Posted July 11, 2013

Freeman wins NL All-Star Final Vote but Puig’s absence a missed opportunity

All-Star Game, Freddie Freeman, Yasiel Puig
Yasiel Puig, Dodgers

Yasiel Puig is hitting .394 with a 1.061 OPS and eight home runs in his first 35 games. (Barry Gutierrez/AP)

Thanks in part to an odd alliance in which the Blue Jays’ and Braves’ fan bases submitted votes for each other’s candidates, Toronto reliever Steve Delabar and Atlanta first baseman Freddie Freeman have won the 2013 All-Star Game Final Vote and will be added to the rosters of their respective leagues for next Tuesday’s contest. Just as notable as who won, however, is who didn’t: Dodgers rookie sensation Yasiel Puig, whose brief stint in the majors has led to a weeks-long debate about the merits of his All-Star worthiness, finished second in the NL vote and now, barring an unforeseen development, will not take part in the Midsummer Classic.

Freeman collected a record 19.7 million votes to finish ahead of Puig, who got more votes than any player in Final Vote history except for Freeman. The 23-year-old Braves first baseman, who is in his third full major-league season, is off to the best start of his young career, hitting .307/.388/.470 with nine homers. Those numbers, which have helped propel Atlanta into first place in the NL East, make him a reasonable if not clear-cut choice for his first All-Star team.

Still, this feels like a missed opportunity for baseball to capitalize on the sudden burst of popularity for Puig, one of the game’s most electrifying young players. He didn’t make his major-league debut until June 3 but he then collected more hits in his first month than any player since Joe DiMaggio in 1936, and became the first player in the 56-year history of the award to win Player of the Month honors in his first month in the majors. So far, he’s gotten hits in 30 of 35 games, and is batting .394/.428/.634 with eight homers in 152 plate appearances. Puig has also helped Los Angeles turn its season around and probably saved manager Don Mattingly’s job in the process. The Dodgers were eight games below .500 when he debuted, and 12 games below .500 through June 21, but since then they’ve gone 15-3 and clawed their way back to .500 at 45-45, and within 1 1/2 games of first place in the NL West.

Even with his late start, Puig’s 2.6 Wins Above Replacement ranks just 0.1 behind Freeman, who has played in more than twice as many games. It’s also ninth among NL outfielders despite the fact that Puig didn’t debut until the season was two months old. According to an MLB report, Puig is also 10th in the majors in jersey sales, on a list that includes Buster Posey, Mariano Rivera, Yadier Molina, David Wright, Matt Harvey, Bryce Harper, Derek Jeter, Manny Machado and Mike Trout. Freeman isn’t even in the top 20.

Puig’s late start was viewed as a point against him by NL manager Bruce Bochy and by vocal critics such as Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon, who won’t be part of Tuesday’s festivities either. The 22-year-old Cuban defector’s aggressive style of play has occasionally rankled opponents, particularly the Diamondbacks, whose Ian Kennedy hit him in the face with a pitch on June 11, setting the stage for a bench-clearing brawl later in the game. During L.A.’s three-game sweep of Arizona this week, Arizona catcher Miguel Montero — who was in the midst of that brawl — ripped Puig on Wednesday, saying among other things, “He’s creating a bad reputation around the league.”

Despite the brevity of Puig’s career, I’ve spent the past few weeks arguing in this space and elsewhere that he was a defensible choice for the All-Star Game given its dual roles as an exhibition for the people and a competitive means of deciding homefield advantage in the World Series. A sizable contingent of fans — though apparently not a plurality — wanted to see him there, and there’s little doubt that he could have helped the NL’s chances at winning, even in a bench role. One swing of the bat, trip around the bases, or throw of his could change a game. Freeman may provide some power off the bench, but he’s nowhere near as complete a player as Puig, nor is he as dynamic a presence. Insistence that he’s “paid his dues” while Puig has not is the kind of traditional thinking that players may care about but fans don’t. What’s more, with the television ratings continuing to decline in the wake of attaching homefield advantage to the process, it can be argued that MLB should be emphasizing fresh faces in this context.

There’s still a slight possibility Puig could make the cut if another player opts out due to injury. Bochy could choose him as an injury replacement for either a fan-elected starter or for one of his own previous choices. The Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez, who was elected to the starting lineup, pulled out of the Home Run Derby because of a hand injury, though it isn’t yet known if he’ll recuse himself from the All-Star Game as well. If a participant elected via the player vote opts out, the replacement is based upon vote totals from that process.

As for Delabar, it’s very difficult to get worked up about a vote that involved five relievers. All of them began the year as setup men, though the Tigers’ Joaquin Benoit and the Red Sox’s Koji Uehara were recently pressed into closer duty due to injuries and ineffectiveness by their predecessors. Delabar is having a very good season, with a 1.74 ERA and 12.4 strikeouts per nine in 41 1/3 innings, but his 1.2 WAR is lower than those of the Rangers’ Tanner Scheppers (1.8) and Benoit (1.7), and he doesn’t have nearly the track record of Benoit or the Yankees’ David Robertson.

