “Three times.”

The man from Los Angeles was 18 when he watched the Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson steal home and fight the beanball pitchers and tune out the racists, some whom wore the same uniform. Curiously, he mentions only one other player and it’s Don Newcombe, one of the first black stars in the major leagues.

“It was a different game then,” says the man, squinting at the big screen showcasing Yasiel Puig. “You know something? Don Newcombe started both games of a doubleheader in ’49 (I looked it up in my Baseball Encyclopedia and indeed Newcombe pitched a two-hit complete-game shutout in the first game and seven innings in the second game against the Red Sox).

“Don who?” coos the girl next to me from Salt Spring Island who doesn’t baseball from cricket.

The cranky gentleman at the end of the bar is peering longingly at the souvenir cricket bats on the walls of the Sticky Wicket.

“Why is that man licking his bat?” the man from Sidney snarls, offering the bartender a bribe if he can switch the baseball to a cricket match. He is from Sydney, Australia, not Sidney, B.C.

That man takes a mighty cut on the sweet spot. The baseball is launched into orbit.

Puig, the Dodgers’ one-man ticker tape parade, flips the bat, takes a few moments to admire his work of art that has given the Dodgers a 4-0 lead in the sixth inning, triumphantly raises his arms and begins to dance around the bases while flexing and licking his biceps. Boston pitcher Eduardo Rodriguez slams his glove into the dirt, disgusted with himself and with Puig.

The man from Los Angeles is not cheering. He is despondent over the unabashed showboating of Yasiel Puig. He’s not sure whether to laugh or cry.

“I wonder what Sandy Koufax is thinking?” he says of the classy Dodger great who is watching from the box seats behind home plate. “Geez, what if that was Jackie? He never would have survived showing up the pitcher that way.”

He wags a bony finger at the big screen: “Watch out! The Red Sox will be fired up now.”

When the dust settles, it is Boston 9, Los Angeles 6. The man from Los Angeles was right. Yasiel Puig gave the Red Sox the spark they needed to mount a comeback and turn the series in their favor.

The man from Los Angeles has called the shot.

“The tab goes to the Dodger fan here,” his daughter instructs the bartender, lifting a Guinness toast. “Pop, your Dodgers will never win the Series as long as Puig is inspiring his opponents. Here’s to the Red Sox. World Champions to be. We’re goin’ to Big Bad John’s and you’re buyin’, Pop!”

The man who saw Jackie Robinson steal home raises his pint, taking it in stride. Next time he may order Guinness. His beer is called Shipwreck.

(The Red Sox never looked back after Puig’s dramatic blast, winning the World Series in five games over the Dodgers)




































A-Rod: The Skipper In The Booth


Twenty-four years ago, I remember interviewing a broadly smiling kid the day he arrived in Calgary to play his only 32 Triple-A games. Alex Rodriguez had just been demoted after a brief stint with the Seattle Mariners.

One couldn’t help but marvel at how bright, personable and well-spoken he was. If there was a hangover that is commonplace with players sent back to the minors, you couldn’t see it in the 18-year-old phenom.

I remember Cannons’ owner Russ Parker’s jaw drop the first time Rodriguez showed his silky smooth hands at shortstop, gracefully gliding into the hole between shortstop and third, backhanding a ground ball and effortlessly firing a rocket to first base on a play few major league shortstops would have even gotten a glove on.

These days, I am still marveling at Rodriguez two years after his retirement. He now shares his baseball wit and wisdom as a game analyst on Fox MLB broadcasts. The more I listen to Alex Rodriguez working MLB games as a game analyst on Fox the more I wonder why he has hasn’t been hired to manage in the majors.

In my opinion, the rookie analyst is already the best game analyst in baseball, a breath of fresh air. Then again, I may be a bit over zealous about listening to a true pro at the mike after too many hours listening to the mundane Blue Jays’ broadcast tandem of Buck Martinez and Pat Tabler.

Is there anyone on this planet more plugged into major league baseball than A-Rod? Is there anyone more articulate in analyzing the game?

I highly doubt it.

Rodriguez was one of the game’s all-time greats and one of the most electrifying players in the game for 22 years. Superstars often flounder in managerial roles but I believe A-Rod can be the next great manager based on his intelligence, innovative mind and personal skills. That is, if he chooses to manage.

