When Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was chosen to be one of the five National League players on the Final Vote ballot for the Major League Baseball All-Star Game, a single thought crept into my head:
"Heck, Puig's going to win that in a landslide."
It was going to be easy, right? The 22-year-old Cuban sensation plays for one of baseball's biggest franchises in one of the nation's biggest media markets, and he was hot enough in his first month in the majors to make "Puigmania" an actual thing. The Final Vote was surely as good as his.
But right now, I'm thinking I should have known better. Same goes for everyone else who had Puig down as a lock to win.
In case you haven't heard the news, the day's big victory belongs to Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman:—Puig, Freeman, Adrian Gonzalez, Ian Desmond and Hunter Pence—Freeman was the last guy I expected to have a shot at winning for two reasons.
First, Freeman is having a good year, but less than a great year. He has a .304/.385/.462 batting line and nine home runs, but that's not far and away better than Gonzalez's .300/.353/.489 line and 14 homers. For what it's worth, FanGraphs WAR believes that Freeman was the least deserving of the five candidates.
And now for reason No. 2, which I can only convey by saying: "But Yasiel Puig, you guys!"
Puig has been amazing ever since he arrived in the big leagues in early June, hitting .394/.428/.634 with eight home runs in 35 games while providing highlight-reel material on a nightly basis.
In fact, I've got some highlights right here:
But looking back now, it makes sense that Puig didn't win. He certainly had support, as Alyson Footer of MLB.com reports that both Freeman and Puig broke the record for the most votes ever for an individual player, which was previously set by Shane Victorino in 2009. But all along, there were too many obstacles in Puig's way.
The fact that neither of them won is something we've seen before. Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko of the Chicago White Sox were both on the Final Vote ballot for the American League in 2004, and neither of them got in. Ditto for Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui of the New York Yankees in 2005, Billy Wagner and Brett Myers of the Philadelphia Phillies in 2005 and Michael Bourn and Chipper Jones of the Atlanta Braves last year.
Also working against Puig is the fact that he didn't have a whole state to himself. Fans in the Bay Area and the rest of San Francisco Giants country were going to go for Hunter Pence, and the Final Vote distribution map over at MLB.com confirms that they did indeed. He also got a fair amount of votes in Oregon and Alaska (for some reason).
Another thing is apparent from looking at that map. Never mind a whole state—Freeman had a whole region on his side.
Freeman also picked up a ton of votes in places like Idaho, Wyoming, Utah and Montana. I'm going to go out on a limb and guess that might have something to do with the Braves' longtime broadcasting partnership with TBS, which turned people into Braves fans all over the country.
While we're on the topic, it's also hardly unprecedented for a regional favorite to beat out a national star in the Final Vote. David Freese topped Bryce Harper last year, for example, and the ever-popular Scott Podsednik beat out Jeter and Matsui in 2005. Consider it one of many ways that baseball fans continue to prove that, in general, they really only dig their teams and players.
And because he didn't win, it's also fair to wonder if Puig isn't the national sensation that he's made out to be on SportsCenter and, ahem, in one or two of the articles I've written. He may have everyone's attention, but that doesn't mean people actually have to, you know, melt over him.
Like Jonathan Papelbon, some fans may be unimpressed by the small sample size. Others might be skeptical of Puig because of his demeanor, which is the kind of reaction a player invites when he goes nuts in a brawl and tells a respected former player to screw off.
Add up all the different reasons fans had not to vote for Puig, and you have more than enough evidence for why he didn't get the nod in the Final Vote. Indeed, maybe the real surprise is that Puig got as many of the 79.2 million votes as he did.
Puig could still find his way to the All-Star Game. Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports says that National League manager Bruce Bochy could tab Puig as an injury replacement for a fan-elected starter or as one of his own choices for the NL roster.
On that note, Colorado Rockies slugger Carlos Gonzalez just so happens to have backed out of the Home Run Derby due to a sprained finger, according to Bill Brink of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. That could be Puig's ticket to Citi Field.
I'm inclined to say "Here's hoping," as I want to see Puig there and believe he should be there. My opinion on that matter has been the same for a while now.
Evidently, I don't speak for everyone.
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