The fans have had their say, and that means Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig, who has electrified the club since his arrival on June 3, won’t be a National League All-Star this year.
With players and fans clamoring about Puig’s small sample size and teams devising massive social media campaigns to get their guys selected, Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman received a record 19.7 million votes and was selected to his first All-Star appearance on Thursday. Puig can now only make the National League team if he is named as an injury replacement, and even that is uncertain after exiting Thursday's game against the Colorado Rockies with a sore hip.
MLB didn’t release Puig’s official tally but did say that he came in second. Toronto reliever Steve Delabar was the last American Leaguer voted in for Tuesday’s All-Star Game at Citi Field in New York.
Now the debate can begin on whether fans made the right call.
Other than Puig and Freeman, San Francisco’s Hunter Pence, Nationals' shortstop Ian Desmond and Dodgers' first baseman Adrian Gonzalez were up for the final spot in the NL. Taking a look at each player's numbers, including last night's games, the fans faced a very difficult decision.
The 22-year-old Puig set the major leagues ablaze after he was called up last month, and in 36 games has hit .397 for eight home runs and 19 RBIs. Puig has taken some heat for his attitude towards opposing teams and from players who say it’s ridiculous he’s even in contention for an All-Star nod after 36 career games.
But Puig did pull the Dodgers offense up by the shoestrings, and has rejuvenated a club that was a hair’s breadth away from slipping to the bottom of the NL and being called a $216 million failure. He has also generated excitement to Dodger Stadium, as the club has failed to generate much offense with the struggles of former MVP candidate Matt Kemp, and injuries to key players.
On the other side was Freeman, who has not made headlines for anything other than consistent power numbers in two full seasons. He’s currently 10th in NL with a .313 average, hit nine home runs and is tied for seventh with 60 RBI. The Braves are also first in the NL East, with Freeman picking up much of the slack left by the Upton Brothers and Jason Heyward. Freeman has also had more room for error with 304 at-bats, compared to Puig’s 154.
Freeman celebrated the good news with three hits and four RBI in a 6-5 victory over Cincinnati
Washington’s Desmond might have one of the best cases for a snub. His .280 average notwithstanding, Desmond has 15 home runs, 49 RBI, 10 stolen bases and is eighth in the NL with 24 doubles.
Pence does have 13 home runs, but his poor .264 average probably took him out of the running.
All the hype surrounding Puig may have allowed voters to overlook a strong year from teammate Gonzalez. The 31-year-old carried L.A.’s offense before the club even considered bringing Puig up, and leads the team with 14 home runs, 58 RBI, and a .302 average.
Puig is certainly one of the hottest hitters in baseball, and MLB would certainly want him in the home run contest and the game from a television ratings perspective. It might also be fair to say that despite his numbers, Puig would be a non-story if he played anywhere other than Los Angeles or New York.
Based off their numbers, the fans could make a strong case for either Freeman or Puig. However, the All-Star game may have lost some extra buzz with the absence of the hot-hitting rookie.