COMMENTARY | One inning after collecting his fourth hit of the afternoon and 44th of the month, Yasiel Puig stepped up to the plate for the Los Angeles Dodgers last Sunday in search of a home run that would have given him the cycle. He swung with all his might, but struck out and finished the game 4-for-5.
Despite this blemish, it's safe to say the Dodgers have struck gold with Puig. A strikeout after four straight hits is acceptable. Not inviting Puig to compete in this year's All-Star Game after what we have seen from him this past month is unacceptable. His 44 hits since being promoted on June 3 are the most ever by a Los Angeles rookie in his first month and second-most all-time behind some guy named Joe DiMaggio.
Clearly Puig has proved me wrong after I questioned his promotion in the first place. He hit four home runs that first week and hasn't slowed down, finishing June with a .436 batting clip in 26 games. Okay, 26 games might be a small sample size, but they have been the most exciting 26 games of the season for the Dodgers, a frenzy unparalleled since the days of "Mannywood." In his first week, Puig uncorked a game-ending outfield assist from the warning track on a Monday, hit two home runs on Tuesday and then blasted a grand slam on Thursday. This past week, he delivered two game-winning hits and then capped off his historic month with a triple… on a pop fly that landed behind first base.
The All-Star Game is in less than three weeks. Last time I checked, the event is supposed to feature the best talent in the game. Puig is a special talent. The rules also dictate that each team must be represented in the game, probably for marketing and ratings purposes. Despite only playing for one month, Puig has made a case as the Dodgers' best player. He has already equaled the combined home run total of highly paid outfielders Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier. The only other position player on the Dodgers who may be as deserving as Puig is Adrian Gonzalez, who in 78 games has 10 home runs and 48 runs batted in.
But if Major League Baseball is trying to capture the most viewers by requiring each team to be represented, how many of those viewers would rather see Gonzalez, a methodical, slow-footed veteran, over Puig, an electrifying rookie sensation that half the country has only heard about because the Dodgers play on the West Coast?
Another reason why Puig should get the nod is because Bud Selig decided that the game should count, that the winning league receives home-field advantage in the World Series. Whether or not this is a good idea, it brings out the competitive nature of the All-Stars. The players and the coaches truly care about winning the game, which means that the best troops for achieving victory should be deployed. Just because Puig has less big league experience than some of the other players, teams have yet to figure him out and he is undeniably a five-tool baseball player that would give the National League a boost both offensively and defensively.
Of course, the decision will most likely come down to Bruce Bochy, the San Francisco Giants' skipper in charge of managing the National League All-Stars on July 16. Bochy has said that Puig's lack of tenure will make it difficult for him to include the Cuban phenom on his roster - either that or because Puig plays for the rival Dodgers. The fact remains that Mike Trout and Bryce Harper, young talents who were named All-Stars last year, began the season in the minors just like Puig this year.
Fans already get the opportunity to vote for who they think should start the game, for better or for worse (see: Markakis, Nick). At the very least, Puig should be included in the Final Vote ballot to select the final All-Star in each league. Major League Baseball will need to seriously reevaluate the Midsummer Classic if a player like Puig is left out of the festivities.
Nick Ostiller was born and raised in Los Angeles and currently lives in Santa Clara. He is the editor-in-chief at The Santa Clara and contributes content for Sidelines. He has also worked for Outlook Newspapers. Follow him on Twitter @nicko229.
- Sports & Recreation
- Yasiel Puig
- Los Angeles Dodgers