Thirty-six years ago, rookie phenom Mark Fidrych was selected to play in his first MLB All-Star Game. The Detroit pitcher, who was quickly becoming known for talking to himself and the baseball on the mound, led the league in the first half with a 9-1 record and a 1.85 ERA. He was lights-out, an entertaining personality, and an easy pick for the 1977 American League All-Star roster.
And he’d only played in 11 games.
This season, rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig has played in 33 games, yet the nation’s baseball fans are torn on whether or not the Cuban defector who’s single-handedly turned the Dodgers payroll monster into a contender deserves an All-Star roster spot.
In 132 at-bats, Puig boasts a .409 avg, 26 runs, 8 home runs, 19 RBI, a 1.102 OPS, and a 2.5 WAR. Defensively, Puig’s three assists have showcased an arm that rivals the best outfield cannons in the league. Add the numbers to his backstory,[ref]Cuban defector who earned big bucks when the Dodgers took a chance on him.[/ref] and you have a West Coast player who has captured the attention of Los Angeles, one of the biggest sports markets in the world, as well as the
national East Coast media. He’s been a triple-shot of espresso to teammates and former All-Stars Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Adrian Gonzalez, who all looked as asleep as former All-Star Chris Young this season. Puig could be the National League’s version of what Ichiro Suzuki did for the American League. Plus, he’s risked his life, his family, and friends to play ball in the U.S.
Maybe I’m missing something. Why shouldn’t a player who inspires All-Stars to play better be an All-Star himself? Is he not in highlight reels practically every night?
1. Sample Size Too Small?
It’s not Puig’s fault the Dodgers organization was so overprotective of the best player in their system. But fans and media are screaming he hasn’t played enough games to warrant an All-Star nod. Let me point up above, to Mark Fidrych. Or last year, to rookies-of-the-year Mike Trout and Bryce Harper who both made the 2012 roster despite small sample sizes of their own.
2. He’s a Dodger?
If you’re a Giants fan, the answer is obvious. Puig wears Dodger blue. But Bay Area radio host Gary Radnich went even further on his KNBR radio show on Monday, speculating Puig’s performance is backed by steroids. Why? Because “he’s thick.” Uh, what? With a Giant squad that made the 2002 and 2012 World Series thanks to outfielders on steroids,[ref]See Bonds, Barry and Cabrera, Melky, et al.[/ref] I can’t stop laughing at the irony in these blatantly unfounded accusations. Maybe Radnich is just tired of Puig torching Giants pitching to the tune of a .360 average. If you’re a Giants fan, be happy Marco Scutaro is in there (I’m a Scutaro fan and still think that selection is a joke), hope Puig gets in, and does his best Melky Cabrera impersonation. And for fans and media whose team won two World Series thanks to average players getting hot at the right time, what’s wrong with rewarding a player who’s hotter than anyone in professional baseball right now? Plus, you never know what he could be accused of next season.
3. He’s not an above-average first baseman?
Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman is currently leading the Final Vote tally for the last National League roster spot. If you want to argue for sample size, then let’s examine Freeman’s four seasons in the show. Aside from this season’s solid numbers, he’s an above average player at best (.276 avg, .800 OPS) and doesn’t have the flash or the personality to match Puig. He’s had four seasons to prove what Puig has done in 33 games, and failed to prove anything. Plus, the NL already has three first basemen in Joey Votto, Paul Goldschmidt, and Allen Craig. Freeman won’t see the field, or an at-bat, if he’s selected.
4. He doesn’t play in Coors Field?
Michael Cuddyer is a reserve outfielder? Seriously? Congrats, dude; even Mark Ellis can hit bombs in Denver. Cuddyer is in his 12th season and is basically Freddie Freeman with more grass stains on his cleats. You won’t get a worse home run derby participant, well, other than the NL captain David Wright, who fittingly picked Cuddyer, maybe so someone hits less homers than him.
5. Dodgers fans don’t want him to get hurt?
As an Oakland fan, I’m not upset about Josh Donaldson or Grant Balfour getting snubbed by fans, players, and Jim Leyland. Why? Because I want my boys to win for my team, not some popularity contest decided by the same people that pick “American Idol” winners. If you’re a Dodgers fan and Puig gets snubbed, be happy you get him all to yourself for one more season, and focus on an NL West division ripe for the taking. The A’s did the same thing with Yoenis Cespedes last year, and look how that turned out.