We’re still too close.
Yes, out of devotion and loyalty most of us know our Stros can repeat as World champs. But the still, silent voice of reason, or is it doubt, responds that every World series winner thinks it will, but it almost never does. What makes the Astros different?
To that silent, doubting voice, I say: "we’re too close, we’re still too close."
Oh, I hear the doubters. ESPN says:
"Championship hangover. This one is a gimme. The Astros are loaded…They are clear-cut favorites to win it all. Yet, as always, it will not be easy. No team has repeated this century. From a close vantage point, I watched the 2016 Cubs operate at a fever pitch for months, all the way to a title. Then I watched most of the same players stumble through half of last season as if someone had stolen the espresso machine from the clubhouse. Given the monthlong nature of the current postseason format, this hangover thing is really a thing."
But ESPN, they’re too far away. Still, if your rejoinder comes only from your loyalty and devotion, you’re still too close. Because someday people will know, as a matter of fact, that on this team stands a bedrock core of four, each of whom will someday be remembered among the greatest players of character and leadership and inner passion that have ever struggled on the diamond. I mean the greatest; the Jeters. the Ripkins, the Bretts, Roberto Clemente, Teddy Ballgame, Joe DiMaggio, Ty Cobb.
No, I am not saying our core four are all locks as first round Hall-of-Famers. I am saying that all of the Astros core, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Carlos Correa, and Alex Bregman, have that kind of unquenchable, indefatigable baseball desire, that kind of character and devotion, that drove these Greats and makes anyone truly great in whatever his field of endeavor may be. If a team has even one such giant of leadership it should consider itself blessed. This team has four such players, each kissed by destiny, each driven toward and focused on perfection like few players in any generation ever are. Unlike most other champions, they will not experience that subtle, even unconscious let down that so many others do because they have experienced the glory of championship and are satisfied. Their motivation comes from somewhere much deeper and purer and more lasting than most others. It comes from a steady humility, an abiding love, dare I say a great goodness of character planted deep in their hearts, each in their own way. When your motivation comes from true love and pure joy, you don’t get tired.
If you are thinking I am saying this because I am just an Astros fan speaking out of loyalty and devotion, just a homer or fanboy, if you think that every good team has players of this caliber of character, then you are too close. These guys are truly special. Here’s how.
#1, They are uncommonly driven. Since about the time each could walk they have displayed a fanatical drive, as though pre-destined or reincarnated, just to play baseball. Mozart displayed this drive in music, composing his first work at age four, and by his death at age 35 having produced 600 advanced compositions. These four baseball prodigies were, and are, similarly driven. Not for fame, glory, money, parades, the "thrill of victory," all motives that won’t cushion a post championship letdown, but because striving for perfection is deeply ingrained in their character, it is the right thing to do, it is deep in their souls from start to finish. They cannot do otherwise.
#2, Related to the first, they play for the love of others; for their families, their communities, their people, their teammates, their fans, but especially to inspire others to overcome the difficulties and even disabilities which they themselves have overcome. These are people of uncommon goodness and humility. This too is deep in their souls. As Dallas Keuchel recently said, "We are not the Cubs. I firmly believe we have better players." May I add, better players, because they are extraordinary people.
#3, They just love the game. So much its off the charts. They play with pure joy. They know it’s for fun and they keep it fun. They keep it light on and off the field. They don’t freeze up under pressure.
Just in case you’re still too close, or maybe just forgot, watch this clip of our Core Four destroying the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Greatest game ever played, the Astros victory in game 5 of the 2017 World Series. For what each player did in this game alone, they have earned baseball immortality.
Let’s start with Jose Altuve
With this tweet they said "not satisfied."
If you’ve been an Astros fan through the lean years, you may recall how almost every year conventional wisdom keeps repeating that Jose Altuve has reached his peak. For example, in 2014 Fangraphs said Altuve "looks like a fringe option." Uh… Batting title anyone? In 2017 Fangraphs said, after his WRC+ 151 season in 2016, that "obviously, odds are high that he suffers some regression across the board after what might prove to be a career year." Uh… MVP anyone? This year, at last, Fangraphs admits "Jose Altuve has been oddly underrated…." By them. But also by most everybody throughout his career. Despite a meteoric rise through the minors, he was never a top 100 prospect. Why?
Because sabermetrics can’t measure heart and desire. As Alex Rodriguez put it, "they talk about his height, but they don’t talk about the size of his heart, his courage, his discipline…Here is a guy who has a heart of a lion."
