Yasiel Puig Deserves This All-Star Nod

DETROIT – A year ago, many were forcing the issue.

They almost wanted to bypass his career and rush Yasiel Puig to the Baseball Hall of Fame months into his fledgling career.

For sure, he took MLB by storm.

No doubt, Puig is a must-see in Baseball America. He's one you want to see, er, have to see, in person.

This dude sells tickets.

It was no accident that fans packed into Comerica Park on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Dodgers came to Motown.

Many fans wanted to see Puig – live and in person.

Detroiters aren't along. That's why Puig will be in the National League starting lineup in Minnesota next Tuesday night for the annual All-Star Game.

Despite eye-popping statistics in 2013, Puig watched the game from home. He didn't deserve a spot that fast. On a humble, fans had a chance to vote him on the team as a reserve and didn't.

That was a good thing. There should be no flash-in-the-pan making it to the Mid-Summer Classic.

This year, Puig earned it.

That's why the fans voted him a starter in his first full season in the majors. It's an honor, a recognition that fans have seen you do your thing and approve.

"He plays hard, goes all out," said teammate Matt Kemp, an NL All-Star starter in 2011 and 2012. "Fans enjoy excitement. That's what they want to see in an All-Star Game and that's what they are going to get."

Entering Wednesday's game against the Tigers, Puig is hitting .305 with 12 homers, 50 RBI and 51 runs scored.

Puig tallied more than four million votes to grab the third starting outfield spot on the squad.

"I was really happy," Puig said about his selection. "I want to thank everyone who voted for me."

Fans will get an extra helping of Puig, too. He will also take part in the Home Run Derby.

Puig might only have 12 homers, but when he hits them, he hits them. According to HR Tracker, Puig's longest this season was 452 feet. He's averaging 417.3, only two others average more distance on the big fly.

"He's a fun guy to watch and that's what people love," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "When you see him get going, it's like he playing like a Little League kid.

"He loves playing and he plays at a level, at a speed most don't. Fans love seeing that."

A year ago, there just wasn't enough playing time to fully embrace Puig.

That's why Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon ripped on Puig in a radio interview, basically saying that putting Puig – who at that time was batting .443 with eight homers and 17 RBI – on the team would be a "joke" and an "injustice" to veteran players.

This season, Puig proved he wasn't a fad, an add-water-and-stir star created by sports-talk chatter.

We saw fans quick to want to send players to the Hall of Fame in the NBA and in the NFL the past year or so.

Remember Linsanity in NYC? Even hardened and cynical New York Knicks fans went crazy over Jeremy Lin's 25 games started to fuel his career. He's now cooped up in Houston’s witness protection program awaiting relocation to another franchise’s bench.

The same goes for Tim Tebow fans. The miracle run in Denver was a mirage, a fluke. He's out of the NFL.

Honestly, no one thought Puig was going to be a one-month wonder or a flash in the pain. It was just that you can't jump so quickly to anoint a player to superstardom after a great start.

Go back to Chris Shelton, the former Tigers' first baseman. In 2006, he had a first month of a season that was better than Babe Ruth ever had, crushing nine homers in the first 13 games.

Not only did Shelton miss out on the All-Star team despite his hot start, but he was sent back to the minors by July 31.

We’ve got to be vigilant in this contemporary world of meteoric rising stars against voting unknown commodities off to blistering starts aided by social media. Gimmicks have infiltrated the elite class temporarily before and adding Puig to the All-Star Game simply to boost ratings would have opened Pandora’s Box.

Baseball kept true, and held onto the tradition that makes fans hold it to a higher standard than the other sports.

This All-Star Game still matters and it's something earned. That's why Puig's selection this time around is sweet.

"He's done a great job in the first half," Kemp said. "He's shown he's one of the best players in the league.

"He deserves to be an All-Star."

No doubt this time. 

Back to top