Is Yasiel Puig the reincarnation of a love child between Joe DiMaggio and Lou Gehrig or perhaps a player whose DNA was altered by Fidel Castro in the secret labs of Cuba? Maybe he’s just a baseball player having a good month. In any case he absolutely positively MUST be a part of the All Star game. Or at least that’s what ESPN and several pundits want you to believe. He is after all the next <fill in your favorite legend’s name here> and has done the absolutely impossible flawlessly . . .well not flawlessly but superbly … okay he’s screwed up like an A-ball player but man he can hit and run and hit and run and throw and.. and . . . and man he’s cool etc. etc. etc. Whatever you think about who he is and what he’s done and whatever the fan vote totals actually are, I’m fairly certain Puig will be an All Star. How do I know that? I watch TV and I can read.
There’s no doubt the arrival of Yasiel Puig re-energized a Dodger team that was floundering and possibly saved Don Mattingly from an ill deserved dismissal. In Puig’s first 32 games – 135 plate appearances - his slash is .409/.437/.677. That’s a record for a rookie but similar numbers in terms of OPS and WAR have been seen before.
In 2005 this player arrived in the majors for the first time and set the town on fire. His slash for the first 32 games was .380/.385/.739 (that’s a 1.125 OPS for the hard of adding) with 10 home runs including a three run shot in his first at bat. He finished the year with a 3.0 rWAR (I don’t have any idea how to calculate that for 32 games) because he displayed a rifle arm that earned him 13 outfield assists for the season. Everyone said he was the next great thing but no one begged for his inclusion in the ASG and he was only ninth in rookie of the year voting. His name is Jeff Francoeur currently in DFA limbo and searching for a job. There’s another player doing similar things this year too.
Red Sox’ shortstop/third baseman Jose Iglesias through his first 32 games –117 PA – had a slash of .438/.487/.581 and who after another 13 games was still hitting .395/.446/.507. While Iglesias hasn’t hit for as much power as the LA golden boy and hasn’t been nearly as flashy, his OPS after 32 games (1.068) was certainly within spitting distance of Puig. Iglesias plays a premium position (primarily a SS where he hasn’t made an error this year ) along with two other infield positions second ( no errors) and third (two errors.) Puig has twice as many errors as Iglesias and he plays one position: right field. Everyone should just calm down a bit but of course that isn’t the style of ESPN and unfortunately some MLB Network pundits
ESPN, today’s Worldwide Leader in Poker, Lacrosse and LeBron James highlights has little influence over informed baseball fans. Their act is tired and their delivery dated. That doesn’t stop them and their minions from assuming they know best. As noted by many (I’ll link the Braves site because it’s handy ) the ESPN Web Site originally started out as campaign manager and head cheerleader for Puig. Then someone told them they were supposed to be a news organization so they changed the wording from “Vote Puig” to something less obvious but that still makes it clear you the voter are an idiot if you don’t agree with their conclusion (he deserves to be there.) On Sunday night’s ESPN bore cast ( I was trapped on a bus coming back from a Rangers game so I had no choice but to watch) Dan Schulman pontificated for all baseball fans when he said that “fans everywhere want to see Puig.” Sorry to disillusion Dan and ESPN, they do not. As the current MLB fan voting map (you may have to chose NL because it defaults to the AL vote first) shows Dodger and southern California fans undoubtedly want to see him but Giants’ fans would rather see Hunter Pence and Braves fans (most know I am a Braves fan, if you didn’t you do now) want to see Freddie Freeman (shameless #VoteFreddie plug) who’s hitting .371/.463/.543 with 21 RBI in 42 plate appearances with two out and RISP and who’s been leading their best hitter since day one.
Since ESPN caters more to casual baseball fans and those folks don’t vote nonstop for any player – they simply don’t care enough – I’m not sure how effective they will be in their quest to grant sainthood to Puig. Casual fans may vote 10 or 20 times but they’ll lose interest soon and stop. Committed fans will vote whenever they get time and continuously for their man. So will Puig win? Probably not but it may not make a difference.
The Rules Are The Rules Until They Aren’t
We’ve already seen that MLB is willing to change rules to fit desires. Originally players on the ballot for final man were those who just missed being picked in fan voting. This year however Puig mania resulted in his addition. It’s fairly obvious the rules for the final man vote were driven purely by who the media loves, so anything is possible. That’s right folks I think they’ve decided already, I think Puig will be there even if he doesn’t get the most votes.
All Star Game ratings are as important to MLB as they are to FOX Sports. ESPN has the horribly dated and increasingly absurd home run derby that has way too much time to fill and they need something to talk about. Everyone has a reason for Puig to be there that involves money and they really don’t care who wins as long as they can pump up ratings with talk of Puig. Puig will be there, some how some way he’ll be there.
That’s A Wrap
Let me make this clear, I do not hate Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers or those fans who truly want to see him at the game. Puig is a pawn in this game of MLB ratings dollars and punditry. I do dislike the capricious nature with which some pundits and ESPN throw around selective stats to support their opinion and tell the public that they know everyone wants to see Puig when objectively that’s simply not true.
The ASG is not the place to play like a little leaguer. It should be a showcase for the best in baseball, professionals playing the game like professionals. They can he enthusiastic and exuberant professionals certainly but professionals playing without making little league mistakes. When they decide to take the extra base, attempt a steal or try to throw a runner out at home, it’s because their experience and training leads them to believe that’s the right course of action not because they’re so excited they can’t control themselves.
All of this would be less of a problem if we didn’t have the ridiculous “This One Counts” rule in place. Because it counts the players who expect to be in the post season must be able to depend on each other to make good baseball decisions. If they lose they want ti to be because they were out played not because of a little league mistake. It’s bad enough the ASG determines home field advantage, losing home field advantage for the World Series because of a little league mistake is simply unacceptable.
Maybe they are right and Puig will go on to be the greatest thing since Mike Trout. Maybe he’ll just be an ordinary player or maybe he will turn into Jeff Francoeur. Whatever happens in the future Puig shouldn’t be at Citi Field as a participant this year. He can watch it on TV like the rest of us and dream on next year.