Now that the bloom is starting to come off the rose, at least in some circles of the media, you can't help but wonder if Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig's absence from the All-Star Game is agenda driven.
But now that we have seen what will hopefully be the last of the changes to both rosters, should Puig, who is currently hitting .391/.422/.616, have been included in baseball's best marketing event?
The great debate from last week about who should win the National League Final Vote turns out to have been completely irrelevant, because Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman, who won the fan vote, will miss the Midsummer Classic after suffering a finger injury.
Puig was passed over for the National League team in favor of Freeman's teammate, Brian McCann. There may have been some extenuating circumstances because Puig was dealing with a hip problem over the weekend that forced him to be taken out early in Friday's game, sitting on Saturday and only playing the final four innings on Sunday.
There have been a flurry of replacements on both teams in the last 24 hours, as some players are dinged up and would rather have four days off to recover, while others, mostly pitchers, were taken off the teams because they started on Sunday and wouldn't be eligible to throw on Tuesday.
But Puig is a different story. Yes, the hip issue probably made him unavailable for the game. Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was quoted as saying that he wouldn't mind Puig being an All-Star, as long as it doesn't come at the expense of his health.
The media puts so much talk into who should be an All-Star, who deserves to represent his team and league in this game, but players and managers are just trying to get through the spectacle in order to help their team win in the second half of the season.
Then there has been the question about whether or not Puig is deserving of being an All-Star because he has only played in 38 games in the big leagues.
Philadelphia Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who had no problem taking a spot on the 2006 AL All-Star team after playing just 40 games, said in a radio interview (via CBS Philly) that Puig doesn't deserve to be on the roster because he hasn't paid his dues.
The guy’s got a month, I don’t even think he’s got a month in the big leagues, and just comparing him to this and that, and saying he’s going to make the all-star team, that’s a joke to me. It’s just really what happens in baseball when… to me it really does an injustice to the veteran players that have been in the game for eight, nine, ten plus years, and it kind of does them an injustice because they’ve worked so hard to stay there.
I would have a hard time picking somebody who has been here three weeks, to be honest. The numbers would have to be so stupid that you say, "Ok I’ll consider it." But, you know, 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.
A few things happened in the time since Bochy made those statements. If he wants numbers that are "stupid," how about setting a new Dodgers rookie record for hits in a month (44)? Or tying Joe DiMaggio for the second-most hits in a calendar month by a rookie?
Apparently, putting yourself in the same breath as a Hall of Famer and one of the greatest players in baseball history, even if for just one month, isn't "stupid" enough for Bochy.
The people who feel Puig should be in the game, like myself, have argued that you want to put someone in the game who is going to draw eyeballs AND has a strong chance to be a superstar in MLB for a long time.
Would you rather see Puig get an at-bat and play right field in the All-Star Game or Michael Cuddyer? Cuddyer, by the way, happens to be in this game thanks to the boost he gets from playing in Coors Field (1.068 OPS at home vs. .872 on the road).
Jayson Stark of ESPN.com came up with a good solution that would get Puig into the game and not upset the order of veteran players like Papelbon by suggesting a roster spot designated for a rising star.
What I envision is a special bonus All-Star roster slot, reserved for a hot rookie, a young breakout star or a late-breaking meteor like Puig who shoots across the sky so brightly that millions of Americans say to themselves: "I'd sure love to see that dude in an All-Star Game."
That is exactly right and only illustrates the point that people like Papelbon are missing. The All-Star game isn't designed to reward players for a good—or in some cases, lucky—three-month stretch of games. It is a way for Major League Baseball to put the biggest stars, old and young, on one field to show the world what the game is about.
You know why no one cared about the Final Vote in the American League? Because it was comprised of five relief pitchers. No one is disputing the role that a bullpen plays in a team's success or failure, but no one is paying to see a reliever pitch in a game unless his name is Mariano Rivera.
We care about Puig because he is a fascinating character. He is someone people want to talk about and devote time to see. A lot of baseball fans have probably never seen him play live yet because games in Los Angeles start at 10 p.m. on the East Coast.
You'll forgive me if I am more interested in seeing what Puig can do in this game than wondering if Marco Scutaro is going to hit in the eighth inning.
On top of all that, we are starting to see the typical media backlash against Puig. So much time was spent building him up as the Next Big Thing that he got too big for his britches, forcing some outlets to try to bring him down a couple pegs.
Will Leitch of Sports On Earth did a great job of breaking down all the ways that Puig is getting junk thrown at him from the media now that he has to be put in his place. Topics range from Puig playing too hard and having too much fun to trying to pick up women at games. (Because Puig is the only athlete in the history of sports to ever do that.)
At the end of the day, we will never know the real reason that Puig wasn't picked for the All-Star Game. It could be that the injury made it so the Dodgers didn't want him to risk further damaging himself. It could be that Bochy didn't feel he deserved, or perhaps he didn't want to "offend" any National League players. It could be due to the media backlash brought against Puig in the last week.
But no one can present a real argument for why Puig doesn't belong on the National League All-Star team. If he is healthy enough to be in New York, he should be there and should have been given the spot that Freeman was awarded by winning the Final Vote, finishing just ahead of Puig.
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