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Wednesday, July 10, 2013

To Star or Not to Star

It's July, the slowest of the slowest days in American sports. Still, there are enough topics for debate to go around in the sports world. One such topic is that of rookie super sensation outfielder Yasiel Puig (.414, 8 HR, 19 RBI, 1.109 OPS) of the Los Angeles Dodgers.


The Dodgers have seen a bevy of stars over the years. Duke Snyder, Jackie Robinson, Sandy Koufax, Steve Garvey, Fernando Valenzuela, Kirk Gibson, Mike Piazza, Hideo Nomo, Manny Ramirez...there has been an endless supply of stardust in Dodger Blue and at Chavez Ravine.

However, just a month into his major league career, I've never seen anything quite like Yasiel Puig. His story of how he simply made it to the majors is compelling. He defected from Cuba and (I am loosely paraphrasing what has been reported) floated into United States waters in a dinghy or a small motor boat. He and the passengers were rescued by the United States Coast Guard and processed. Upon processing, the officials were able to make the connection that he was a coveted baseball prospect trying to reach the promised land in America.

That in and of itself is a fascinating story about the human spirit and the American dream. But Yasiel Puig is not just any other foreign prospect. Oh no! No! No! This guy, so far, has been out of this world.

Puig mania! 1

Before we discuss his performance, let's take a step back at the physical specimen Puig is. Puig is 6'3", 245 pounds. He is only 22 years old. His arm is like a cannon. He is fleet of foot, playing in right field and having stolen 5 bases in just 34 games played. In contrast, San Francisco 49ers All-Pro linebacker Patrick Willis, a superior physical specimen in his own right, is 6'1", 240 pounds. Puig has the body type to light suckers up and knock chumps out on the gridiron.

Puig has gunned down opponents three times from the outfield in the last month. As mentioned, he is a base stealing threat. His current batting average? A paltry .414. He has hit eight home runs since being called up with 19 RBIs. Did I mention he has only played 34 games?!? Arm, speed, power, hitting for average. Puig has demonstrated four of the five tools of a Major League player at an eye-popping level (the jury is still out on his glove, with two errors committed in the outfield).

I just hope the young man realizes what a cesspool L.A. can be. Just keep Lindsay Lohan away from him, no matter what! 4

With the Midsummer Classic approaching in the next two weeks, the sports world has been abuzz with whether or not Puig has earned a spot on the National League All-Star roster. The traditionalists think he hasn't "earned" a spot and John Q. Fan doesn't give a damn. He wants to be entertained. He wants to see Puig play!

Personally, I am of the opinion that the All-Star break and its festivities are for the fans. Major League Baseball would be doing those fans a disservice by not giving them what they want. Postseason awards are about the players. The All-Star Game is an exhibition game with a caveat (deciding which league is awarded home field advantage in the World Series) that only affects two teams out of 30 in MLB.

Major League Baseball made the right choice by putting the decision to the fans for a vote. Puig is among the five National League candidates for the Final Vote, determining the last spot on each team. I am going to go out on a limb and guess that the fans will put Puig in that spot.

Bryce Harper: The fans wanted him in the 2012 All-Star Game and they got it. It should be no different with Puig. 2


Last season, rookie Bryce Harper of the Washington Nationals made the All-Star cut in spite of being called up well after the start of the season. The traditionalist argument has been that Harper had played 63 games by the All-Star break, much more than the 40 games or so Puig will have played by the same time this season.

While Puig still has six games remaining before the All-Star break, he currently has 55 hits, 17 extra base hits, 8 of which are home runs. Puig has 19 RBIs. Harper had just 15 more hits, the same number of homers,  and only six more RBI while having played more than 20 additional games. The point being that Puig has comparable production numbers in spite of playing far fewer games.

Harper is a rookie phenom. There are veterans on the All-Star roster who pale in comparison to Puig. Kansas City Royals outfielder Alex Gordon has not missed a game this season and only has 27 extra base hits (nine home runs). He has played nearly three times as many games as Puig yet does not even have double the base hits.

Puig is a rookie. Puig is new. Puig is inexperienced.! Major League Baseball made the right decision by putting Puig in the final vote. The fans, as I anticipate, will make the right decision by putting Puig on the roster for baseball's signature single game event.

How many players have hit a grand slam this year? How many did it in the first month of their careers? 3
Don't forget to vote in the fan polls!

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