LOS ANGELES, July 5, 2013 — Does Yasiel Puig deserve to play in the MLB All-Star game in New York this year? That is the question that is being discussed and argued about in baseball circles across the country. That question, however, is not the one that needs answering.
The question should be, “Do the fans want to see this kid at the All-Star game?” Major League Baseball likes to say that the All-Star game is for the fans. However, the game, which used to mean absolutely nothing, recently started counting only in retrospect.
The winning league gets the benefit of home field advantage come October. If your team ends up going to the World Series, you will look back at the All-Star game and curse or praise your team’s respective league for its performance.
The game is still being touted as being for the fans. Therefore, there should be no debate or comments from players on this issue.
Unfortunately, on the MLB Network Radio Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon gave his thoughts about the idea of the Los Angeles Dodgers’ star rookie, Yasiel Puig, being named to the National League All-Star team. “To me, it’s an absolute joke,” Papelbon said. “To me it really does an injustice to the veteran players that have been in the game for eight-, nine-, 10-plus years. It kind of does them an injustice because they’ve worked so hard to stay there.”
There are a couple of things to look at from Papelbon’s statement. First, it should be noted that Papelbon might pitch one inning in a game and never more than three games in a row. In 2012 when he was selected as an All-Star, Papelbon threw 22 1/3 innings in 33 appearances by the All-Star break. It seems strange for a player that plays so little to comment on an everyday player’s time spent in the big leagues.
The other part of Papelbon’s statement that needs closer evaluation is the part about the veterans. How does he figure that a veteran should be selected to the All-Star game based on years of service? The All-Star game is something that should be a reward for having a good first half of the season.
Regardless of time spent in the majors, All-Star roster spots should be awarded to players that are playing well. That is it. That is the only thing factored in. Veterans get plenty in the form of very large, inflated paychecks that reflect more their past performance than the numbers they will put up during the life of the contract.
That being said, Yasiel Puig has had the best start of a career in the history of modern baseball. There has never been a player to do what Puig has done in his first month in MLB. Joe DiMaggio was the closest in 1936, but Puig’s first month is still better.
Yes, 29 games is indeed a small sample size. If you really look at it though, 80 games is a small sample size when judging a player’s real talent. Mediocre players often have a good first half and get selected to the All-Star team, only to hit a slump or two or three during the summer and end the year with less than average numbers.
If you really, really look at it though, in a full 162-game season, which is a good sample size, even mediocre players have great rookie seasons for one reason or another and then fade into the annals of the thousands of mediocre players from MLB’s history.
Other mediocre players will rise out of a career of mediocre performance to have a great season, often you will see this in a contract year. Then the following year the player returns to being just another Joe trying to stay above the Mendoza line.
The fact is, the line that defines a small sample size is somewhat of a moving line. You really can’t know for certain of a player’s abilities until you have the benefit of hindsight.
Any way you slice it, Puig has been great and should be rewarded as such with an All-Star game selection. If National League manager Bruce Bochy chooses to not add Puig as a reserve, he should at least be on the final player vote that is left up to the fans on the internet.
If the fans want to see him, then give the fans what they want. No need to banter about veterans or earning your stripes or paying your dues or playing enough games. After all, it is a game that is for the fans, right?
Jonathan Papelbon is sure to make the National League All-Star team, which should make for some awkward interactions if Puig is selected to play as well.
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