A lion is born a lion. Let Jose’s wonderful, beautiful parents explain what kind of baseball lion heart pounded in the chest of their four year old son.
"Jose was in love with the sport and that is why he is driven." Carlos Altuve (father)
Of course every baseball fan knows by now the story of 15 year old, 5’5", 140 lb. Jose being rejected at the Astros tryout, only to come back the next day and win a $15,000 signing bonus. Here is a picture of the boy the Astros signed.
What many people don’t know is that he had already been rejected by seven other teams prior to the Astros tryout. The Angels, Tampa Bay, the Cubs, Giants, Braves, A’s, Yankees. Sure Jose, you can hit, you can run, but you’re too small. Still he kept coming back. What impressed the Astros scout Al Pedrique about Jose was his "desire." When Pedrique asked a local scout, Wally Ramos, if Altuve played that hard every game, Ramos said, "that’s him. Doesn’t matter who’s watching. Doesn’t matter how many people are in the stands. He loves to play the game." As Pedrique later said: "its amazing what this kid has accomplished all because of hard work and dedication."
"I know I’m short. I know it isn’t going to be easy, but in my heart I know I can make it in the United States." Jose Altuve
How does a man his size get the strength to hit 24 home runs, or have the 7th highest Slugging pct. In the AL? Here’s how.
"The important thing about Jose is his drive." Felix Pacheco (personal trainer)
George Brett once said, when asked how he wanted to be remembered, "I want to be remembered grounding out to second base , and running it out all the way." That’s Altuve.
"He doesn’t take any games or any plays off." Jeff Luhnow
After his tryout Altuve played in the Venezuelan summer league. Like Roy Hobbs in the Natural, who they wouldn’t let play because he was too old, Altuve rarely played in the beginning because he was too small. They called him Enano, the midget.
As his manager, Omar Lopez tells it: "Altuve was playing every three days. We called him Enano. We had a scout named Johan Maya. Every day he said ‘you’ve got to put the midget in.’ So one day I said, ‘OK he’s going to play two days in a row.’ The rest is history."
"I remember a team we were playing—the first pitch was a breaking ball. Altuve took it. The second pitch, another breaking ball. It was low. And the manager got up and said, ‘Come on, man. Stop throwing breaking balls to this little guy. Throw him a fastball.’ The next pitch was a fastball, and Altuve hit a bullet off the right calf of the pitcher. They pulled him out of the game." Next at bat this same manager told his outfielders to move in, and of course Enano hit a double over their heads.
When Altuve was promoted from A to AA, the Hooks team President told Reid Ryan, "You won’t believe this guy who just came up. Everyone thinks this kid is the batboy, but he can hit. He can hit any pitch."
The following clip is a testimonial by coaches, players and the team owner to Altuve’s work ethic, and its importance to the entire team
"He leads by example, and he leads by his hard work and dedication." Jim Crane
So now that Jose Altuve is the acknowledged best player in the American League, what is his reaction and what are his plans for next year? With characteristic humility and unbelievable understatement he says, "You feel like you did something for your team. When they gave me the MVP, it was like: ‘OK, I was part of this. I love it.’ THAT MAKES YOU KEEP WORKING HARD AND TRYING TO GET BETTER."
As his coach says, "when one of your best players or your best player is your best examples, it’s something to hold on to and something to treasure as a coach or a manager. I don’t have to worry about guys playing hard. I don’t have to worry about energy. I don’t have to worry about attention to detail primarily because there’s guys like Jose that are BUILT THAT WAY." Notice the plural. Its Jose, but It’s not just Jose.
But before we move on, let’s look some more at Altuve and point #2.
Playing for the love of others/ inspiring others by overcoming hardships.
Yes of course, Jose Altuve had to overcome his size to become a major league star. But one more point. Many people have concluded that because of Jose small stature is not an impediment in baseball. I disagree. All those scouts and other experts paid to find talent who doubted Altuve were not just bigots. A major league baseball player needs great strength, and it is hard to carry that kind of strength on a 5’ 6" frame. That is why 140 lb. boxers don’t fight with 200 lb. boxers. Altuve’s success is due to certain natural talents but is mainly due to his indomitable will and ceaseless struggle to overcome. And this struggle still motivates him. Now he fights for those with the same struggle.