Why do I consider him a hot managing prospect? No, it’s not just because one of the game’s great managerial scouts, A-Rod’s girl-friend Jennifer Lopez, was touting his gifts to manage in the bigs before the New York Yankees’ hired Aaron Boone, Alex’s predecessor in the Fox broadcast booth.

Here’s what A-Rod’s longtime Yankee teammate C.C. Sabathia has said about the prospect of Rodriguez as manager.

“I’ll tell you this, he would be a great (manager),” Sabathia said on a Players Tribune podcast before the Yankees hired Boone. “His baseball IQ is off the charts. I’ve never seen or played or talked with a player who is as smart as he is. From every aspect of the game he could manage, I think.”

Even Yankees’ Brian Cashman leaned on Rodriguez’s wisdom prior to hiring Boone, underscoring his respect for Alex’s knowledge of the game. Rodriguez is an instructor with the Yankees and has been known to work magic with Yankees like catcher Gary Sanchez, who busted out of a slump a night after having dinner with A-Rod.

It’s mystifying that many of today’s MLB managers, including Jays’ John Gibbons, seem oblivious to what defines winning baseball and I’m sure Rodriguez is as mystified as anyone.

Rodriguez gets it. I love listening to him expound on the virtues of what he terms “winning baseball.”

At a time when baseball probably boasts more gifted players than ever, Rodriguez has been reiterating about how today’s players haven’t really learned how to play winning baseball.

Bunting has gone out of style and some of today’s players don’t even know how to properly square to bunt but Rodriguez would not overlook this crucial aspect of winning baseball. I’m sure he would also hire a hitting coach who could teach pull hitters to occasionally exploit the extreme shift by punching balls through the vacant side of the infield.

There was actually a time when major league teams rarely missed opportunities to drive in runners from third with less than two out. Watch the Blue Jays as they swing from the heels with a runner at third and less than two out when they should be shortening their swings or bunting.

Rodriguez, an accomplished entrepreneur and owner of A-Rod Corp. with businesses in real estate, fitness and the media, hasn’t publically acknowledged an interest in managing but my bet is that he loves the game too much to decline an opportunity to get back in uniform as a manager even though he may be more interested in owning a team.

In April, Vegas installed Baltimore Orioles’ manager Buck Showalter as the favorite to be the first manager to be fired this season and it wouldn’t be surprising if there were a vacancy or two before the All-Star break. But the most intriguing possibility is whether Miami Marlins’ CEO Derek Jeter would consider hiring his longtime teammate if another ex-Yankee superstar, Don Mattingly, were fired. Rodriguez has close ties to Miami and a home in nearby Coral Gables.

If the Blue Jays were to fire Gibbons, it appears that it would be a longshot that they would even entertain thoughts of Rodriguez as a candidate.

What is apparent is that with the Blue Jays playing horrendous baseball they desperately need to install a fresh face in the dugout to usher in a new era that features a few exciting prospects on the verge of stardom, including the magnificent Vlad Guerrero.

A-Rod could be the perfect fit to inject some life into Jays’ listless organization but there are two particulaar problems with that scenario.

Firstly, Rodriguez would probably not even consider managing in Toronto when it’s likely that he could be entertaining offers from more enticing marquee markets.

Secondly, the Jays’ stodgy front office may be willing to play out the string this year with Gibbons at the helm or even beyond this season (I would have fired Gibbons Tuesday when he called on a struggling reliever, Seung-hwan Oh, to squander a lead after Marco Estrada’s most impressive start of the year). Furthermore, Jays probably wouldn’t even consider a controversial figure such as Rodriguez, who was suspended late in his career for violating MLB’s performance enhancing drug policy.

Still, this marquee name and progressive baseball mind could be tailor made for an organization desperate to get back on the winning track and give their disgruntled fans at Rogers Centre something to cheer about.










Russ Martin: Jays Biggest Bust


If Toronto Blue Jays’ catcher Russ Martin, were a stock trading on the Toronto Stock Exchange, I would have sold long ago. This stock has been in a downtrend ever since the popular Canadian’s celebrated signing with the Jays four years ago.

Martin’s batting average has plummeted each season as a Jay, from .240 to .231 to .221 and now he can’t even hit his weight. In 27 games, Martin is hitting a pathetic .172.

