Former Dodgers star Steve Sax empathizes with Jose Altuve’s struggles throwing the ball in ALCS

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Dusty Baker was the first among the Astros to utter the dreaded y-word following Houston’s second loss to the Tampa Bay Rays in the American League Championship Series. The victim? Second baseman Jose Altuve, who has fallen into an error-filled funk.

“You just hope he isn’t getting the yips, because invariably they come in bunches,” Baker said after Game 2 of the ALCS, in which Altuve committed two errors. “I just told him to flush it. I mean, this guy’s been awesome for us, and you gotta flush it and move on, or else it multiplies.”

It became worse the next day as a costly Altuve error kicked off a run for the Rays that allowed them to score five runs in a single inning and take a commanding 3-0 series lead — a postseason death sentence to every team that is not the 2004 Boston Red Sox.

If there’s someone who understands what Altuve is going through, it’s Steve Sax. The former Rookie of the Year, five-time All Star and two-time Dodgers World Series champ committed 30 errors in his infamous 1983 season. Sax shared his thoughts with Pedro Gomez of ESPN about the slump Houston’s second baseman is going through.

“I can feel for Jose,” Sax said when reached by phone. “There’s nothing worse in the world. It’s the most lonely place to be. It’s embarrassing. It’s just awful. I hope he can grasp this as soon as possible because this thing is very simple. It’s right in front of him. So many people are going to say, ‘Oh, Jose, you have a mental block.’ He doesn’t. He has a temporary loss of confidence. It has nothing to do with his mental state. Something triggered him to start questioning his ability; that’s why he’s doing this. When he gets his confidence, this will disappear.”

Sax eventually overcame his issue, earning three more All Star appearances after 1983, so it’s possible that Altuve does recover. 

“There is an end to this,” Sax said. The problem is he’s going to bed with this, when he’s eating it’s the only thing on his mind. He wakes up thinking of this. It’s a terrible spot to be in.”

At the same time, Sax’s mistakes happened in the regular season. Altuve has committed four errors in nine postseason games — three over the last two — after a flawless fielding regular season.

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