www.redeyechicago.com/sports/ct-spt-0706-rogers-yasiel-puig-20130706,0,3605596.column

redeyechicago.com

Dodgers phenom Puig deserves to be All-Star

Cuban rookie has put up numbers to start his career like no hitter in history

Phil Rogers

On Baseball

9:20 PM CDT, July 5, 2013

Advertisement

Major League Baseball makes its call on Yasiel Puig on Saturday, and it should be an easy one.

The Dodgers' Cuban sensation deserves to be a National League All-Star, even if he has played only 30 games in the big leagues.

It's no surprise that some in baseball, including Mike Scioscia and Jonathan Papelbon, believe a player called up June 3 shouldn't be allowed to take the express lane to Citi Field for the All-Star Game on July 16. The establishment always has demanded newcomers pay their dues. But there's never been a guy flash onto the baseball radar like Puig.

Signed to a $42 million contract last summer based almost entirely on the tools he showed in a handful of workouts, Puig could turn into an Albert Pujols-sized bargain — the Cardinals' Pujols, that is, not the Angels' version.

All he's done since being signed is hit. Puig has put up numbers to start his career better than any hitter in history.

Through 29 games he batted .430 with a 1.174 OPS, four stolen bases, 23 runs scored and three outfield assists. If that doesn't show he's one of the best players in the NL — more deserving of a spot in the NL outfield than one of the borderline candidates like the Pirates' Starling Marte, the Rockies' Dexter Fowler or the Cubs' Nate Schierholtz — then someone should write a rule that spells out All-Stars need a minimum of 60 games or 200 plate appearances to qualify.

Scioscia has been impressed but says Puig "needs to go a little farther to earn it.'' Papelbon, never one to mince words, said it would be "a joke'' to put Puig on the NL team ahead of a veteran player.

Never mind that Papelbon never has been on the same field as Puig and can't pronounce his name. He's just offended by the idea.

Scioscia admires Puig's talent. He watched him in Arizona and then in the Freeway Series before opening day and says he's "as dynamic a player as you're going to see in the major leagues.'' He said he believes Puig will be "an All-Star for years to come'' but doesn't think he has played enough to be in the game as a rookie.

Yet Scioscia believes MLB is having a vigorous debate about Puig in large part because the league winning the All-Star Game gains home-field advantage in the World Series.

"There's a pull to bring the best players to the game because of the bearing it has on home-field advantage in the World Series,'' Scioscia said."That's going to give him a deeper look than maybe it would have in any other situation."

If not for the Dodgers, Puig might be spending this summer in Chicago. The White Sox and Cubs pursued him strongly last summer, with the Sox seemingly having an inside track.

Agent Jaime Torres, who represented Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo when the Sox signed them, represented Puig. The Sox had Viciedo make recruiting calls to Puig, but the White Sox couldn't compete with what the Dodgers offered.

The Cubs likewise were blown away, as were all other teams. No team is known to have bid even $10 million before the Dodgers signed him for more than four times that, with other teams questioning his conditioning, character and commitment.

The Dodgers are reaping the benefits of their boldness. Their National League brethren should insist on having Puig in their lineup for one night.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter @ChiTribRogers