Dodgers phenom Yasiel Puig more than deserves spot on NL All-Star roster, says Mike Martinez.
By MICHAEL MARTINEZ FS West
Is one month enough time to become an all-star?
Are 27 games enough?
Those are questions
San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy will have to answer this weekend. When he makes his final roster selections for this month’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, Bochy will be forced to decide whether Dodgers rookie
Yasiel Puig has earned a spot on the National League team.
Here’s what his answer should be: a resounding yes.
It won’t be that easy for Bochy, but it should also be difficult to ignore what Puig has done in such a short time: a .436 average and a season’s worth of excitement.
The kid is a one-of-a-kind phenom. He deserves a grand stage as big as New York and a national television audience. So any reservations Bochy still has should be dismissed when he fills out his roster in consultation with the league office.
Puig capped his amazing debut month Sunday with a career-high four hits, giving him 44 for the month – the most by a rookie in his first calendar month since Joe DiMaggio had 48 for the Yankees in May 1936.
It speaks to his innocence, not to mention his Cuban roots, that Puig doesn’t know much about DiMaggio beyond his name. But he’s just 22, and if he continues on his current path, he will surely learn more as the comparisons increase.
Last week, when the Giants were in Los Angeles to play the Dodgers, Bochy clearly was leaning against the possibility of choosing Puig as an N.L. reserve, saying, "It would be hard to leave somebody off who has done it the whole half. I look at it as picking guys who had the best half, not what they did last year or for two to three weeks."
Fair enough. But while the All-Star Game is essentially a reward for great players or great half-seasons, it’s also an exhibition, a chance for fans to watch the game’s most exciting players face one another and display their skills.
Who wouldn’t want to see Puig step up to the plate against Seattle’s Felix Hernandez or chase down a sinking line drive off the bat of the Angels’ Mike Trout?
"The way he's playing, I think he'd bring a lot of excitement to the All-Star Game," Dodgers outfielder
Matt Kemp said. "That's what the game is all about, exciting fans. I think everybody needs to see what this kid is doing because it's pretty amazing at the moment."
Even Puig has considered the possibility. After the Dodgers defeated the Phillies 6-1 Sunday, he said through a translator, "I would feel very happy and excited and honored to be in the All-Star Game. If I’m the only one that’s from the Dodgers in the game, I would be very excited to represent the city of Los Angeles and its fans. But if I don’t make it, I’m still happy as long as we keep on winning."
And as long as Puig keeps on hitting, his statistics will be too difficult for Bochy to ignore. Puig is what baseball should be about – young, energetic players who compete with over-the-top enthusiasm. He loves to play, and he loves to win.
Put all that together with his first-month statistics – seven home runs, 16 RBI, a .467 on-base percentage and an OPS (on-base plus slugging) of 1.180 – and it would unjust not to send him to New York.
The Dodgers want to take the decision out of Bochy’s hands, starting a campaign to get Puig elected as a write-in candidate. No player has been elected via write-in since the Dodgers’ Steve Garvey in 1974.
It could happen, but it shouldn’t have to. Bochy should make it clear that Puig, despite the small sample size, has earned his way in.
And Puig should keep the pressure on by playing this week the way he played the past four.
Then it will be the easiest decision Bochy makes all season.