Yasiel Puig finishes All-Star month
Rookie has four more hits to lead Dodgers as momentum builds for inclusion
LOS ANGELES -- Don Mattingly knew he had to be politically correct as he answered the question.
As much as he wanted to bang the All-Star drum for his rookie phenom, Yasiel Puig, the baseball purist in the Los Angeles Dodgers manager simply couldn't do it knowing Puig hasn't even been in the majors for a full month.
So instead of banging the drum or rejecting it altogether, he simply danced around it as best as he could.
"It's a discussion to have," Mattingly said after Puig had a career-high four hits and came within a home run of the cycle in leading the Dodgers to a 6-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies on Sunday at Dodger Stadium. "We'll see. He's putting up astronomical numbers and been a great player for us so far. I think you just look at the guys who are in the league. Does a Domonic Brown deserve to go? He's got 21 bombs. There are other guys and I don't even know all the numbers of the guys playing around the league, but I know there are other guys playing well. It's one of those discussions that are tough."
Puig hasn't just put up astronomical numbers since making his major league debut on June 3, he has put up historically great numbers. In fact, since being called up, Puig leads the majors with 44 hits in that span, while leading the National League with a .436 batting average and a .467 on-base percentage. Puig is also ranked in the top three in home runs (seven), runs (19), slugging percentage (.713) and total bases (72).
It's a staggering debut that has been rivaled in the history of baseball by only one man -- Joe DiMaggio.
Puig and DiMaggio are the only players in major league history with at least 40 hits and four home runs in their first calendar month in the majors. Puig's 44 hits in June are second only to DiMaggio's 48 in 1936, and are the most hits ever in one month by a Dodgers rookie.
He capped off his magical first month his big day Sunday that propelled the Dodgers to within four games of first place in the NL West. These are the same Dodgers who were 9½ games out of first place just eight days ago. Puig also recorded two steals and scored two runs.
Puig, the 22-year-old Cuban defector, admitted after the game through an interpreter that he wasn't familiar with DiMaggio but was honored to be on the same list as the Yankees legend. He said his first month in the majors has been a whirlwind and if it takes him to New York next month for the All-Star Game it would be another honor he never expected would come his way this early in his career.
"I'd feel very happy and excited and honored to be in the All-Star Game," Puig said. "If I am the only one that represents the Dodgers at the All-Star Game, I would be very excited just for the City of Los Angeles and its fans, but if I don't make it, I'll still be happy as long as we keep on winning."
Of course, Puig was not included on the initial All-Star ballot, but the Dodgers started a campaign this weekend to get Puig into the game as a write-in candidate, something that hasn't happened since former Dodgers first baseman Steve Garvey achieved in 1974, becoming only the second player to have started an All-Star game through write-in voting. The Dodgers actually enlisted the help of Garvey for a commercial that played throughout Dodger Stadium this weekend that showed Garvey drinking champagne every year the All-Star roster was announced and a write-in candidate didn't make it, much like players from the undefeated 1972 Miami Dolphins do after the last undefeated team in the NFL loses in a given season. Only this time, Garvey smashes the champagne glass and picks up a ballot at the end of the commercial and urges fans to #VotePuig as he becomes Puig's campaign manager.
Although Puig hasn't been in the majors for even a full month, most of his teammates were getting behind the cause Sunday, wearing Puig shirts and filling out their All-Star ballots with Puig's name written in.
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"The way he's playing, I think he'd bring a lot of excitement to the All-Star Game," said Matt Kemp, who has played in the last two All-Star games. "That's what the All-Star Game is all about, exciting fans. I think everybody needs to see what this kid is doing because it's pretty amazing at the moment. I'm enjoying it and I think everybody else in this locker room is enjoying, and I'm sure you guys are enjoying writing about it, so 'vote Puig.'"
The chances of Puig making it as a write-in candidate are slim, but he could still find his way onto the team through the All-Star final vote when each league presents a five-player ballot and gives the fans a few days to choose one final All-Star. It's believed Puig would find his way onto that ballot, and if he does, he'll probably be the odds-on favorite to win the spot given his popularity on social media. Since Puig made his debut, he has been on MLB's top 10 trending topics every day and is usually first or second.
"If it's a game the fans want to see him in, and it's an exhibition game, then it doesn't matter," Mattingly said. "But they're telling us whoever wins this game gets home-field advantage in the World Series, so you're trying to put the absolute best club out there so [San Francisco Giants manager Bruce Bochy, who is managing the National League All-Stars] has got to try to pick the best team he possibly can outside the vote."
It would be hard to argue that if you were trying to win one game with one player at the plate or in the outfield that Puig wouldn't be in the thick of that conversation.
As Mattingly sat in the Dodgers' dugout Sunday, he was still confused by all the different ways Puig could make the All-Star Game. While he was briefed on a variety of options with many connected to the opinion of Bochy, Mattingly had a simple solution for how Puig could make the All-Star Game next season.
"I say we win the World Series," Mattingly said. "And I'll get to experience all this."
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