By Steve Kallas
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How is this even a debate? Yasiel Puig has done things that virtually nobody has done in the history of baseball through one month of play. Only Earle Combs, a forgotten great Yankee in the 1920s (in 1927, for example, Combs led the league in both hits (with 231) and triples (23) while hitting .356 for perhaps the greatest team ever on his way to a 12-season lifetime .325 average), had, like Puig, 44 hits in his first 100 major league at-bats. Only a guy named Joe DiMaggio had more hits (50) in his first 27 big-league games than Puig (47).
His numbers across the board are video game numbers. Batting average (.443), on-base percentage (.473; nobody walks off the Island), slugging percentage (.745, eight home runs in 27 games), OPS (an amazing 1.218). Plus, if you understand the importance of the bunt (most don’t), this guy has already shown the ability to push a bunt past the pitcher or drop one down the third base line.
A FIVE-TOOL PLAYER
It’s rare that these guys exist in today’s game. But Puig can hit, hit with power, run, field and has a howitzer for an arm. There’s nothing he can’t do on a baseball field.
Maybe, arguably equally or even more important, he has brought an incredible “energy” to the team, according to manager Don Mattingly. Writers and regulars at the ballpark talk about how, before Puig came up and the Dodgers were languishing in last place in the NL West, the Dodgers were a listless team, going through the motions, with no life on the field or in the stands.
Yasiel Puig has changed all of that.
SO, WHAT’S THE KNOCK?
Well, you know the knock. He hasn’t played long enough. He hasn’t done it over a long period of time. Jonathan Papelbon who, of course, should just shut up and pitch, has said that “it’s a joke” that Puig should be on the All-Star team.
More important, Bruce Bochy, this year’s All-Star manager, said, on June 26, “Generally, guys that go to the All-Star game are guys that have a great first half, not a great three weeks. If you ask me a week from now, I may say I’ve changed my mind.”
Well, Bruce Bochy is a wildly successful manager with a brain. Hopefully someone will ask him that question and, a week later, he will see the obvious light.
THE QUESTION ISN’T WHETHER PUIG SHOULD BE ON THE ALL-STAR TEAM, THE QUESTION IS WHETHER HE SHOULD START
The answer to both is yes, even though it’s unlikely he will be voted in by the fans. Bochy has also expressed reservations about picking Puig over a veteran player who has had a very good (but certainly not Puig-like), first half. Well, everybody knows there are always a number of defections due to injury or whatever for both squads. Or maybe the Commissioner, who presumably has a brain, will just allow one additional player to allay Bochy’s fears.
If you look at the game as a mere exhibition, Yasiel Puig is already the one player that everyone wants to see. A mysterious Cuban defector, very few baseball fans knew much about him before he was called up. Here’s the chance to give the All-Star game what Bud Selig has tried to give it for years – some juice.
If you look at the All-Star game as an incredibly meaningful game because the winner gets home field advantage in the World Series (a beyond stupid idea in and of itself), well, if you actually want to WIN the game, can you name three guys in the outfield better than Puig?
Of course you can’t.
THIS DECISION IS VIRTUALLY A NO-BRAINER
While even Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly (whose job many believe has been saved by Puig, now that the Dodgers are 9-1 last 10 and have stormed into a division race that, amazingly, they were written off from after April and May) and some Dodger teammates expressed reservations after only two weeks, now, with a 27 game sample and video game numbers, the decision is virtually a no-brainer.
Let’s hope major league baseball has a brain.
HERE’S THE REAL QUESTION
The question isn’t whether Yasiel Puig should be an All-Star.
Of course he should be.
The question isn’t whether Yasiel Puig should be the Rookie of the Year.
He’s well on his way to that, barring injury or total collapse.
The question is whether Yasiel Puig should be the NL MVP.
And THAT’S the question we have to wait a few months to have answered.
Hopefully, the powers-that-be don’t screw this one up.
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