WASHINGTON — Two months ago I had never heard of Yasiel Puig. Now he’s one of the most talked about rookies in recent baseball memory. As quickly as Puig burst onto the field at Dodger Stadium is as quick as it took for Puig to become completely polarizing. The 22-year-old Cuban outfielder looks every bit of baseball's next star and the public has led the charge.
As we stand three days from the All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York, Puig hasn’t been selected for the National League roster, not by San Francisco manager Bruce Bochy (who will manage the NL All- Stars), and not by the fans, they chose Atlanta Braves firstbasemen Freddie Freeman.
The public has been split down the middle if Puig should be an All Star this year despite playing just 36 of the Dodgers’ 91 games. Philadelphia closer Jonathon Papelbon said it would be a joke if Puig was selected to the All Star Game, but the real joke has been what Puig has done to the pitching he has faced this season.
Puig is hitting .397 with eight home runs, 19 RBIs to go along with a .429 on-base percentage, .630 slugging percentage and a 1.060 OPS. With those numbers in such a small amount of games the decision to choose Puig would appear to be pretty easy.
Unfortunately with stardom comes resentment and jealousy.
Just in this past week, the Arizona Diamondbacks, one of the Dodgers rivals in the NL Western Division have put Puig on full blast.
First, former Diamondback great Luis Gonzalez, who is also Cuban, tried to talk to Puig outside the batting cages by speaking in Spanish about their similar journey from Cuba to the United States. The only problem was Puig didn’t feel like talking to Gonzalez for whatever reason. Puig’s own batting coach, Mark McGwire chided the rookie for blowing off Gonzalez.
Arizona catcher Miguel Montero has been on record that he doesn’t approve of how Puig plays the game, or his personality on the field. Puig was thrown out trying to score in a game at Arizona recently and he stared back at Montero after the play. Puig’s disdain for Arizona may stem from being hit in the face with a pitch by Arizona’s Ian Kennedy during his first two weeks with the Dodgers.
So there it is - the Yasiel Puig unofficial smear campaign. In a matter of seven days, Puig has went from electrifying budding superstar to whatever it is the Diamondbacks are accusing him of being.
This is what we do to young stars in professional sports, we find a flaw and exploit it to push the athlete into a corner. It's not Puig’s fault, merely a flaw in our society that is decades old. We love to build someone up and then tear them down.
If Puig has been as much of a game changer as we have been led to believe, why didn't Bochy pick Puig as part of the original All Star selections instead of passing the buck to the fan vote to put him on the team? With the All Star Game deciding the league that gets homefield advantage in the World Series, Bochy - winner of two of the last three World Series - knows the value of home field demands his best roster possible.
Is Puig more deserving of a roster spot than Andrew McCutcheon, Michael Cuddyer, Domonic Brown or Carlos Gomez? All four outfielders are having outstanding seasons. The flip side of that argument is the All Star Game is supposed to be for the fans. By now you know that Puig lost the fan vote to Freeman. Freeman becomes the fourth firstbasemen on the roster.
Puig isn’t on the All-Star team, because there were other players more deserving. This doesn't mean this is some injustice. Every year there are snubs.
Everyone knows who Yasiel Puig is now, and he’s not an All Star.