That’s not all, folks. He has also struggled behind the plate. The masked man looks 35 going on 50 behind the plate. He looks like a lot of 35-year-old catchers worn down by the years. More often than not, he has been bouncing throws to second on steal attempts. The word is out through baseball: run on Martin.

Martin has also been injury-prone since joining the Jays and the gutsy competitor often appears to be playing through injuries.

Bottom line? Right now, he’s the Blue Jays’ second best catcher.

Upstart backup catcher Luke Maile is in a screaming uptrend. The 27-year-old Kentuckian has clearly outplayed Martin. His strong, accurate arm is getting respect from opposing baserunners. He has thrown out six of nine baserunners.

And he has been on fire at the plate, batting .317 and has more runs batted in than Martin despite having 30 less at-bats. More importantly, Maile is batting .455 with runners in scoring position and .667 (2-for-3) with the bases loaded.

Meanwhile, the steamy love affair between Martin and the Toronto media continues while the convenient scapegoat of the broadcasters and writers has been Cuban Kendrys Morales, the DH who like Martin is floundering at the plate. The cheerleaders employed by Sportsnet (which is owned by Rogers, which owns the Jays) have virtually ignored the fact that Martin, from a business standpoint, is the biggest bust on the Jays.

Jays are paying Martin US $20 million this season while the guy paying the huge dividends, Maile, gets $500,000.

The trouble is that Martin is a not a stock so he can’t be sold and trading him isn’t even an option considering his bloated salary. The Jays are stuck with his five-year $82 million contract through next season.

If Martin weren’t Canadian, he’d be getting booed off the field when he flails at strike three.

But it’s high time for Blue Jays’ manager John Gibbons to make a decision on who his number one catcher is. Right now, his Jays have a better chance of winning with Maile starting behind the plate than Martin. Even if his batting average fades, his presence behind the plate looms large. Too many games can be lost when opposing runners run almost at will on your catcher.

You can bet that Gibbons, a former catcher, knows it only too well. But will he show the courage to make the call?

Maile, who has also been lauded by teammates for his handling of the pitchers, has earned the opportunity to be #1. Too often, unheralded players such as Maile never get the vote of confidence they deserve and wind up back in the minor leagues.

Because of his versatility, Martin can still be a valuable tool as backup catcher and utility player. The streak hitter, notorious for horrendous slumps at the plate, can try and get his bat going as a designated hitter or by spelling Josh Donaldson occasionally at third base.

If Maile comes crashing back to earth and his phenomenal clutch hitting turns out to be a mirage, so be it. Then, you give the job back to the grizzled veteran.

But I believe the bright and quiet-spoken Maile who is late bloomer who may well be ready for prime time as a front-line catcher.

How can you ignore a baseball player who is in screaming uptrend.
















Oh Oh, Blues Jays Oh and One

While sunburnt and sampling the tacos in the Mexican League this winter, I confess that I have been out of touch with your beloved Toronto Blue Jays but I did turn on the television set on Opening Day to catch Canada’s baseball heroes in action.

My first conclusion? The Jays had many of the wrong players in uniform last year and now it seems they have the wrong Oh.

Jays’ fans left Rogers Centre with the familiar refrain of “Oh Oh” after a comedy of miscues by Seung Hwan Oh, who is not to be confused with the Japanese home run legend Sadaharu Oh, in the Opening Day loss to the New York Yankees.

This Oh, a Blue Jays’ rookie reliever from South Korea, was a late arrival attempting to cover first on an infield grounder in the eighth inning of the Jays’ 6-1 loss. Pitchers covering first base is one of the basic fundamentals you learn in Little League.

But after Oh’s “Oh Oh” moment, Jays’ announcer Buck Martinez, part of Sportnet’s ‘excuse me’ broadcast team, pointed out that Oh was a late arrival in spring training!

To add insult to injury, on the very next play, Oh forgot to use his glove on a weak dribbler in front of the mound. He tried to bare-hand the ball and then juggled it and dropped it for an error. So somebody forgot to tell Oh in spring training to utilize his glove?