"Jose’s biggest struggle was that every day he had to show that he could play." Carlos Altuve (dad)
"I never doubted myself because I already had too many other people doubting," Altuve said. "I wanted to prove those people wrong. And not because one day I could tell them they were wrong. I wanted to prove them wrong for the guys behind me who are short too. Guys who are not really strong, not really tall, guys who are 14 to 16 right now who are very small and want to get an opportunity. And I know maybe after that happened to me scouts now will think twice before telling someone, you’re not going to make it. They’re going to think, this guy is the same size as Jose, and if Jose made it, maybe one of these guys can make it too.
But his size was not Altuve’s only obstacle. Altuve came from poverty in his native Maracay, Venezuela, and he has never forgotten his people or where he came from.
Young Jose was so poor he had to play baseball with only one ball. When that ball got lost he had to scrounge to find another. This is how he tells it.
"Sometimes getting a ball isn’t that easy." Jose Altuve
Apparently, Jose had to play a lot of baseball without any bat or ball. In his community they played stickball hitting beer caps. From this video you can see how good they were at it. And you can see where Jose learned his hand eye coordination as well.
"With a beer cap you can throw any pitch you want, a slider, a curve." Jose Altuve
The following video shows how Jose was raised. With a deep love and caring about his community and his countrymen. He understands how important he is to so many people and his obligation to that community which helped make him what he is. He embraces the opportunity to give back, and to inspire others. He shows that same love to his teammates, and in their time of need, to the people of Houston.
"I say Jose is a better person than he is a ballplayer." Carlos Altuve (brother)
A big part of Jose’s humility and willingness to share and help others is his faith in God. "To achieve success wasn’t to get into the major leagues or have the best season in the world. The best success is to live your life the way God wants you to…I thank God every day."
Keeping it light
As Dallas Keuchel put it, "the more you get to know him, the greater you think he is…He’s a leader in the clubhouse. He’s a guy who can make you laugh at any point in time. He loves music; he’s always singing and dancing."
Altuve loves to joke. "I have more power than you and I’m half your size." So says Jose to 6’ 4" Jake Marisnick. Jake knows it’s in fun, but notes, "as good as he is on the field, off the field he’s even better. I’ve respected him since I got here, He was one of the first guys to take me aside and get to know me."
Or as George Springer put it, "he just makes you… happy."
Part 2: Carlos Correa
In Part 1 I argued that the character of the Astros, especially the Core Four, is what will make them a dynasty. These players share three qualities; 1. They are uncommonly driven. 2. They play for the love of others. 3. They keep it loose. Part I highlighted Jose Altuve.
Conversation between an ordinary 8 year old boy and his father
(son) "Dad, I want to grow up a be just like Derek Jeter."
(dad) "That’s great son."
(son) "Can we go outside and play catch?"
(dad) "Sure son."
(dad, five minutes later) "what’s wrong son?"
(son) This is boooring. Can I go inside and play video games?"
(dad) "Sure son"
Conversation between 8 year old Carlos Correa and his father
(Carlos) "Papa, I want to grow up to be just like Roberto Clemente."
(papa) "That’s great son."
(Carlos) "Well when I make the major leagues I don’t want an interpreter speaking for me. I want to speak for myself. Will you take on a third job so that I can go to a special academy and learn English. I’ll go to work with you. Please.
(papa) "Sure son."
(Carlos) "Great, I’m going to go outside now and practice my wind sprints on the street so I can become a faster runner. When I get back can we go to the field and practice?
(papa) "I’ve been working construction all day since 4AM. I’m so tired. Can’t you just go to your room and play some video games"?
(Carlos) "No papa, please throw me some BP. Hit me some grounders by the tree roots. Please, please".
(papa) "Sure son".
In case you wondered, all the details in the Correa dialogue above are true to his life. By age 5 he told his parents he was going to be a Major league baseball player. Every evening he forced his father, who worked three jobs from 4AM to 9PM, to practice with him on the nearby field. His dad and Carlos took on extra work to pay for his English education starting in the fourth grade. He attended high school at the Puerto Rican Baseball Academy, where he had a 4.0 GPA, graduated valedictorian, and had a 1560 out 1600 on the SAT. Such an academic record would get him into most any university in the world, but his performance on the baseball diamond got him drafted #1 to a $4.8 million contract. For Carlos hard work, such as that he inherited from his devoted mother and father, was not just for baseball, but his work on the diamond sure paid off. His earliest dreams were coming true.
