By DYLAN MALONE
We're nearing the Major League Baseball All-star game and while I don't usually talk too much about the regular season because I think it's entirely too long and drawn out, I am making the exception this week because I've had too many fantastic discussions about the Dodgers' phenomenal rookie, Yasiel Puig.
There have been plenty of rookies to be named to the All-star rosters in MLB history; 42 from the National League, 58 from the American League. Out of the 100 total rookies to make the squad, 41 were pitchers, while the rest were position players. Non-pitching rooks of note include Johnny Bench, Mike Piazza, Albert Pujols, Frank Robinson, Jimmy Rollins, and Dan Uggla from the NL, then Sandy Alomar, Jr., Jose Canseco, Joe DiMaggio, Nomar Garciaparra, Evan Longoria, Hideki Matsui, Mark McGwire, Ichiro Suzuki, and Mike Trout from the AL.
For all those pitching fans, here's a list of hurlers who made an All-star team as a rookie: Hideo Nomo, Tom Seaver, Ben Sheets, Dontrelle Willis, Yu Darvish, and Jonathon Papelbon to name a few.
That list of rooks shrinks to just 22 who actually earned a starting job amongst All-stars. The last time it happened was the Cubs duo of Kosuke Fukudome and Geovany Soto in 2008. Before that was three Asian players including Matsui (2003), Ichiro (2001), and Nomo (1995).
Enter Puig of the Dodgers.
What's the big deal about him and why am I writing about him? He's only played 35 games as a professional. My immediate gut reaction was to dismiss his talk as an All-star. You can't put a rookie on the all-star team who has only played a handful of games no matter how well he starts out.
That was when he'd only played 20. It was a good run and he had caught the MLB by surprise as some rookies do when they enter the league. The fact is that at the professional level, pitchers and coaches have an extensive scouting report on just about everyone...except the rookies. They may have some triple A report at first but the level of play is just so different that it rarely spells out what to expect from a new hitter.
Puig is absolutely the real deal. No doubt in my mind. He, like so many others before him, just has a great understanding of the game and has adapted faster than most. He'll likely be in a slew of all-star games before it's all said and done. But should he be there right now?
That is the million dollar question. He's certainly playing at an all-star level right now but with such a small sample size is it just a hot streak? At some point the pitchers will start to get a better grasp on how to pitch to him and when that happens will he slow down? It's just a matter of statistics that he will come back down to earth after batting .407 in his first 35 games as a pro.
The other side of that coin is that because he is hitting so well he should get consideration for the all-stars. At the moment he has more hits in his 35 games than 11 of the 15 players who have twice as many games for the Dodgers this season. Only Adrien Gonzalez, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford have more ribbies this year than the rookie sensation.
That's the hype behind Puig. In today's baseball game, the fans are starting to shy away. You can thank steroids, commissioners, and/or too many commercials. Whatever the reason, people want something (or someone) to cheer for. For Los Angeles, it's been a great escape from their last few fiasco seasons including the demise of Manny Ramirez's career.
Where do you draw the line as a baseball fan? The coaches around the league will not add Puig as a reserve because he hasn't enough games to justify the vote. The problem, or good thing depending on your perspective, is that the rookie Dodger will likely get the most votes out of anyone simply because of the hype he has drawn in his time in the MLB.
That's where I changed my mind completely about the kid. He should be in the All-star game. The idea behind the game is to give the fans at the game as well as those watching on television a good show. The best show. I have no issue with Puig headlining now because he's just what the league needs to spark interest this season. It's been marred by the big name players like A-Rod and Ryan Braun who have tainted the game forever with the scandalous use of steroids. It's time for the new faces to save the game.
There will be thousands more fans watching the game coming up simply because Puig will be there. Yes he may have taken a veteran's starting spot but the game itself will be so much more successful from a fan's point of view with him in the game.