Confident Torres leads Yankees, may ultimately be best Venezuelan in baseball history

HOUSTON – Gleyber Torres is not surprised. Neither are his teammates. You shouldn’t be surprised either. Grab a seat, pay close attention and enjoy the ride because the pride of Caracas, Venezuela, may very well be the greatest of them all from the land of Miguel Cabrera, Luis Aparacio and Jose Altuve.

He’s the caballo of all the caballos, the horse of all the horses.

He’s 22 and brilliant, 6-foot-1 and 200 pounds of terror at the plate. His defense has yet to match his bat, but that will take care of itself in due time. He has owned the 2019 postseason like nobody else, torturing the Twins in the Division Series and then the Astros in Game 1 of the American League Championship Series.

Cabrera is a Triple Crown winner and former MVP. Aparicio is a Hall of Famer. Altuve is a three-time American League batting champ, former MVP and on pace to become the greatest hitter to ever don an Astros uniform. Torres is already being compared to them.

More impressively, though, Torres is now accomplishing feats that haven’t been seen in the Bronx or anywhere since some of the iconic names in baseball history were roaming old Yankee Stadium. 

Mickey Mantle. Joe DiMaggio. Babe Ruth. Ever hear of them? If you haven’t, the Yankees’ second baseman from Caracas has been reminding fans of those names by reaching feats those near mythical figures accomplished.

In Game 1 alone, Torres was touching them all, literally in some cases, figuratively in others, while feasting against a starting pitcher who appears destined to eventually earn his own place among the immortals at the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y.

Torres gave Masahiro Tanaka all the support necessary when he gave the Yankees a 1-0 lead with an RBI double to left-center field in the fourth inning, extending his postseason hitting streak to nine games dating back to the 2018 AL wild-card game.

Only Hall of Famer Derek Jeter and Hank Bauer have had longer postseason hitting streaks in Yankees history. Think about that for a second. Torres has the third longest postseason hitting streak in the history of the franchise that has won a major-league record 27 World Series titles with superstars such a Yogi Berra, DiMaggio, Mantle and Ruth, to name just the iconic figures who wore pinstripes.

Interestingly, though, he doesn’t even have the longest active postseason hitting streak by a Venezuelan. Altuve, the Astros’ superstar, extended his postseason hitting streak to 10 games in Game 1 with a single to tie Lance Berkman for the second longest postseason hitting streak in Astros history.

“It doesn’t surprise me at all,” Yankees shortstop Didi Gregorious said of Torres’ feats. “That doesn’t surprise me. The guy has been working his butt off so it doesn’t surprise me in any situation that he’s been.

“That’s what you want to see, a young guy coming up big in every situation that he’s in. He’s doing a great job.”

Torres added a solo home run to give the Bronx Bombers a 2-0 lead in the sixth inning, becoming the third youngest player in baseball history to homer in the ALCS at 22 years and 303 days of age. Only Jeter and the Red Sox’s Rafael Devers, who homered last year in the 2019 ALCS, were younger when they homered in the ALCS.

It’s important to note that the League Championship Series didn’t start until 1969, long after Ruth, DiMaggio, Berra and Mantle had retired. 

Moreover, by homering in multiple games this postseason Torres joined Mantle as the only Yankee to homer in multiple postseason games in the same season before turning 23.

“Smart. Confident. And when you have talent that’s a really good combination,” Yankees manager Aaron Boone said of Torres. “He’s always had that since he’s come to the big leagues, and he just plays the game with kind of a free and easy way and a confidence about his game. 

“And I think the intelligence part is big because it’s allowed him to continue to grow and get better at all of the little things. He comes into the game prepared. He likes playing these situations and he’s confident in his ability to produce. And that leads to a dangerous player.”

Torres’ home run in the sixth shouldn’t have caught anybody by surprise. He had a career-high 39 homers this season. Only the legendary DiMaggio had a 30-homer season for the Yankees at a younger age.

With eight multiple-home run games, he also joined Alex Rodriguez, Ruth and Mantle as the only Yankees to ever have eight multi-home run games in a season.

He wasn’t done. With the Astros attempting to keep it close, Torres stepped to the plate with the bases loaded in the seventh inning and delivered a two-run single.

Even Torres’ weak contact brought in a run. With the Astros infield playing in and a runner at third and second, he hit a slow roller toward short to cap the scoring and become the first player 22 years or younger to have five RBI in an ALCS game.

He became only the third player in baseball history 22 years or younger to have had five RBI in a postseason game.

Afterward, he was even smooth at the podium, answering questions with ease in his native Spanish and English.

When asked a question by La Vida Baseball in Spanish first and then English, he answered in English first and then followed with the same answer in Spanish. 

Six years after signing as an international free agent out of Venezuela, Torres was articulate in both languages when asked if he was surprised by all that he has been able to accomplish at such a young age already.

“I mean, not really,” Torres said. “During my career in the minor league, I prepared really well myself for every situation last year. I take all the experience and now I just put all the experience in my game. Prepare really well to be here and help my team. So now I got (the) opportunity. I just (try to) be patient and just go to the ballpark, play hard, and try to win all the games.”

Enjoy what you’re seeing with Torres. If he remains healthy, he could be the best of all Venezuelans who have played in the majors. Starring for the Yankees in the media capital of the world will only elevate that standing.

Whatever the case, the kid from Caracas is a treat. 

Featured Image: Jean Fruth / La Vida Baseball