Should such rookies be All-Stars, even if they get chosen over veterans who excelled for the entire first half, rather than – in Puig’s case so far – a mere three weeks?
Yes, yes and yes again.
I can hear it now: “Ken, you’re a shill. The game is on FOX. You work for FOX. You want your network to get higher ratings. What’s next, Ryan Seacrest doing play-by-play?”
Of course not! We have standards, you know.
But if you’re asking me if it’s in baseball’s best interests for the game to draw the most possible viewers, I would say yes, that is exactly the idea.
It’s 2013, the age of buzz, 140-character tweets, 10-second Snapchats. If you want to grab people’s attention, you had better do something meaningful, something different. And please, let’s not get all righteous about a game that last year gave us Bryan LaHair.
LaHair, selected by the players, designated for assignment by the Cubs at the end of the season and now playing for the Softbank Hawks in Japan.
Puig, the Dodgers’ right fielder, is an arresting presence, a human electrical current and most important, an extreme talent. He can’t be this good, we all know that. But I’d like to see him face Yu Darvish, Felix Hernandez or Justin Verlander in the ASG so we can find out a little more.
Would be fun, no?
Someone tell National League manager Bruce Bochy, who spoke for the old school — no, set up barricades in front of the old school — during a recent interview with SiriusXM.
“I would have a hard time picking somebody who has been here three weeks, to be honest,” Bochy said. “The numbers would have to be so stupid that you say, ‘OK, I’ll consider it.’”
Well, hello, stupid.
Puig is the first player with at least seven homers and 34 hits through his first 20 career games, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. He introduced himself to Bochy on Monday night by hitting a home run, collecting three hits and driving in the go-ahead run with a single in the Dodgers’ 3-1 victory over the Giants.
Two more games remain in the series.
Two more games for Puig to demonstrate to Bochy first-hand the competitive advantage that he would provide for the NL. Two more games for Puig to force Bochy into saying, “Uh, maybe I should start rethinking this.”
“I couldn’t take away from a player who has been here and done it the whole half and been out there grinding every day and he doesn’t go,” Bochy told SiriusXM. “I couldn’t look at that player. I couldn’t look at myself, to be honest. So that’s why I’m saying, that’s a really long shot.”
Bochy’s argument, of course, is perfectly reasonable. If the Giants’ manager chose Puig over say, the Rockies’ Michael Cuddyer or Diamondbacks’ Gerardo Parra, it only would cause him needless problems within his own division.
Well, baseball has a say in these matters, which is why you can rest assured that A’s right-hander Bartolo “Testosterone” Colon stands almost zero chance of starting for the AL.
Baseball needs to say, “Let’s do this.”
According to Inside Edge, Puig is one of four right-handed hitters to hit at least five opposite-field homers this season. Miguel Cabrera has hit eight such homers in 292 at-bats; Nelson Cruz, six in 273 at-bats; Evan Longoria, five in 296 at-bats.
Puig has five in 77 at-bats.
Let’s keep him home. Let’s hide him!
Really, this shouldn’t be that difficult. The All-Star Game features so many conflicting agendas, the powers-that-be can justify almost anything — not that the selection of Puig would require much of a defense.
Since 2003, the All-Star outcome has determined home-field advantage for the World Series, making the game an actual competition rather than an exhibition. For all the criticism of the format, the ASG is better for it. Still, the incongruities in the selection process are glaring:
• Fans elect the starting position players. When you stage a popularity contest, you occasionally get screwy results. Orioles right fielder Nick Markakis is currently among the AL’s leading vote-getters in the outfield. Decent player, but really? Markakis can be in the game and Puig can’t?
• Every team must be represented. That’s right, even last-place teams with no obvious or worthy All-Star. Who would you rather see in this year’s game, Puig or the Astros’ representative? Puig or the “top” Marlin or Cub?
• Sixty-eight players are chosen, 34 for each team. Add injury replacements, and it’s usually even more than that. A total of 74 players were named All-Stars last season, nearly one-tenth of all major leaguers.
And there is no place for Puig?
The All-Star Game is a showcase event, occurring at the one time of year when baseball alone commands center stage on the North American sporting landscape.
Maximum entertainment should be the goal. And right now, in this sport, Yasiel Puig is maximum entertainment.