July 2, 2013
Yasiel Puig: .430, 8 HR, 19 RBI, 1.174 OPS in 29 games
So often young players are supposed to make history and they only reinforce it. Jason Heyward was considered a blend of Chipper Jones and Hank Aaron after smashing a home run in his debut. Jeff Francoeur was labeled the next Roy Hobbs after two weeks with the Braves. Now his career is on a ventilator.
The sport is littered with cautionary tales, from Super Joe Charboneau to Shane Spencer.
Baseball is hard. Then along comes Yasiel Puig, a Cuban sensation, and the mind wanders. He might be just hot, just good, but everything about his cameo has been great. He didn't start his career with a cup of a coffee. More like two gallons of Red Bull.
Puig makes his first appearance at Coors Field on Tuesday, and there's no denying he's doing things that are very rare.
The Dodgers right fielder had 44 hits in his first month. Only the Yankees' Joe DiMaggio had more, totalling 48 in 1936. Ichiro, by comparison, had 39, in April 2001 for the Mariners.
Puig is playing, if not tangling emotions, stirring the debate about the Dodgers' ability to contend and the mechanics of the All-Star Game.
The Dodgers spent the first two months with shovel in hands, burying themselves. Then Puig was called up — he wasn't Sidd Finch because his teammates were familiar with his talent after his explosive spring. The Dodgers, inspired, sprinted back into the race. They are actively seeking pitching, are close to adding reliever Carlos Marmol — it's debateable that he helps — and are a threat again. Full transparency: I didn't pick the Dodgers to make the playoffs in spring training. I saw them as an 86-win team.
They still could be, and that might be enough to win a division where the combatants currently aspire to mediocrity. The Rockies, of course, are in the hunt. If the price is reasonable, they would be better served to add a reliever (Jesse Crain, Kevin Gregg) or starter (Scott Feldman) now to get an extra month of contribution.
The Rockies are searching for reliability. The Dodgers bring celebrity. Puig (pronounced Pweeg) is a blend of Bryce Harper (high energy, power) and Mike Trout (speed and defense).
Two scouts over the last two weeks have told me the same thing, unsolicited. Puig is the closest thing they have seen to Bo Jackson.
Jackson was a great athlete playing baseball, raw and unpolished, who continued to show improvement. Puig is a great athlete and a good baseball player who is only getting better.
He is 6-foot-3, 245 pounds, and wonderfully unpredictable. You have no idea what Puig will do, but there's a good chance it will be something you have never seen before. He's been thrown out at second base on routine line drives to left field. He's also turned singles into doubles with hustle that would make Michael Cuddyer proud. The other night he mangled a play in the outfield then made a breathtaking throw moments later.
Puig has a missile arm, silly power (he has seven home runs, a .713 slugging percentage and 72 total bases in 26 games) and plus personality that translates in any language.
He has the Dodgers thinking big again, while putting baseball on the spot. Let's not even debate if Cuddyer deserves to be an all-star. He's been one of the NL's three top outfielders. Puig should join him. I am not crazy about the idea, but the All-Star Game is an exhibition already flawed by ballot stuffing encouraged by MLB suits.
There are players who will make it who don't deserve the honor (and don't get me started on why having a representative from every team is hollow, misguided and outdated). Puig is electric. He might be the Dodgers' first write-in candidate to make it since Steve Garvey in 1974. My guess is he is elected as part of the last-man ballot. Or as a convenient injury replacement.
The All-Star Game will be better with Puig. The sport is better with Puig.
Perhaps he will fall short of expectations, but he has captured the imagination. Whether he's good or great, we can't stop watching.
Read more:Renck: Dodgers' Yasiel Puig looks to be Bo Jackson, version 2.0 - The Denver Posthttp://www.denverpost.com/renck/ci_23580610/dodgers-yasiel-puig-looks-be-bo-jackson-version#ixzz2YAW0pAsv
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