Dodgers co-aces Clayton Kershaw and Zack Greinke pitched exactly as Dodger fans expected them to in the 2014 All-Star Game at Target Field in Minneapolis, MN on Tuesday evening – both retiring the three batters they faced in order with Kershaw striking out one and Greinke two.
Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon not only showed his tremendous speed that has him leading all of baseball in stolen bases when he scored easily from first base on a double to right field by Milwaukee Brewers catcher Jonathan Lucroy, but he also showed his tremendous range when he made a spectacular play at second base to rob Cleveland Indians outfielder Michael Brantley of a base hit.
…and then there’s Yasiel Puig.
No one can argue that Puig didn’t deserved his starting spot on the National League roster or that he didn’t deserved to be the league’s third top vote-getting outfielder. But no one can also argue that his performance in the 85th Mid-Summer Classic and the Home Run Derby were anything but embarrassing for Dodger fans.
One has to believe that even though Puig has repeatedly said that he is “happy” with his first-ever All-Star experience and denies being disappointed with his 0 for 3, three strikeout All-Star Game performance and his shutout performance in the Home Run Derby the day before, how can he, in good conscience, not be?
“I did the best I could,” said Puig to Dodgers beat reporter Bill Plunkett through an interpreter after being replaced from Tuesday’s game in the sixth inning. “I participated in the Home Run Derby and I didn’t hit any home runs. I played in the All-Star Game and had three strikeouts. That happens. But I’m happy I was here for Derek Jeter’s last All-Star Game and now I’m focusing on doing the best I can in the second half. And if I get a second opportunity to be an All-Star I think I’ll do better.”
Indeed it does happen and striking out against former AL Cy Young Award winners Felix Hernandez and Max Scherzer and Cy Young Award runner-up Yu Darvish is nothing to be ashamed of, but where things begin to get uncomfortable for Dodger fans is when Puig said that he was not disappointed with his performance.
“No, I’m not disappointed at all,” Puig said. “I faced three great pitchers. That’s how baseball is. They threw great pitches and they got me.”
Yes, that’s how baseball is sometimes and to be perfectly honest the called third called strike in Puig’s third at bat against Darvish appeared to be ball four. But to not be disappointed with going ‘0 fer’ in the showcase event and to be the only Home Run Derby contestant (out of 10) without even one home run has got to be disappointing and, at the very least, somewhat embarrassing for the 23-year-old Cuban superstar.
Where things really get disturbing for Dodger fans is that Puig’s ‘0 for everything’ during All-Star Week might be an indication of where the Dodger right fielder is heading in the second half of the 2014 season.
After putting up All-Star-deserving numbers during the first two months of the season, Puig’s number have steadily declined since. And although he still leads the Dodgers in batting average (.309) and trails only Scott Van Slyke in on-base percentage (.393 to .400), slugging percentage (.522 to .528) and OPS (.915 to .928), his 78 strikeouts are second only to Matt Kemp’s 87. And while Puig’s 12 home runs are second-most on the team to only Adrian Gonzalez’s 14, he has hit only one since May 28.
It is certainly not time to panic over Puig’s mini-slump (if you can call hitting .309 a slump), but his falling numbers and his less-than-stellar performance in the All-Star Game and Home Run Derby are things that Puig (and the Dodgers) should at least be a little concerned with and most definitely not “happy” with.