Puig deserves a spot on the NL All-Star team

ASSOCIATED PRESS Dodgers' Yasiel Puig might be short on experience, but his numbers are All-Star-caliber.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Dodgers' Yasiel Puig might be short on experience, but his numbers are All-Star-caliber.
Posted: July 08, 2013

I UNDERSTAND where Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon is coming from.

Earlier this week, Papelbon told MLB Network Radio that "it's an absolute joke" that there is a serious push to get Los Angeles Dodgers rookie outfielder Yasiel Puig a spot on the National League All-Star roster.

Entering the weekend, Puig has played in only 29 games since being called up by the Dodgers on June 3, a number that makes him far less deserving than someone who had played 80, 70 or even 60 games.

Puig hasn't even played enough games to have any of his batting statistics qualify to be counted among the major league leaders.

"[Puig has] got a month, I don't think he's even got a month in the big leagues," Papelbon said. "Just comparing him to this and that, and saying he's going to make the All-Star team, that's a joke to me . . .

"To me it really does an injustice to the veteran players that have been in the game for 8, 9, 10-plus years. It kind of does them an injustice, because they've worked so hard to stay."

As I said, I understand Papelbon's viewpoint, but in reality, rewarding guys for past deeds or popularity can no longer be the primary basis for determining All-Stars.

Ever since 2003, when Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players' Association decided homefield advantage in the World Series would be granted to the league that won the All-Star Game, the stakes were raised too high to stick to the "rewards for the past" logic.

If I'm on a team that has any aspirations of advancing to the 2013 World Series, my primary concern for the roster of the All-Star team is whether it gives my league the best chance to win.

A team from the league that won the All-Star Game has gone on to win seven of the 10 World Series since 2003.

Only the Florida Marlins (2003), St. Louis Cardinals (2006) and the Phillies (2008) won World Series without homefield advantage.

The National League has won the last three All-Star Games and the last three World Series.

With those numbers in mind, you want to do everything you can to maximize your league's chances of winning the All-Star Game.

This season, that means not just looking at how many games Puig has played, but what he has done in those games.

In 114 at-bats heading into the weekend, Puig has 49 hits for a .430 average. He has eight home runs, 16 extra-base hits, 19 RBI and 23 runs scored. His on-base percentage is .455.

Since Puig's arrival, the Dodgers have climbed back into the race in the NL West by going 17-12. Los Angeles was 23-32 before Puig began playing.

If the homefield advantage is at stake in the All-Star Game, then I want the hottest player in the league on my roster - one who is showing he is a difference-maker.

The starting roster for the All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York will be announced today.

In the last announced count before fan balloting closed at Thursday night, Atlanta Braves outfielder Justin Upton had about a 15,000-vote lead over Washington Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper for the third and final starting spot.

If you look at the fact that Upton has played 80 games and had 294 at-bats when voting closed, you probably say that his .245 average, 15 home runs and 38 RBI are more deserving than Puig.

But if you break down Upton's numbers into monthly segments, you would see that most of his numbers were put up during a white-hot April, when he had 28 hits, 12 home runs and 19 RBI in his first 94 at-bats of the season.

In his last 200 at-bats, Upton has 44 hits, three home runs and 19 RBI. If Upton isn't voted in as a starter, he likely won't be playing in New York on July 16.

Harper (13 home runs, 24 RBI) missed all of June with an injury and has only one hit in 15 at-bats since May 26.

I understand that both of those guys have played more games than Puig, but can you honestly say that right now either gives the National League a better chance to win the All-Star Game?

I can't argue with the fans' selections of Carlos Beltran (.305, 19 homers, 50 RBI), of St. Louis, and Carlos Gonzalez (.295, 23 homers, 62 RBI), of Colorado, as two of the NL's starting outfielders.

But I'm filling out my outfield with Domonic Brown (22 homers, 60 RBI), of the Phillies; Michael Cuddyer (.343, 15 homers, 52 RBI) of Colorado; Jay Bruce (18 homers, 56 RBI) of Cincinnati; Andrew McCutchen (.299, nine homers, 44 RBI) of Pittsburgh; and, yes, Yasiel Puig.

With homefield advantage in the World Series at stake, I wouldn't care about bruised egos and respect for veterans. I'd put the best players I have out there and play to win.


Email: smallwj@phillynews.com

Columns: ph.ly/Smallwood

Blog: ph.ly/DNL

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