MLB

It's a good thing Puig didn't make it

Ken Rosenthal on the growing concerns around baseball regarding the maturity of Dodgers' rookie sensation Yasiel Puig.
Ken Rosenthal on the growing concerns around baseball regarding the maturity of Dodgers' rookie...
Share This Story

Jon Paul Morosi

Jon Paul Morosi is a National MLB Writer for FOXSports.com. He previously covered baseball for the Detroit Free Press and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. He began his journalism career at the Bay City Times in his native Michigan. Follow him on Twitter.

MORE>>
 
   
 

For weeks, I said Yasiel Puig belonged in the All-Star Game.

CHRIS DAVIS

MLB ALL-STAR GAME

I thought it would be great for fans, to see the game’s newest phenomenon on a worldwide stage. I thought it would be a boon for Major League Baseball, to seize upon Puig’s marketing potential just as his popularity is cresting. Moreover, I thought Puig could help the National League win and earn home-field advantage in the World Series.

But Puig isn’t going to the All-Star Game. (At least, he almost certainly isn’t.) Fans chose Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman, not Puig, through the Final Vote on MLB.com. Unless Bruce Bochy picks Puig to replace a fan-elected starter or one of his manager’s selections, Puig will need a ticket if he wants to watch the Midsummer Classic Tuesday at Citi Field in New York (All-Star Game on FOX, 7:30 p.m. ET).

Despite my initial support for Puig, I’ve come to believe this is for the best.

The electorate has done a tremendous favor for Puig and his Los Angeles Dodgers. He’s cooled a little lately — 15 strikeouts and one home run in nine July games — but this isn’t about a statistical regression to the mean. Puig — 22 years old, born and raised in Cuba, with barely more than one month in the majors — is unprepared for the All-Star hype vortex.

Puig fascinates many of us in the national media, because of his limitless tools and mysterious backstory. He provides the blend of athleticism and bravado that baseball has lacked in recent years. To the extent that Twitter is a measure of global interest in sports, @NBA’s following more than doubles that of @MLB. Puig is the type of figure who could change that — but only if he’s willing to connect with the public.

And right now, he’s not ready.

Veteran Dodgers beat reporter Ken Gurnick wrote recently on MLB.com that Puig “has refused virtually all interview requests.” During a series in Phoenix, Puig ignored retired five-time All-Star Luis Gonzalez when the 19-year veteran attempted to engage Puig in friendly conversation about their shared Cuban heritage, according to Dan Bickley of azcentral.com. (Puig provided a different version of the encounter with Gonzalez, telling ESPN’s Max Bretos Thursday that he “thought it went OK” and did say hello.)

In a recent story on FOXSportsArizona.com, Diamondbacks catcher Miguel Montero said Puig is “creating a bad reputation throughout the league,” and Arizona pitcher Ian Kennedy said Puig plays with “arrogance.” (Disclaimer: Diamondbacks players aren’t entirely impartial on Puig and the Dodgers, after last month’s brawl during a game in which Kennedy hit Puig in the nose with a pitch.)

None of that makes Puig a bad guy. It does, however, suggest that he’s struggling with the interpersonal aspect of playing baseball, in this country, under the spotlight that follows his current level of performance. Given the state of US-Cuban relations, Puig is not the first major leaguer to have an easier time adjusting competitively than culturally after his defection. The media should be patient with Puig — and has been, in many instances. But his apparent disinterest in the non-playing aspect of the job is mildly concerning.

No one should demand that Puig enter the quotability Hall of Fame as a rookie. However, regular cooperation with the media — as a means of promoting the sport — should come standard with a $42 million contract. In fact, that’s spelled out in the collective bargaining agreement that has made Puig a very wealthy man: “It is very important to our game that ALL players are available to the media for reasonable periods and it is the player’s responsibility to cooperate.”

If Puig were the 25th man on the Dodgers roster, this would be a non-story. But the reality is that he’s not the 25th man on the Dodgers roster. In some respects, he’s the first. Despite not debuting until June 3, he has the top-selling jersey of any player on the team this year. In fact, he has the 10th most popular jersey in the majors — just behind Mike Trout and ahead of reigning Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera.

Marketing executives — with MLB, with the Dodgers, with potential endorsement partners — salivate over that sort of instant star power. For a sport that lacks a superstar persona on the level of LeBron James, this is “New Face of the Game” territory. So if he had been named to the All-Star team, Puig would sit at a table during All-Star Media Day ... and ... uh ... decline comment?

In a Spanish interview with MLB.com’s Jesse Sanchez, Puig said, “I’m not bad, I just don’t like the press and I don’t like the fame.” Puig is entitled to feel that way. If we in the media wanted to be liked, we would have chosen another vocation. But if Puig can’t get along with the Fourth Estate when he’s hitting .394, when, exactly, can we get on his good side?

ALL-STAR ROSTERS

Which American Leaguers and National Leaguers are in the 84th Midsummer Classic?

Some will say the language barrier is to blame. That is a factor, but only to a point. Puig has an interpreter, as is common with players from Cuba, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. If he wanted to engage more with other players, fans and media, he would put in the effort. At some point, if he is to maximize his earning and endorsement potential, he will need to do it.

In the age of social media, sports icons are increasingly relatable. LeBron’s image has evolved over the past several years, humanizing him to many casual fans and expanding his popularity. Part-time Blue Jays infielder Munenori Kawasaki became an overnight sensation in Toronto after an exuberant, endearing postgame interview in which he earnestly showcased his limited (but expanding) command of English. The clip has been viewed on YouTube more than 2 million times.

LeBron James and Munenori Kawasaki have almost nothing in common athletically, except that they are making genuine attempts to relate to the public. Eventually, Puig must do the same. And here’s hoping that happens well before the first of what should be many All-Star appearances.

Tagged: Blue Jays, Dodgers, Diamondbacks

More Stories From Jon Paul Morosi

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by



MLB Videos

Yankees cautious with Tanaka injury Posted: Jul 11, 2014
Mike Francesa on how the Yankees will handle Masahiro Tanaka's rehabilitation fr...

Twins top Mariners Posted: Jul 11, 2014
Chris Parmelee comments on the Twins' 4-2 win over the Mariners.

Tigers dominate Royals Posted: Jul 11, 2014
Torii Hunter speaks on the Tigers' massive 16-4 win over the Royals.

SimLeague Baseball - Simulation Baseball Game

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_New_York_Yankees/browse/featuredproduct/606363/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_606000/ff_606363_xl.jpg&w=100 27.95 Nike New York Yankees Practice T-Shirt - Ash
    Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Detroit_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/1064043/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1064000/ff_1064043_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic Detroit Tigers 2012 MLB American League Champions Clubhouse Locker Room..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room T-Shirt - Gray http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067359/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067359_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room Pullover Hoodie - Steel http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067382/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067382_xl.jpg&w=100 54.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker R..
    New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Room 39THIRTY Flex Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1067785/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1067000/ff_1067785_xl.jpg&w=100 31.95 New Era San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Clubhouse Locker Ro..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068294/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068294_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Glory T-Shirt - Bl..
    Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice Performance Jersey - Black/Orange http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_San_Francisco_Giants/browse/featuredproduct/1068787/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1068000/ff_1068787_xl.jpg&w=100 94.95 Majestic San Francisco Giants 2012 MLB World Series Champions Batting Practice P..