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Wednesday, December 17, 2014
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Published: Monday, 7/8/2013

Puig who? Put him in NL All Stars

BY DAVE HACKENBERG
BLADE SPORTS COLUMNIST

Yasiel Puig’s candidacy for the National League All-Star team is dodging the obstacles.

The fans did not elect the Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder as a starter, which was understandable considering Puig’s relative short time in the Major Leagues left him off the printed ballot. Instead, the fans made a mess of the NL outfield.

The players picked the reserves and the fact the NL guys didn’t vote for Puig tells you how this touchy subject is viewed by insiders. San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy opted to take one of his own guys, Marco Scutaro, over Puig as a sub, which may be managerial tradition but in this case is a joke.

Still, Puig has a chance. In fact, his inclusion on the list of five NL players competing in the “Final Vote” for the last berth on the team should be a landslide.

The other four candidates — shortstop Ian Desmond of the Nationals, first baseman Freddie Freeman of the Braves, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of the Dodgers, and outfielder Hunter Pence of the Giants — might as well go ahead and get tee times, make charter boat reservations, or head for Disney World with the kids for a couple days.

Puig should be a lock in the online voting that ends Thursday. Fans pick the starters and fans pick the last man in and just about everybody wants to get a glimpse of the phenom who defected from Cuba.

Whether he belongs will be a moot point. Baseball fans this side of Big Muddy don’t see much of the Dodgers. The time zone difference is an issue, of course, and when it comes to national cable TV, well, if the Yankees and Red Sox played each other 162 times then they would be aired 162 times. Don’t get me started.

But we do see highlights if we stay up late enough and we do read when a West Coast game makes the morning papers. We’ve definitely seen Puig’s numbers and, yes, they are gaudy. So give him a bat and give him some swings. It will be good for the game.

For those who may be asking “Yasiel Puig, who?” he has been in the big leagues only sinceJune 3. And the youngster, just 22, has been rewriting the record books ever since.

He had four home runs and 10 RBIs in his first five games. He’s the first in Major League history to have had at least 34 hits and seven homers in his opening 20 games. Puig ended his monumental first month in the big leagues (.436 batting average, .713 slugging percentage) with 44 hits and only one rookie has ever done better; some dude named Joe DiMaggio in 1936.

Does he belong? Philadelphia reliever Jonathan Papelbon said Puig being on the All-Star team would be “an absolute joke.”

A number of people agree with him. When he first said it, so did I. Upon reflection, the All-Star Game, despite its inflated importance courtesy of baseball czar Bud Light Selig, is first and foremost for the fans.

And the fans want to see Yasiel Puig. Heck, put him in the home run derby too and see if he can deliver against the likes of Baltimore slugger Chris Davis, whose power numbers (33 home runs entering play Sunday) are eyebrow raising, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera, and others.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at: dhack@theblade.com or 419-724-6398.



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