Here is Carlos, his father, and his high school coach discussing young Carlos’ work ethic and desire.
"There’s no elevator to success. You have to take the stairs. Carlos Correa"
Here Carlos takes us on a tour of where he learned to field ground balls
"I would get black eyes all the time." Carlos Correa
Here Carlos explains why he learned English and the sacrifices he and his family made for him.
I want to speak for myself. Carlos Correa
Like the other core, Correa is not satisfied just winning a championship. It is not in his nature or upbringing to stop striving. Even when he had just come to the Astros he expressed that his ultimate goal was to make the Hall of Fame, a goal he reiterated this winter. He recently added that "MVP is something I don’t want to retire without winning…I’ll just try to improve my game every single day to try to accomplish that."
To the Associated Press he expressed these goals for his team. "We don’t want to be just a team that people are going to remember for one year. We want to be able to build a dynasty here, to win two, three years in a row….We have the team to do it, it’s just upon us to put in the work."
For his personal goals he had this to say: "I had a really great year last year, but there are many holes in my game I can fix in order to get better… I don’t want to be one of the top players, I want to be the top one…that’s why we play." As a reminder of where he was drafted, and his responsibility to be the very best, is why he chose to where #1 on his jersey.
Expect no letdown.
Playing for the love of others/inspiring others by overcoming hardship
Coming from such poverty, at crucial times in his childhood career Carlos Correa received financial assistance, not just from the work of his father AND mother, but from his community as well. Like Altuve, he has not forgotten the people who have helped make him who he is.
"I will never forget where I grew up, where I am from…every year I go back home, talk to my people…bring batting gloves and bats and give them to kids whose parents can’t afford that stuff."
"What makes me feel better is helping society, helping others. I feel like if it was only about ourselves, God would never give us a family."
From an early age he has felt a deep need to give back to the community and the people he loves.
This began to dawn on him in seventh grade, when he researched the life of fellow Puerto Rican Roberto Clemente. According to Correa, "he paved the way for us Latin American players to be able to play at this level…if not for him, I would not be here." And now Carlos wants to be someone a new generation of Latin American youth can emulate. "I want to be an example to Latin guys coming up. Learn English…sell yourself the right way."
But the lesson young Carlos learned about Clemente that stuck the most was how Clemente died, New Year’s eve, 1972. "Here was a guy not out ringing in the New Year, but out attempting to deliver supplies to Nicaragua after a massive earthquake."
Apparently Young Carlos deeply internalized the lesson of service for, needless to say, Correa has been at the forefront of efforts to help hurricane stricken Puerto Rico. He even spent his day off, March 2nd, not to visit the President with his teammates, but to aid in relief efforts.
He began sacrificing for his people even before his senior year in high school. It is customary for Puerto Rican high school prospects to spend their senior years in an American high school, where they will get more attention from big league scouts. Not Carlos. Here’s why
"If I stay in Puerto Rico, scouts will come, and the other players will get exposure." Carlos Correa
I find this amazing. A 17 year old thinking like that about how his actions IMPACT OTHERS and then sacrificing to do the best thing for them. Like Jose Altuve, this is a man of uncommon, deep, inbred goodness and humility.
Here is Carlos in his community, sharing with his people.
"I don’t big league any people out here… It’s about not only being a good baseball player but a good person as well." Carlos Correa
About his public workouts Carlos said, "I don’t do it because I have to do it, I do it because I love to do it…I love interacting with the kids and helping them out."
Keeping it light
Upon his return to Spring training, Carlos said, "We are family, and who doesn’t like to be with family."
On this Astros team, you can just feel the love.
Yes, that’s him, barely old enough to walk, but already playing baseball. Like he was born to play. In fact, if you map out his DNA, it will probably look like the stitches on a baseball.
It started with his grandfather, George Chelston Springer (Sr). At 17 he took the boat from Panama to pursue his dream of beisbol in America. Four years pitching at Teacher’s College of Connecticut, interrupted by arm trouble, but leading to a degree in History, a career in teaching, being a local President of the American Federation of Teachers, and being a civil rights activist who mingled with the likes of Ted Kennedy. And of course, a family, including a son, George Springer Jr, who played in the Little League World Series and later became a successful lawyer. George Jr. married a Puerto Rican gymnast and softball coach, Laura, and had three kids, George III, and daughters Laura and Nicole, both softball players.
