Anyone fortunate enough to have seen Yasiel Puig in person during spring training 2013 immediately knew that the kid was special. And even though nearly every sports writer, talk show host, baseball analyst and even his own manager and general manager called Puig “too raw,” there was absolutely no doubt whatsoever that we were watching perhaps the greatest baseball player to come along in over twenty years and were watching history in the making.
When the Dodgers broke camp on March 30, 2013, Puig was hitting an alien-like .517. He led the Dodgers in runs (16), hits (30), RBIs (11), OBP (.500), SLG (.828) and OPS (1.328) among all Dodgers with 50 or more at-bats (he had 58). He was second in home runs (3), second in doubles (5), second in triples (2) and second in stolen bases (4). But when the Dodgers began their 2013 campaign two days later at Dodger Stadium, Yasiel Puig was not on opening day roster. In fact, he wasn’t called up to the big leagues until June 3rd when the Dodgers were 56 games into the season and deeply entrenched in last place in the NL West with a dismal 24-32 record (.429) and 7.5 games behind the division-leading Arizona Diamondbacks.
Those of us who were disappointed that Puig was not on the Dodgers April 1 opening day roster, or their May 1 roster, or their June 1 roster knew… just knew that it was costing the Dodgers games – and a lot of them. But the delay in bringing him up had also cost Yasiel Puig a great deal too – more than Dodgers general manager Ned Colletti (or anyone else for that matter) could ever imagine.
In spite of hitting an impossible .391 (59 for 151) with 8 home runs, one triple, 8 doubles and 19 RBIs in only 39 games played between June 3 and July 14, Colletti’s reluctance to call Puig up until June 3 cost the 22-year-old Cuban superstar a shot at making the 2013 All-Star Game.
Strike one for Puig.
In a few short hours, the results of the Baseball Writers Association of America (BBWAA) voting for the 2013 Jackie Robinson AL and NL Rookies of the Year will be announced on MLB Network. And while anything can happen, especially when the BBWAA is involved, the 2013 NL ROY Award will most likely go to 21-year-old Miami Marlins pitching sensation Jose Fernandez. And though we will never know if Puig might have run away with the 2013 NL ROY Award had he played the entire 2013 season with the Dodgers instead of only 104 games (64%), he might have.
Strike two for Puig.
And on Thursday, November 14, the results of the BBWAA voting for the 2013 AL and NL Most Valuable Player will be announced (also on MLB Network). And while Yadier Molina hit .319 in 136 games played, Andrew McCutchen hit .317 in 157 games played and Paul Goldschmidt hit .302 in 160 games played, Puig finished the season hitting .319 in 104 games played. And though we will never know if Puig might have hit better than all three of these MVP finalists had he played in 32 more games (thus tying Molina’s 136 games), he might have.
Strike three for Puig.
There is little doubt that Puig will have many more opportunities to make it to the All-Star Game and possibly win an MVP title (or several), but it sure would have been nice to have seen him become the first player in National League history to win Rookie of the Year and MVP in the same season, thus joining Fred Lynn (1975) and Ichiro Suzuki (2001) who both did so in the American League with the Red Sox and Mariners respectively.