Let me just state my opinion right up front: I don’t like All-Star Games. I don’t find them very compelling or interesting. It feels like a fake game and the players don’t try very hard – and why would they? Who wants to get hurt in an All-Star Game? The game usually fails to hold my interest beyond the first few innings even with the advent of the home field advantage in the World Series, which always seems too distant to be relevant.
Enter Puig. I love irony and being the proverbial “fly in the punch bowl” – especially when it comes to the Giants. That is why I love what Puig did in the first and third games of the just concluded three-game series against the hated ones, which the Dodger swept. His 2 for 4 night on Monday (including an impossible opposite field home run and a game-winning RBI single) followed by his 3 for 4 night on Wednesday has put Mr. Bochy in a difficult position.
It is one thing to read the hype and see a few clips. It is another thing to experience the excitement of Yasiel Puig up close and personal. It is a fabulous roller-coaster ride of squeals, oohs and ahhs as well as sometimes covering your eyes. With his unbridled style of play and great physical talent, you know something compelling will occur but you don’t know where or when. I have to admit; I enjoy Puig rounding first on a routine single going just a little too far as if on every single he could stretch it into a double. I shouldn’t enjoy this from a baseball standpoint but I do. It is the baseball equivalent of running at full speed to the edge of the cliff and peering over the edge. He compels you to watch. This three-game sweep of the Giants was fabulous not only because, well… it was a sweep of the Giants, but because Puig’s performance places Bruce Bochy in a bit of a pickle.
The All-Star selection process is pretty clear with the starters being determined by fan vote and one last minute reserve being voted on by the fans for each team (this may be how Puig actually gets in). The selection of the rest of bench has always been a little controversial, somewhat political, and less than scientific with a mixture of player’s association input and manager selection. It is not a simple gander at who has the best stats. The manager picks the people he thinks will fit into his strategy and those who are “worthy.” Many times a manager has a skewed perspective on this as he sees opposing players who do well specifically against his own team.
This is where the fun comes in as it relates to this series. We all know Bochy is the manager of the NL. Puig has single-handedly given him one loss and had a hand in two others. As a result Bochy will have to make a tough decision before July 9th. He has publicly stated over the past few days that he is not leaning towards selecting Puig in favor of someone who has played more games. We all know Puig’s stat line is ridiculous over a small sample size. I won’t repeat it. But if a phenom like Puig has just destroyed you in a series after all of the media hype, what would you do? Tip your hat to a great player on a rival team and add him to the roster giving him even more confidence? Categorizing him as an aberration further stoking even more Dodger hatred for the rest of the season? Ohhh, this is fun!
From a business perspective you have to put “butts in the seats” and “eyes on the TV.” That is how the money is made. Puig jerseys are flying off the shelf, he is pure excitement on the field, and he is a great story – a PR agent’s dream. Manias are good for business. People want to see him beyond the LA market which is very important. For a sport to extend beyond regional markets, it has to have recognizable stars and Puig is quickly becoming one. If this were up to MLB, I am sure Puig would be there.
But in the end this is up to our good friend, Bruce Bochy. So Bruce, what is it going to be: what is good for baseball or what is good for the Giants? I love the irony. Don’t you?