Who doesn’t want to see Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig in the All-Star game? Honestly, who? Well, according to Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon…if Puig represents the National League later this month, it’d be “a joke”.
On MLB Network Radio Tuesday, the same day Puig finished one hit shy from reaching the cycle, Papelbon said Puig’s selection would be an “injustice” to veteran players. I wonder if Papelbon thought that when he was named to the American League All-Star team in 2006, as a rookie. Mind you Papelbon had remarkable numbers (0.59 ERA and 26 saves in 40 games) and played a little bit the previous year in ’05 so he had more games under his belt than Puig.
I understand where Papelbon’s coming from, but I disagree with a lot of what he said. Not only did he butcher Puig’s name by referring to the Dodgers outfielder as ‘Pig’ on SiriusXM Sports, he’s forgotten that the All-Star game is all about the fans. Entertainment is what the fans want and Puig provides just that.
Although Yasiel Puig isn’t on the All-Star ballot, he’s been getting a lot of support from the fans. MLB has a final vote which crowns the 34th player on each team through a separate fan vote which comes after players and managers have their say.
Papelbon’s main argument is a good one – Puig has only played in 27 games. Papelbon as a closer (yes much different I know) has only played 31 games. So out of all people complaining I don’t think it should be him. There are people who agree with Papelbon, traditionalists especially.
Baseball has turned into a stats game and fantasy sports has a lot to do with it. Fans care more about a pitcher’s or batter’s numbers now than ever. Mike Trout didn’t get the American League MVP last year because Miguel Cabrera captured baseballs first triple crown in 45 years, despite almost every member of the ‘young generation’ or at least Nate Silver, thought Trout should have taken the honours because he had the better numbers. The traditionalists disagreed and voted for Cabrera. Much like in Puig’s case here, many people – Papelbon included – are taking the old school approach: “why should Puig take the spot of a deserving player like Michael Cuddyer, Carlos Beltran or Domonic Brown, or disrespect a veteran player who’s been there before and has been outstanding for the first 81 games of the year and therefore deserves an All-Star selection?” What is the bigger joke really: Yasiel Puig an All-Star or Bryce Harper (who has been limited to 46 games)?
Yasiel Puig is this years version of Mike Trout, neither player was drafted as a fantasy rookie. In Mike’s case, he missed the first 21 games last season and nobody really knew what kind of fantasy impact he would have. So if he was drafted in your league last season, he didn’t last long on people’s teams and he ended up being the best waiver wire pick a baseball fan could ask for, much like Puig this year. If you’re in a keeper’s league you’re loving what the Dodger right fielder has done so far and no doubt you’re keeping him for years to come.
When asked about Puig and the All-Star possibility, National League manager Bruce Bochy said he would have a hard time picking somebody for the team who has been playing ball for three weeks, and that the numbers would have to be stupid good to reconsider his stance. Well good thing for Puig his numbers are stupid good and fantasy owners out there can back that up.
Puig is hitting .443/473/.745 heading into Wednesday night’s game in Colorado, which will complete a full month of baseball for the rook’. He has 8 homers, many of the grand variety, 17 runs and his 44 hits (in 100 at-bats) in his debut-month is second only to Joe DiMaggio who had 48 in May of 1936. By the way, at 21, DiMaggio played in the 1936 All-Star game and was one of the first rookies to start in the event. He happened to be batting .358, there wasn’t much of a choice.
I’m not suggesting that Puig will continue this pace, but I’m confident he’ll be a great fantasy player in the second half of the season. With the Dodgers on a roll and Carl Crawford set to return to the line up Friday, Matt Kemp back last week and Hanley Ramirez swinging a hot bat since his return, Puig should have plenty of opportunities to pad your fantasy stats batting second in that lineup. What he’s done so far is deserving of an All-Star selection as well: Puig set his name in the record books Tuesday by becoming the first player to win a Player of the Month award in his first month in the majors and according to the Elias Sports Bureau he was the first player with at least 7 homers and 34 hits through his first 20 career games. If that isn’t enough, he’s helped turn around what looked like a possible disastrous season in Los Angeles for the Dodgers. His presence on the Dodgers has been much like what Mike Trout did for the Angels last year, and despite the fact that Trout didn’t come out of the gate as hot as Puig has this year, he was still selected to the All-Star roster.
Yet still, Papelbon doesn’t believe in the hype. The All-Star game is a celebration where the fans vote on who they’d like to see. Sure, the game is somewhat meaningful with the winning team receiving the right to host the World Series, it’s not just a spectacle for the fans. That said, Bochy should remember how last year’s All-Star game turned out and how well it worked out for his Giants in the World Series. If he wants the National League to take home field again, he’ll consider selecting the hottest bat in baseball.
Does Yasiel Puig deserve a spot not even 30 games into his career? It’s what the fans want to see and It’s what most of the players, save Papelbon, want to see. When New York Mets third basemen David Wright was selected as National League Home Run Derby captain he was told by players in the league that he should pick Puig. The only rule when picking players for the All-Star game is that every team must be represented. So because we have to see a lowly Cub or Marlin on July 16th at Citi Field in New York, the least you can do is give us fans a lil’ Yasiel Puig!