Yasiel Puig: Already An All-Star?
When discussing whether Yasiel Puig deserves to be an all-star in 2013, we could explicate the meaning of the word as defined by Webster’s dictionary. We could compare his outstanding debut month to that of other phenomenal ball players, and we could cite historical precedent by listing players who have only played in X amount of games before the all-star break. Yet if you’ve watched the 22-year-old Cuban defector play, if you’ve seen his nightly highlight reel on ESPN, or even glanced at the box score when he participates and witnessed the impact he’s had on what was a scuttling Dodgers squad, do you need to hear any more?
The greatest, and perhaps only, counter-argument to allowing Puig to participate in the exhibition game that will be held at Citi Field on Tuesday July 16th is that he’s eye-popping numbers occur within a small sample size. Since baseball is a game of streaks where pitchers who win the CY Young are out of the league a couple years later, sluggers hit 15 homers one month and strike out 100 times the next, and team’s rotate closers at the drop of a dime, it’s hard to be definitive about Puig’s torrid 30-game run.
However, it is (objectively speaking) the greatest 30-game debut in the history of baseball. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, his .436 batting average in June is the highest ever in a player’s first month. He became the first player since Joe DiMaggio to have 40 hits in his debut month, and is the only player to log seven home runs and 32 hits in their first 20 games.
Great individual accolades, but Puig’s prowess has also made a tangible impact with regards to the success of his ballclub. The Dodgers, who now sit in third place in the N.L. West with a 41-44 record, have won 11 of their last 13 games. Since Puig was called up on June 4th they are 17-11, which is a marked improvement from their 24-33 start.
A coincidence perhaps? Yet Matt Kemp, the face of the Dodgers (for the last couple of years), has publicly admitted that Puig’s infectious energy has motivated the entire team to play harder. The way he bursts out of the box and tries to stretch singles into doubles, or attempts to throw runners out at first base on a hard-hit line drive to right field, is rather incredible.
Puig is not just a statistical marvel, he’s the personification of excitement in a sport that has rapidly declined in popularity as a result of the steroids scandals during the last few decades. His presence on the all-star team may offend the sensibilities of certain “old-school” managers, and crabby ballplayers who see this honor as something that must be earned over a lengthy career instead of one half, or a quarter of a season, but there’s no doubt that the fans (and the broadcasting team at FOX) would love to see his talents on display over the break.
There is one spot on both the National and American League rosters where the fans can vote in a player, so if all else fails, the people can demand Puig’s participation in the festivities. It may be unprecedented, and it may rub some folks the wrong way, but there’s no denying that this young man is the very definition of an all-star.