Baseball, baseball, baseball, baseball. Three generations of baseball, and in George III, the Springer dynasty has at last become baseball royalty.
Like our other core four, young George could not play enough baseball. His father tells a story of how at seven this young baseball prodigy was already plotting his approach against a "difficult" opposing pitcher.
"Baseball? Yeah, almost from out of the womb." George Springer Jr.
George Springer may have been born for baseball, but in some sense, he might have died without it.
As we all know, George has a stuttering tendency. After doing this research, I realized for the first time how a young person’s spirit can be crushed by the cruel reactions to this by one’s teen age peers. Here’s how George explains it .
George recalls being ridiculed, even bullied, by kids in middle school and junior high
It is unimaginable to me how this super-bright, super-enthusiastic, super-bubbly kid, could be forced to keep all that exuberance and joy and love of life locked inside, with only sadness and frustration in its place. Baseball was his release. It was the place where all that energy could explode. According to Sports Illustrated, "on a baseball field, George found such joy and comfort that his stutter would become less pronounced. His father built him a backyard batting cage. On windy days George Jr would grab a tennis racket and tennis balls and take his son to the park to shag fly balls." Only on a baseball field George could shine.. Here’s how he put it.
In 2017, George Springer started in left field for the American league All Stars. During the game he was the first baseball player in History to conduct a TV interview on the field during live play.
George Springer can never tire of baseball or give it less than everything he has. It isn’t just a way for him to experience fleeting joy. It is the way he can be who he truly is. It IS his joy. Baseball healed him.
Playing for the love of others/inspiring others by overcoming hardship
George Springer owes everything to the love of his beautiful, caring family. And he honors them by wearing the #4, for his father, mother, and two sisters. I don’t know if it is still true, but at the time when he came to the majors, he called his mother and father every day.
Joe DiMaggio once said, "There is always some kid who may be seeing me for the first time. I owe him my best." Center fielder George Springer plays like that. "This is a game where the best part is looking in the stands and watching kids with their moms and dads," Springer says. "You see them asking questions, smiling, having fun. This game is hard, but that’s humbling to see. I believe it’s my job to try to make as many people’s days as positive as I can."
"I’m having the best time of my life, not only to have a chance to play and live out my dream, but to see kids enjoying the game."
Like Altuve and Correa, from his family George has learned a deep caring for and responsibility to those who have suffered as he has. He has become the nation’s leading advocate for stutterers and the face of their organization, SAY.
"His work with SAY isn’t just improving lives, in many cases it is saving lives." George Springer Jr.
He is not just playing baseball for the thrills, he is not just playing for self-healing, he now plays for the joy of helping others the way he was helped. Says George: "My first year here, I kind of figured out that if I could hopefully help anybody I was going to do that…I’ve been through—I still go through—what these kids go through every day. It makes it easier to go out and help. I’ve experienced it. I wanted to help."
As a SAY mother said, "You have changed stuttering forever for all these kids."
Keeping it light
Though having fun is a team ethic, it starts with George Springer.
"George just cranked up the radio and started singing along." Robert Dowling, high school coach
Says A. J. Hinch about the man who created Club Astros: "He’s always upbeat..always playing music…he cares—a lot…George’s energy, personality and enthusiasm set the tone for this team. He is so important for this team because he is so likable and relatable. He connects with everyone, whether they are Latin American, pitchers, coaches, front office…Everyone has a comfort level with George. They take their cue from George. ..There’s an everyday component of George that when you’re around him, you’re a little bit happier, a little bit brighter…Ask Altuve."
Altuve: "George is the heart and soul because of who he is on and off the field. We feed off his personality and his energy."
George Springer, you are pure gold. All Houston feeds off your personality and energy, your smile and joy. Thank you.
Springer isn’t always able to stay perfectly happy. During a slump last May he noticed that he was getting angry and letting the game "affect who I am." He sought the counsel of Master Beltran, who convinced George "to go back to having fun. I wasn’t having fun because I wasn’t quote unquote having success. I said, ‘I’m just going to have fun from here on out.’" Soon after Springer led the Astros to their Memorial Day weekend massacre of the hapless Minnesota Twins.
After his disappointing performance in the ALCS, Springer sought similar counsel again from Beltran, and as we all know, he bounced back with one of the greatest World Series performances in history, and an MVP trophy to go with it.
