Puig didn't deserve All-Star spot
Yasiel Puig is a heck of a ballplayer, the leading candidate for National League rookie of the year and, at 22, a budding star for years to come.
The Los Angeles Dodgers' phenom is not a deserving All-Star this season, however.
Justice was served when Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman won a fan vote to pick one of five players for the final spot on the National League team in Tuesday's midsummer classic at New York's Citi Field.
I'd have been OK had any one of the three other candidates -- San Francisco's Hunter Pence, Washington's Ian Desmond or the Los Angeles Dodgers' Adrian Gonzalez -- earned nomination through the online vote. But not Puig.
In his 36 games to date, the 6-3, 245-pound outfielder from Cuba has taken the major leagues by storm, batting .397 with eight home runs and 19 RBIs in 36 games. Extrapolate that over a season and he is in the 35-homer, 85-RBI range -- remarkable for a rookie and outstanding for any player.
Puig also is a solid if not outstanding defender with a gun for an arm.
But the Dodgers have played 91 games, meaning Puig -- who made his major-league debut on June 2 -- has participated in fewer than 40 percent of his team's games. It's simply not a large enough sample size for a player to qualify for All-Star status, no matter how spectacular he has been.
In his 79 games, Freeman is hitting .313 with nine homers and 60 RBIs on an Atlanta team that is 53-39 and leads the NL West by six games. But I'd have taken Pence, Desmond or Gonzalez over Puig, simply because they have been there for their respective clubs for the majority of the first half of the season.
The biggest argument I've heard in Puig's favor is that the All-Star game is for the fans, and the fans want to see him play. Balderdash. The players who have made the biggest impact on the game through the All-Star break deserve to participate in the game. Five weeks of sensational play doesn't cut it.
I've long railed against the fan vote for All-Star games, including the NBA. In both sports, the fans vote for the starters (in baseball, minus the pitchers), with the managers/coaches filling out the rosters. The managers/coaches and/or players should be the ones determining the rosters. With the fans, too often it is a popularity contest and the result of ballot-stuffing. If each fan had one vote, that would be bad enough. But they can vote ad nauseum. What's fair about that? Teams with contending players orchestrate voting campaigns, imploring their fans to vote -- over and over and over again. That's the true spirit of the honor, don't you think?
There have been unseemly results in the past, with a team getting far too many players named as starters simply because its fans have gone to the voting "booth" more often than those of other teams. I recall the Lakers' A.C. Green beating out Utah's Karl Malone for the starting Western Conference nod one year. It was ludicrous. The whole thing is a charade that should have been stopped years ago.
A player's Hall of Fame credentials are often tied to number of All-Star appearances through a career. If a player is denied an all-star game or two because fans have undeservingly voted for another player, it can affect his chances to make the Hall. That's simply not right.
You can argue that with home-field advantage in the World Series on the line for the winner of the All-Star game, each league wants to put players who give it the best chance to win on the field. The way he has performed in the first five weeks of his career, Puig would be one of those players. Just another argument, I contend, against Bud Selig's ploy to place more emphasis on the game and make sure everyone plays hard.
The baseball All-Star game is unique, though. There's no reason to hold back as there is in basketball, football or hockey. More than any of the other All-Star contests, baseball All-Stars play hard and with pride.
I could see a fan vote for the final spot if the managers and/or players were the ones picking all the others. Otherwise, it's just an extension of a problem that was magnified this year by the sordid spectacle Puig-mania.