ASG debate: Altuve deserves to take torch from Cano
By Richard Justice
We will be doing daily ASG debates until balloting ends on July 2. We will frequently be pitting one player against another and have a writer make a case for one of them, but that doesn't mean there aren't other good candidates for that position. In fact, your comments could spark a new debate for us to tackle. So let us know what you think!
Robinson Cano has been the American League All-Star starter at second base for five straight seasons.
From 2010-14, Cano led AL second basemen in home runs, RBIs and OPS. And it's not even close. Did we mention that his play got him him a 10-year, $240 million contract from the Mariners before last season?
Yes, it's a great time to be Robinson Cano, and if All-Star berths are for an overall career, Cano deserves to be out there for a sixth straight start when the AL faces the National League on July 14 in Cincinnati.
There would be very little argument about that. Star power is important in this kind of event. If baseball is gathering its best players in one place, it would feel wrong not to have Cano there.
Just one thing.
Jose Altuve is the better player in 2015, and THAT'S not close, either. With the Mariners and Astros playing a four-game series this week at Minute Maid Park, it's an opportunity to get a feel for two of baseball's best second basemen.
If the All-Star Game is about recognizing the players who've played the best that season, then Altuve will get his first All-Star start in a couple of months.
Altuve is also one of baseball's most compelling people. And that's a big deal. What's an All-Star Game without a compelling human element?
Altuve, who was on the AL club as a reserve in 2012 and '14, could use one of baseball's largest stages to tell a story that's inspiring on both a personal and professional level. Because he's 5-foot-6, he had trouble getting a chance to show he was good enough. The Astros took a flyer on Altuve because they appreciated not just his skills, but his personality and tenacity.
Smart move. Altuve flew through the Minors, and he made his big league debut four years ago at 21. He was a good player for three years, wielding a career .285 batting average after the 2013 season.
When it ended, Altuve decided he could be better, so he focused on doing more to prepare himself both physically and mentally. The change has been astonishing. He batted .341 to win the AL batting title last season, and he has kept it going in 2015 with a .367 batting average and an AL-leading nine stolen bases. Altuve's walk-off single on Thursday secured Houston's 15th win, and he has multiple hits in eight consecutive games.
Altuve is a leader on a team off to a surprisingly fast start, leading the AL West at 15-7. He's a leader of the Astros in all the right ways. Altuve leads not with words, but with an intense work ethic and by putting the team first in everything he does.
One month into the season, Altuve's batting average is 114 points higher than Cano's .253. He also has more home runs, RBIs, hits and walks. No matter your measuring stick, Altuve has earned the honor of starting in the All-Star Game. But they both belong in Cincinnati on July 14. They're two of the players who've taken their craft to the highest level. The only difference is that this year it's Altuve who has earned the starting nod.
Richard Justice is a columnist for MLB.com. Read his blog, Justice4U. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.