Are you kidding? If George Springer’s DNA looks like the seams of a baseball, then Bregman is cloned from a baseball. Not three, but four generation of baseball fanatics, including extended family, going back 120 years. His father and uncle both played at the University of New Mexico. At age 10 he was the batboy there.
It starts with great-grandfather Bo Bregman, who stowed away to America at age 11 to escape Russian pogroms. He played ball in Washington D.C., calling himself "Bregmanio" so he could play catcher for St. Dominck’s in the parochial school league. Bo eventually ran the numbers racket in D.C., became a boxing promoter, including a Joe Louis fight, was a minority owner of the Washington Redskins, and watched a lot of Senators games at old Griffith stadium.
Bo infused in his son Stan the same love of baseball. Stan became a lawyer, became a power broker in the Democratic party, and as a friend to the Democratic party chairman Bob Short, convinced Short to buy the Washington Senators, Stan being the general counsel for the team. A few years later they brought Ted Williams in as manager and then moved the team to Arlington, Texas.
Stan’s son, and Alex’s father, Sam Bregman grew up around Ted Williams, and watched Frank Howard polish off a case of Schlitz after every game. As mentioned, he played ball at the University of New Mexico and eventually became the party chairman for the New Mexico Democratic party.
And he had a son, Alex. Alex isn’t just cloned from a baseball, he is a reincarnated Ty Cobb. How else would a four-year old, playing in his first t-ball game, know how to complete an unassisted triple play? Because he was born knowing from a past life.
And born loving it. Brian McCann said that he never met anyone who loved baseball more than Alex Bregman.
"Baseball is the only thing I think about all day long since I was five years old." Alex Bregman
His work ethic is nearly insane. He wore out the brick wall on which he used to play catch as a child. As a teenager at the Albuquerque Baseball Academy he played so much his instructors would force him to go home. He would go home for twenty minutes and come back, saying, "I went home." At LSU he would call up the batting cage administrators in the wee morning hours so often that they had to create a card entry system just for him. Or how after night games he would practice taking grounders in the empty LSU stadium. "You can’t fake that" his coach Paul Mainieri said. "He’s not doing it for publicity…He just loves it that much." He added, "This guy legitimately wants to be the best player that’s ever been." The following clip is an LSU TV story on the work ethic of freshman, Alex Bregman.
"I want to do everything every second of the day to be the best. Every time I take a swing, every time I take a ground ball, eat, drink..." Alex Bregman.
So what’s Alex’s take on having won a world championship? "Now we’re hunted, "Bregman said. "I think everybody in this clubhouse every day when they wake up is still chasing something. We want to be great…not just for one year, but for a lot of years."
For the sake of posterity, I would be completely remiss if I didn't include Alex's famous "dad bod" interview. Promising a better diet and better core strength, Alex said: "Dad bods are in, but I don't know how many homers they got."
Bregman said he changed his diet this winter: more salmon and fish, less burgers and pizza. "Dad bods are in but I don't know how many homers they got." pic.twitter.com/JUIkk5z3Zy— Brian McTaggart (@brianmctaggart) February 19, 2018
Playing for the love of others/ overcoming adversity
Alex Bregman is fulfilling the dreams of generations of Bregmans. As his father put it, "four generations of short Bregman Jews wanted to play in the World series, and now Alex is there, fulfilling those hopes, living the American Dream." That’s a lot of hopes and dreams riding on one young man. It’s a lot to live up to.
By now, dear reader, you have surely noticed what amazing, strong, supportive families all four of our core four stem from. In case you didn’t, I just said it.
Although adversity for Alex is not as pronounced as for the other core four, it is there. For one, there has always been doubt about Bregman’s talent ceiling. Some of you, those who have come this far with me, may even wonder why I include him in the same category with the other three. How does a team even have room for four "leaders?"
Truth is, as you have heard him already admit, he may not be born with superstar talent, and on any other team without a player named Altuve, people would question his size. (No way he’s six feet) That’s why his effort is nearly insane. Despite physical limitations, he is absolutely determined to be the best there is even in a world where everyone else is working and competing really hard. Even his dad says so.
He has never been the most talented player on the field. He has been the hardest worker. Sam Bregman
When it comes to motivation, in my opinion Bregman is subtly different from his other core teammates. Yes, Altuve, Correa and Springer all have fanatical work ethics, fanatical desires to improve and be the best, to compete and win. But in all three there is a certain sweetness and kindness in their natures. Of course sweet people can be great players, think Willie Mays, but there’s a certain killer instinct about Bregman, a hard edge. He’s a baseball street fighter, like his childhood inspiration, Dustin Pedroia, or, as I have already suggested, Ty Cobb. Every team needs a player like that.