Unfortunately for Jays’ fans, Oh is the least of their problems and it sure looks like it’s already shaping up to be a long season for the Jays’ broadcast crew, who will have their work cut out in manufacturing excuses for this sad sack outfit masquerading as a major league baseball team.

At first glance, it sure looked like the Yankees were playing a minor league team. If you thought last season was bad, look out, folks!

I had my cell phone turned off while on the taco circuit in Mexico. Otherwise, why would Jays’ president Mark Shapiro “shore up” that hole in left field with a guy who is as old as the long-time right fielder Jose Bautista, who is so old they didn’t bring him back. But they signed 37-year-old Curtis Granderson to play left field. There are some fine youngsters patrolling outfields in the Mexican League.

So this is the youth movement? I loved the five-tool Granderson in his prime but let’s be honest. He’s old news.

Which actually makes sense because this team is the “Old News Bears” and it’s going to be bad news for some time, gang.

The anthem was still playing when the Jays committed their ceremonial first error of the year. The Yankees’ first batter, Brett Gardner, lined a low, looping routine line drive directly at Granderson for the first out – oh, oh, it wasn’t quite that way.

The ball almost knocked out Granderson as he whiffed in trying to catch it and commentator Buck Martinez quickly pointed out that he’d lost it “in the lights.” In the lights!?

While the Yankees shored up their outfield with the best home run hitter in baseball, Giancarlo Stanton, who cranked two homers on this day, the Jays countered with Granderson with the sun setting on his career.

While the Yankees hired a bright young and dynamic manager in Aaron Boone, the Old News Jays are off and running with the staid and uninspiring John Gibbons.

Despite boasting a fine young starting rotation, the Jays seem bent on wasting it with a team full of holes and question marks.

One of the most stunning revelations in the opener was the play of the Jays’ best position player Josh Donaldson. It was apparent early that the third sacker Donaldson couldn’t throw as he had all the grace of a shot putter throwing a lead ball to first base. It was apparent that Donaldson’s right arm wasn’t fit for the game, yet Gibbons left him in the game to lob the ball to first base and possibly jeopardize the season of his superstar.

After the game, I was looking forward to the peppery post-game comments of Sportsnet studio analyst Gregg Zaun. After all, while the Jays floundered last year, Zaun always showed up with his game face, a refreshing respite from some of his Sportnet pom-pom waving sidekicks.

But then I remembered that fiery Zaun had been canned for alleged misconduct relating to female staffers with Sportsnet so the alternative was some guy named Joe Siddall, who appears to be about as fiery as Gibbons.

At least when the Jays stunk up the joint last year, we had Zaun to entertain us. Without him, this could be the longest season for Jays’ fans.

Personally, I will viewing Zaun’s Manalyst show on YouTube to get the unfiltered story on the “Oh Oh” Jays.







Yasiel Puig: Curtain Calls Or Curtains

One thing must be said of this baseball Fall Classic. The most important reason many of us will be willing endure the four-hour marathon games in the World Series is also probably the reason the Los Angeles Dodgers will lose to the Houston Astros.

The reason is named Yasiel Puig.

When Puig sets foot on a baseball field, he has Hollywood script writers frothing at the mouth. He is 26 going on seven with pine tar on his tongue. He is a boy stuck in a man’s game. A bat flipper. A bat licker. A tongue wagger. A chest thumper. A coach kisser. For this, they pay him a mere US $6.5 million a year.

If you’re a Dodgers’ fan, you love him for leaving you in stitches.

If you’re an Astros’ fan, you want to see the baseball’s stitches tattooed to his chin. And you may get your wish.

If you’re the Dodgers’ manager (Dave Roberts), you are not sleeping well, knowing that this show can blow up at any moment. Showboating is too often a recipe for disaster in sports.

If you’re the Astros’ manager (A.J. Hinch), you can skip the pep talk. Puig should have your boys busting the hinges off the dressing room door.

The unwritten rule in Major League Baseball is that you don’t show up the opposition, especially the pitcher. Puig hasn’t gotten the memo.

Yet, in a game that tends to stifle its stars, Puig’s hot-dogging is a welcome respite from those mundane mound conferences that drag out the games.

“As long as he keeps playing like that, he can take his clothes off if he wants to,” teammate Enrique Hernandez told the New York Times.

