Puig intrigue: Should he be an All-Star so soon?
Dodgers rookie dynamo can do it all, but he's only been in bigs for three weeks
It was an observation by Vin Scully -- on Twitter, no less -- that probably best summarized the early read on Yasiel Puig.
The question was asked of Scully during his "Tweetcast" of a Dodgers-Yankees game last week: Is there anything this Puig guy can't do?
"Haven't seen it yet," replied the legendary broadcaster.
Puig has only played 19 Major League games. But good Lord, what's he's done in those 19 games.
He's hit .425/.462/.712. He's effortlessly glided around the bases, belted titanic home runs, run down deep fly balls and unleashed cannon-blast throws from the outfield. He's done crazy dugout dances and sparked frantic merchandise sales and even inspired the name of a heavy-metal band (you can now bang your head to "Puig Destroyer"). For crying out loud, he took a fastball to the face and didn't even leave the game.
"I've never seen anybody do what he has done in such a short period," tweeted Scully, who has only been doing calling baseball games for 64 seasons. "He's been remarkable, a five-tool player who constantly shows the tools."
Puig, it seems, can do it all. He even drew his first two unintentional walks over the weekend.
But can he crack the National League All-Star roster with only about a month of Major League service time under his belt?
That might be the most intriguing question leading up to the All-Star Selection Show on Saturday, July 6, and the Midsummer Classic itself on July 16 at Citi Field in New York. Because, let's face it, with the All-Star roster rules in place these days -- the automatic substitutions for guys who pitch the previous Sunday, the Final Vote balloting, the sheer number of reserves in case the games goes into extra innings, etc. -- there are very few, if any, bona fide "snubs" by the time the first pitch of the game is thrown.
Puig, though, presents a special challenge, a philosophical dilemma for the discerning All-Star enthusiast. How short does a sample size have to be to be considered too short for an All-Star selection? How should the sheer entertainment value of a kid who has surged onto the scene in a short time be weighed against the desire for the All-Star Game to celebrate the absolute best the full first half of the season had to offer?
Because Puig wasn't in the Opening Day picture and, ergo, is not on the ballot, these questions will fall at the feet -- at least initially -- of NL manager Bruce Bochy. That doesn't bode well for Puig, if Bochy's comments last week on SiriusXM's MLB Network Radio are any indication.
"I would have a hard time picking somebody who has been here three weeks, to be honest," Bochy said. "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. I couldn't look at that player. I couldn't look at myself, to be honest. So that's why I'm saying, that's a really long shot."
A fair enough assertion, except, you know, the numbers are pretty stupid. Puig arrived on June 3, and his OPS is the best in baseball in the time since. He already has 11 multi-hit games and four three-hit games.
Now, granted, the numbers could fall off quickly and considerably in the next two weeks. Puig's .500 batting average on balls in play is probably an indicator that they will.
But if Puig even remotely keeps up his current pace over the next two weeks, Bochy and MLB need to make Puig one of the five NL Final Vote candidates and let the fans decide if he should make it to the All-Star Game. All World Series home-field advantage consideration aside, this is still, at heart, a game for the fans, and they deserve a voice on whether the Puig intrigue is enough to make the idea an unprecedented reality.
None of the previous 59 rookie position players to reach an All-Star Game have done so with as little service time as Puig will have accrued by July 16. Bryce Harper was a 19-year-old injury replacement on last year's NL roster, but he had already played 63 games by that point.
So, yes, from a historical standpoint, it's a tough sell. And if we're looking at this with a level head, the "put Puig in the All-Star Game" argument is pretty difficult to defend. Puig doesn't even have the support of his own manager.
"Right now, no," Mattingly said when asked last week. "Are his numbers better than anybody else's? If he gets to the point where he's putting up huge numbers, he should be considered. Right now, you're asking if he should be above guys with 40 RBIs."
That's level-headed, all right, but it ignores Puig's preposterous production pace and the inherent incalculables at play here. Who needs a level head when you're talking about an exhibition and a 22-year-old takes the Majors by storm and leaves even Vin Scully gasping in amazement? Sometimes one and one makes three, and that's how it's been with Puig.
Just put him on the Final Vote ballot and let the fans decide.