It’s doubtful that voters stuffing the virtual ballot box consulted such numbers, or any numbers. But the people have spoken given the means supplied to them, and they’ll now get to see Delabar and Freeman make their cameos — if they bother to tune in, and stick around until the late innings, of course.

107 comments
RichMondy
RichMondy

interesting to see if Puig is a flash in the pan or the real thing.

Michael10
Michael10

It's been four days now -- Babe Ruth's anniversary has come and gone, MVP frontrunner Troy Tulowitzski is back in the lineup, Derek Jeter has returned from (and likely to) the DL, Max Scherzer's incredible streak is broken, Tim Lincecum has thrown a no-hitter, and STILL a pouting Puig is the SI cover story...

sporra01
sporra01

35 days does NOT make an ALL-STAR. This kid is not Bo Jackson.

michaelo409
michaelo409

All we see is that Freeman got 19.7 million votes.  I have not seen anywhere the vote total for Puig.  Really, how close was the voting?

Michael10
Michael10

SI, you've had this article and picture of a "distraught" Yasiel Puig on the front page for three days...

get over it. 

There are 749 other players on major league rosters as we speak; I'm sure one of them is worth a cover story, too.

BrentEdney
BrentEdney

Wow nice to point out the fact Freddie's jersey sales aren't in the top 20... I know when placing my vote for the American League player I immediately searched to see where he fell on the jersey sales. Oh and the bluejays and braves voting alliance I'm thinking hardly had anything to do with Freddie getting in, I'd never heard of until after the voting was done. Keep up the great work though Mr. Gaffe. Exactly what I expected to read from this site almost as bad as the garbage over at the worldwide leader.

TylerMorrissey
TylerMorrissey

I doubt that this Jays-Braves vote alliance was a big factor. I'm a Jays fan, I watch a lot of games and I hadn't heard of it. I don't really like it, but it is nice to see that under-the-radar guys like Delabar get some recognition for their excellent work. SI won't mention guys like him because they're too busy watching every move Puig makes like screeching Justin Bieber fans waiting outside his hotel.

After all this time and all the breathless, slobbering fandom, I still haven't seen an SI writer make a good argument for including Puig.


weir6
weir6

Jay Jaffe: All of the media outlets foaming at the mouth to get a guy into the All Star game THAT'S BARELY PLAYED ONE MONTH are an example of why the All Star Game is stupid.  I know you all love this kid to the point of verbal blohe jobs in every article, but calm down and get your nose out of his jock for a few minutes.  No one is disputing that he's off to a red hot start, but he's played 6 weeks and shouldn't be considered for the game simply because of that.


Freddy Freeman being selected isn't some sort of 'snub' - what a joke.

jamesbar
jamesbar

Thanks for the favor. Let him prepare for 2nd half domination.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

Why pick Freddie over Yasiel? Two words: Jeff Francoeur. Do you recall how great he looked during that first partial season after he came to the big leagues?

bruceblanco
bruceblanco

Dodger fan here. I believe Puig will have future opportunities to be an All Star. Nothing is wrong with him being snubbed. A couple days off might do him some good. He has cooled down a slight bit after the past three series. Had he continued to put up power numbers over that period, he may have been able to play in the ASG. I only hope that he can continue to maintain his competitive fire, which, so clearly, has galvanized and motivated this once hapless Dodger squad. He makes his teammates better and has brought a new excitement and enthusiasm to Los Aageles.

oasis1994
oasis1994

SI you have become a tabloid. You are as biased as ESPN and becoming just as bad as they are. Puig has not even played for 2 months Freeman should have been in the AS game to begin with. He is having a great season and his body of work is much more polished the Puigs. Come back in September and lets see how Puig's stats look. I can say this;

1. He will be on the DL since he is a terrible base runner and will try to take an extra base when he should not have and get hurt (or course I am being just as bad as SI right now)

2. Pitchers would have had enough time to figure him out and learn how to pitch to him 


This is just bad journalism. 

On another note, please check your posts before you make them live. The Babe Ruth story on the front page has a wrong fact. The Red Sox have no won 4 world series since Ruth left; any moron knows it is 2. And if you meant they were in 4, then try again. It is 7.


otherworld
otherworld

Enough already. With the year he's having Freeman could be starting the All Star game. Freeman is now a 3rd year starter who's had 2 good years and is working on a great one. He entirely deserves this honor. Puig will get his chance, if he proves himself over a longer haul. Case in point: Jason Heyward. Love him to death, he made the All Star team as a rookie and has not come close to it since. He's always hurt and hitting all of .225 or so. 

hostrauser
hostrauser

Yasiel Puig's July so far: 45AB, 1 HR, 3 RBI, 14 Hits, 16 Ks. More whiffs than hits his last ten games. The bloom came off that rose pretty quickly. Look, not saying Puig's not a talent, but you can't use a couple of hot weeks to justify an All-Star spot, because you could just as easily use a couple of BAD weeks to deny him that spot.