Alex Bregman plays with a chip on his shoulder.
As his WBC coach, Jim Leyland said. "He’s very aggressive…He comes every day to beat you."
Here are some examples of his chip. When George Springer chose his number, it was an homage to his family. When Correa chose his, it was to remember the responsibility he bears as a #1 overall draft pick. Bregman chose number two, not to honor Derek Jeter, as is erroneously believed, but according to his father, to remind himself of the snub for not being drafted #1 overall but rather #2.
After being a consensus All American high school player as a junior, but missing his senior year with an injury, Bregman warned MLB not to draft him after the first round. He was drafted in the 29th round. At LSU he wore the number 30, just to remind himself of all the teams that snubbed him in the first round.
I don’t want to repeat what Alex said last summer to a fan who suggested he should be traded. Let’s just say it was the Twitter equivalent to what Ty Cobb did to opposing second baseman with his sharpened spikes and where he did it
I’m saying this with full admiration. Every team needs a brawler who is obsessed with winning for winning’s sake. Everyone hated Ty Cobb, except, of course, his teammates, who were damn glad he was on their side and not on the other side. (I’m not saying opposing players hate Bregman) It’s not too big a stretch to imagine the reincarnation of Ty Cobb saying words like these: "They were all against me…but I beat the bastards and left them in the ditch." (Ty Cobb) I think that's what Leyland was trying to say about Alex's attitude. For Bregman, more than the others, it's not just about winning. "He wants to beat you."
I suppose this toughness runs in his family. You probably can’t get to be power players in American politics without being tough SOB's and knowing how to kick some ass, figuratively speaking.
So what does it look like on the field when a player plays with a chip on his shoulder. Something like this:
If Bregman had taken the safe out at first with his team winning the pundits would have praised his wisdom. After the play the TV announcer said that despite the outcome he thought the throw home was a bad decision. Even now, it seems like that play had a very small chance of success. Take the sure out. Most players would have.
But that’s not how Bregman’s mind works. He wants to be aggressive. He wants to beat you. To take the safe option there is what losers do. Unacceptable. It was a play for the ages. Might I say Jeteresque.
Keeping it loose.
None of this is to imply that Alex Bregman isn’t a superb teammate. We joke here that Bregman is "arrogant." Exactly and totally false. He may be a baseball assassin, but he's a quiet assassin who's all about winning and that absolutely means doing whatever the team requires. The image above: remember he was celebrating his teammate’s success there, and his team’s victory.
His college coach had these observations. When incoming freshmen were asked what their goals were, Alex’s answer was "to get the seniors to Omaha." Maineri commented: "For a freshman to come in and not care about personal statistics, that’s the kind of guy you want to play with…It kind of reinforces your belief that there still are kids out there that carry this kind of love of the game." He added, " you think that everybody is all about me, me, me, me, me, get the big contract…but to see this kid that has that kind of ability, yet care so much about the team, it’s just so refreshing to me."
Just as Carlos Correa learned English for the sake of his baseball career, Alex Bregman makes an effort to speak Spanish in the clubhouse to be a better teammate to the latino players. Carlos Beltran said, "He makes the effort, and he values the guys who don’t speak English, which is important in this game…When I see an American player really making the effort with the latinos, it’s something really special."
He loves to sing the Spanish music in the clubhouse, and he even sang along to the reggaetón song, "Ginza" on Spanish language radio, where he sometimes does Spanish interviews.
When it comes to the importance of keeping it loose, no one has said it better than Bregman. When asked after his walk-off how the Astros managed to win the magical game 5 of the World Series, the first thing he thought of was keeping it loose. And how the whole team kept it loose despite facing overwhelming odds at the time. In the other three segments I didn't spend much time on this third component of Astros success, because this clip says it all, for the whole team. The interview begins at 2:17
Part 3 George Springer
Part 4, Alex Bregman
Congratulations Astros for resigning Jose Altuve. Keep this group together. The love and chemistry these players have for each other is unbelievable. This is the most loveable team I have ever seen in 61 years. Stay humble Astros. Keep having fun. Destroy your enemies. Win more championships. Become the legends you are.