Yasiel Puig's First All-Star Experience Ends Up a Nightmare

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJuly 16, 2014

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Yasiel Puig doesn't do anything halfway. Including, apparently, failing miserably.

The Dodgers' flamboyant outfielder came into his first All-Star Game riding high. After a disastrous few days in Minnesota, he may have just hit a career low.

It started with the Home Run Derby, which Puig entered with plenty of hype. With his bat-flipping antics and prodigious pop (he hit just 12 home runs in the first half, but the ones he did hit traveled an average of 417.3 feet, according to ESPN's Home Run Tracker), Puig seemed like the perfect player to inject intrigue back into the Derby.

Instead, he laid a goose egg. Swinging at pitches thrown by Robinson Cano's father, Jose, Puig became, coincidentally, the first participant since Cano in 2012 to fail to clear the fence in a Home Run Derby. 

"I'm sorry I didn't give a better show," Puig told MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez after his disastrous Derby. "I thank [the fans] for voting for me. I'm so happy to be here. I can't wait for tomorrow."

Tomorrow arrived, but the sun didn't come out for Puig.

His Dodgers teammates acquitted themselves admirably; Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke each tossed a scoreless frame with three strikeouts between them, and Dee Gordon came off the bench to score a run.

And a Los Angeles player did wind up winning All-Star Game MVP—the Angels' Mike Trout, who went 2-for-3 with a double and triple and helped the American League secure home-field advantage in the World Series with a 5-3 win. 

Puig, meanwhile, struck out three times in three trips to the plate.

Certainly, it wasn't the result the boisterous Cuban imagined in what he admitted to MLB.com's Tracy Ringolsby was "the biggest moment" of his career, after the Dodgers' playoff push last season. 

Is it possible he was pressing? Did the pressure and expectations get to him? Did the guy who never backs down from a challenge finally meet his match?

Or did the hype, beginning with the Derby, simply take him off his game. Did Puig stop being Puig?

Could be, according to Puig's countryman, Yoenis Cespedes of the Oakland A's.

"Not to be disrespectful to him at all, but I know him from Cuba," Cespedes said in July 2013 after clubbing 32 dingers en route to his first of two consecutive Home Run Derby wins, per Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. "This is not the type of competition he would be able to excel at. He's not really a home run hitter."

Reed Saxon/Associated Press

Indeed, despite his considerable pop, Puig is most effective when he's slicing line drives and using his speed to test the defense. He can go deep when he needs to, but he isn't a prototypical masher. 

Of course, Puig's most famous trait is his outsized personality. His antics, which border on arrogance, have drawn the attention—and ire—of fans and opposing players alike.

Yet while Puig didn't showcase his enviable skill set in his first All-Star Game, he did reveal something else: humility.

Asked whether he might become the new face of baseball with the impending retirement of New York Yankees captain Derek Jeter, Puig demurred.

"I don't see myself that way," he told Ringolsby. "The face of baseball, that is Miguel Cabrera or Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw. They are the ones who have established themselves, not me." 

Modesty aside, Puig remains one of the truly exciting, irrepressible young talents in the game. He'll have plenty of opportunities to establish himself and redeem his 2014 All-Star flop.

Puig doesn't do anything halfway—including, here's betting, bouncing back.