Yasiel Puig (pronounced Yah-SEE-El PWEEG) has emerged as the Dodgers’ catalyst in the post-season, batting a tongue-wagging .414. This is an astonishing renaissance for a player who was more notable for the tongue lashings he endured in previous seasons and particularly last year when he was banished to Oklahoma City and the minor leagues.

Baseball measures skills by five tools – hitting, hitting for power, running, throwing and catching. Puig is a rare six-tool player. He also is an actor.

He is tailor made for prime time. Bat flipping after a home run is frowned upon in major league baseball (you can ask Jose Bautista). Puig, a Cuban defector, takes it all to a new level. The self-proclaimed “most dramatic player in major league baseball” flipped his bat after a measly single in the National League Championship Series against the Cubs. On a double, he stood at home plate and raised his arms to the heavens after a monstrous swing – and still had time to run to second base after seeing the ball had actually hit the wall and not gone over it.

Next, he will be flipping his bats on walks. If an opposing player dares to attempt an extra base on the rifle-armed right fielder, Puig will wag his finger like a school master scolding a child.

Against the Cubs, Puig did the unthinkable, calling his shot early in the game, took a Ruthian swing and flipped his bat, doubling home the Dodgers’ first run. Later in the game, he homered and, when Dodger fans didn’t lure him out of the dugout, he called his own curtain call, emerging from the dugout with all the zealousness of a lion tamer. A circus had broken out at a baseball game and it was a beautiful thing to behold.

For proper persepctive, rewind to 1960 and baseball’s famous anti-Puig moment. The legendary Ted Williams homers in his final at-bat with the Red Sox.

Wrote John Updike in The New Yorker magazine: “He ran as he always ran out home runs – hurriedly, unsmiling, head down, as if our praise were a storm of rain to get out of. He didn’t tip his cap. Though we thumped, wept, and chanted ‘We want Ted’ for minutes after he hid in the dugout, he did not come back…Gods do not answer letters.”

The immortal Babe Ruth was baseball’s most charismatic and entertaining figure but even the Babe, baseball’s one-man ticker-tape parade, had nothing on “The Wild Horse,” as legendary Dodgers’ announcer Vin Scully nicknamed Puig.

In the 1932 World Series, Ruth pointed to the bleachers before smacking a home run but it was a subtle gesture and no one was ever certain that he was actually calling his shot. A far cry from Puig’s bluster.

Puig has given new meaning to the term ‘smack.’ He was asked recently how many times he has kissed the cheek of Dodgers’ batting coach Turner Ward, the man who he credits with his best season at home plate. He flashed that goofy child-like grin and asked how many home runs he’d hit. Indeed, it was 28 smacks during the regular season and one more in the post-season.

“I don’t really like him (Turner) but I love him so I have to kiss him,” Puig told the New York Times, trying to keep from laughing. “I give him more kisses than his wife. He likes that but his wife might get jealous.”

Of course, the curtain has now rising on the Yasiel Puig Show and it remains to be seen whether there will be more joy in LA or whether the Astros choose to deliver an old-school knockout punch by depositing a fastball in Puig’s left ear.

“They can doubt me but they can’t stop me from rising up,” Puig wrote on Twitter just four hours before the opening pitch in the World Series.

What is certain is that the Astros have all the motivation they will need, thanks to Puig’s unpardonable puffery.

But the Astros may have the perfect counter punch to Puig and his Dodger blue hair.

He is Jose Altuve, a throwback – way back to Ted Williams and beyond. At five-feet-six standing on a phone book, Altuve is the smallest player in this post-season and wielding the biggest bat with a .400 batting average, five home runs and no called shots.

If the Yasiel Puig parade is to be unceremoniously derailed by the Astros, it may well be at the hands of the quiet little man with gritted teeth who prefers to keep his tongue in his mouth, his clothes on and let his thunderous bat do the talking.

(Scroll down for the Jose Altuve profile and other columns)



















Tape-measure Job Of The Heart

You are a kid dwarfed by your teammates. You are too small for baseball, they tell you over and over. Your teammates poke fun at your small stature. Your coach benches you with the game on the line in favor of one of the big kids.

You are tormented by your detractors. You love the game but the odds are stacked high against you. Your palms are sweating, your stomach churning.

