By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
---- — It is a my great pleasure to get a spot in the July 4 edition of the HB.
This is the day I set aside to pay homage to all of the brave men who gathered in 1776 to forge this new nation in a dangerous break from England. I hope all readers will find some time today to give though to Thomas Jefferson, Ben Franklin, John Adams, John Hancock, Josiah Bartlett and many others from that group of patriots.
But this day also means that the Mid-Summer Classic, baseball’s All-Star Game is nearly here. To me this is the best of all the star-studded galas in professional sports. Yet this year there is a chance the game will miss the mark a bit in generating excitement and extra interest for fans.
The season so far has had many surprises, good and bad, teams and individuals. From an individual perspective, nobody has been more surprising than Yasiel Puig, the 22-year-old rookie outfielder for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
All he has done in 26 games and just over 100 at bats is to hit .436 with seven homers and 16 runs batted in. He has sparked a team that many had left for dead. L.A. is still four games below .500 but is just 2.5 games out of first place going into Wednesday’s games. The Dodgers have won 9 of 10 and are suddenly a real threat in the division.
It isn’t completely because of Puig. The Dodgers have gotten healthier as the same time. Hanley Ramirez and Matt Kemp have returned from the disabled list to the starting lineup. But Puig appears to be the catalyst.
Puig won’t be an All-Star. He would need enough write-in votes for that to happen and he won’t get them. That’s fine.
But the National League will be managed by Bruce Bochy of the San Francisco Giants and he reportedly is cool to the idea of including Puig. That’s not fine.
Bochy and the Giants are heated and hated rivals of the Dodgers and it’s not hard to imagine that Bochy would look elsewhere when filling out his roster for the All-Star Game. But the fans deserve the chance to see him in action.
Some fans have never seen him. Many of his games aren’t televised and some that are begin past 10 p.m. on the East Coast. The All-Star Game would be a great way to introduce fans to this Cuban sensation, who a year ago tried to defect to the U.S. aboard a small motorboat with a collection of other refugees. That plan didn’t work and there is still a bit of mystery about how he successfully departed that island country.
Puig likely will cool down a bit from the second half of the season. But with his fast start and impressive physical tools and natural baseball instincts, he really could finish near .400. He has convinced me he is no flash in the pan.
Sports Editor Rick Teverbaugh’s columns appear twice weekly.