So what do you do? How do you cope? Where do you turn? Who do you draw inspiration from?

You watch the ultimate sporting role model. You watch Jose Altuve in the American League Championship Series. You watch a man who has overcome the longest odds to become the player many regard as the greatest small player to toil in the major leagues. He is a towering five-foot-six and, if they measured his heart, it would come in at about six-foot-six.

You go to school on Jose Altuve, a player never ever let the dream die, even after the team that employs him, the Houston Astros, shunned him as a 16 year old as he took the first step towards achieving the dream of his countryman and idol Omar Vizquel.

If you get cut from a tryout camp, you don’t take no for answer, don’t give up hope. Never give up hope. When Altuve was cut from a Astros’ tryout camp in his native Venezuela, he returned with a vengeance the next day anyway. When you’re the smallest player you never say never.

You don’t think about the money. With the sweetness in his swing and the fire in his eyes, Altuve eventually won over the Astros’ scouts who called him enamal (dwarf) and they offered him a pro contract.

When the Astros offered a signing bonus, Altuve told them he’d play for free. Al Pedrique, the assistant to Astros’ general manager Tim Purpura who went to bat for Altuve, talked the organization into offering him a $15,000 signing bonus.

When you’ve had to scrap for everything you’ve gotten, you play with a scowl on your face and a chip on your shoulder. You play every game like it is your last. It is this way for Altuve, who is paid US$14.5 million a year while looking like he’d play for nothing.

When you win a batting title and they call you a slap hitter, you watch more film, take more swings, pump more iron and study more pitchers to miraculously transform yourself into a bonafide power threat with 24 homers in back-to-back seasons.

When you endure a miserable batting slump in your first post-season appearance, you apologize to the manager and come back with a steely resolve to redeem yourself. Altuve, on pace to become one of the greatest second basemen in history, returned to the post-season this year with fire in his eyes against the Boston Red Sox, becoming the eighth player in history to hit three homers in a post-season game. Babe Ruth did it twice. Don’t bet against Altuve doing it again.

If you’re five-foot-nothing, you don’t need to become a jockey and spend your leisure in a hot box to make weight. You can draw inspiration by watching Altuve, a 27-year-old who shares a birthday with the great Willie Mays, as he racks up spectacular post-season offensive stats as the Astros face the Yankees.

Watch him out-muscle the game’s most celebrated power hitter, Yankees’ six-foot-seven Aaron Judge, a leading candidate for the most valuable player award. Listen to announcer Joe Buck marvel at Altuve as a “hitting machine.” Listen to the fans chant MVP when you stroke another hit and dance on your toes around the bag at first.

Never mind about your small stature. Check out the numbers of the baseball’s little big man. Altuve is batting a jaw-dropping .625 in  the post-season while the big man, Judge, is the strikeout machine with an astonishing 19 strikeouts in 27 bats and a paltry .143 batting average.

On this day, Game 2 of the series in Houston, you watch the sparkplug Altuve as he goes down swinging in the sixth with the score tied 1-1. Yankees’ pitcher Tommy Kahnle triumphantly shouts with joy as he rings up Altuve. The reigning batting champ spits through his teeth and flashes a menacing glare at Kahnle as he storms back to the dugout. You know he’s taken that license plate number – #48. Altuve’s icy stare tells you his job is not finished.

Watch Altuve in the ninth as he comes to the plate spitting mad and promptly sets the stage for victory with a first-pitch line single off Yankees’ closer Aroldis Chapman. And watch him charge around the bases from first like a man running for his life to score the walk-off game-winning run on a double by Carlos Correa.

Altuve’s hit was only a single in the scorebook but to the kids who idolize him it was much, much more. It was another shot of inspiration to the youth who face discrimination based on their small stature in baseball, or in life.

Listen to Altuve in a post-game interview saying “this is my best game ever…”

No doubt, he means it his most important game ever, putting the Astros within six wins of their first World Championship.

“We here, we battling 100 per cent,” gushes Altuve, and this time the cliche doesn’t ring hollow.

The message from Altuve is crystal clear. Don’t let the scouts write you off based on your performance under a superficial tape measure. Watch Jose Altuve, who forced their hand and left them no choice. They had to measure the size of his heart.

Indeed, this day marked another rousing tape-measure job of the heart.