PaulRosa
PaulRosa

Are you guys ever going to stop slobbering over this guy?  Six weeks and an All-Star?  This just shows how our culture has this insatiable appetite for the next new thing, next new celebrity.   Anoint a guy a superstar after five minutes.  At least put in a season for God's sake.

drm166
drm166

Baseball needs to re-vamp it's voting system. Make people register with an email address.  People might be able to vote 4 or 5 times, but now you can sit there and vote thousands.  It really doesn't show who the fans really want.  It shows who the most passionate fans with excess free time want to play in the game.

drm166
drm166

The National League definitely needed a slow first baseman with single digit home runs.  I'm sure the cameras will be flashing when he squares off against Jesse Crain.

Jeff63
Jeff63

Puig is a d-bag. Why would you make an All Star out of a guy with 35 games experience?

mitchryoung
mitchryoung

Puig is only popular because you guys insist that he be. He's only exciting because you guys tell us he is. Apparently America disagrees with all of you. Do you think people in Atlanta just sit around on their computers voting all day? We're a little too busy for that. He received an overwhelming number of votes from all over the country. Maybe, just maybe, the rest of the country doesn't care about Puig as much as you think we do. Puig has played for one month. If, and that's a big if, he continues putting up these numbers he will have many more All-Star games and MVP's in his future. I really don't feel sorry for him and I still plan on watching the game.

drm166
drm166

@TylerMorrissey The reason nobody knows about Delabar is because he's a middle reliever.  There's no conspiracy.

drm166
drm166

@weir6 Really?  People wanting an exciting rookie to play in the all-star game is the reason why it's stupid?  It's not because the rosters keep expanding, or all the great players are out of the game by the fifth inning, or because those second-tier stars decide who has home field advantage in the world series despite the fact the vast majority of them won't even be in the world series? 

JoeCabot
JoeCabot

@SkokieDog Remember how great Mike Trout looked during his first month in MLB?

jamesbar
jamesbar

@SkokieDog Hardly a comparison. Puig is bigger, stronger and faster than Frances.

oasis1994
oasis1994

@bruceblanco 

I will agree with that. The guy does look good and I hope he does well. But, to call him an AS so soon is not right. 

I'm a Red Sox fan and look at Will Middlebrooks. He was great last season before he got hurt.  People thought he would have been an AS as well.

Look now; he is in the minors acting like a child and complaining when other get called up.

oasis1994
oasis1994

I should have checked my spelling - The Red Sox have ***Not

Slick
Slick

@drm166 If you are a baseball fan it does not get much better than watching Aroldis Chapman against Freddie Freeman last night. Lefty Chapman throwing 104 mph and lefty Freeman hanging in their fouling off a couple of unhittable pitches and finally getting a base hit and a RBI. 

oasis1994
oasis1994

@drm166 


You have no respect for the game. Freeman is having a great season and it is not a sample size of just over a month. 

otherworld
otherworld

@drm166 Freeman is working on a monster year. He's a fantastic defensive player and has 60, count 'em 60 rbi's. He could well be STARTING the game, if he was a media darling. 

Cubano
Cubano

@Jeff63   How do you know he's a d-bag?  Did you have a personal conversation?  Did he run over your dog?  Plays too hard for your liking?  Get the heck outta here you donkey.

drm166
drm166

@mitchryoung He's popular because he had more hits in his first month since Joe Dimaggio.  He had two of the best outfield assists in the majors in his first week in the majors.

Michael10
Michael10

@drm166 @weir6 Rosters are too big already, second-tier star, won't be in World Series, anyway -- sounds like you've made the case against Puig right there...

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@JoeCabot Since I don't follow the Angels, no I didn't, but I did look up his stats. The forty games in 2011 don't look especially impressive, but he obviously didn't suffer from a sophomore year jinx. He is a good counterpoint in this discussion. 

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@jamesbar My point is that both Yasiel and Jeff were touted highly by the sports press when they earned promotion to MLB. Recall that SI dubbed JF "The Natural" in a cover story. Both enjoyed success as hitters with power, and both exhibited strong arms in the outfield and aggressive baserunning. Time will tell if MLB pitchers solve the Yasiel puzzle as quickly as they did the Frenchy one. 

mitchryoung
mitchryoung

@drm166 @mitchryoung Ok. Justin Upton had one of the best first months in a given season in MLB history. By your logic he deserves to be in too. I'm a Braves fan, but I don't think you'll find any sane Braves fan that thinks J Upton deserves to be in the All Star game, myself included. One month doesn't show anyone anything.

TheDoctorIsIn
TheDoctorIsIn

@drm166 @SkokieDog @jamesbar Puig's qualifications for the All-Star game are the same qualifications he has for winning the batting title...impressive, but not enough ABs to show the consistency required for the award.

SkokieDog
SkokieDog

@drm166 If you're using that argument, why don't we wait until this weekend's games are played, so we can see if Yasiel maintains the torrid pace at which he began his MLB career a few weeks ago? If he weren't playing for a large market team, the sportswriters would ignore him. Just ask the guys who play well for Tampa Bay. 

drm166
drm166

@SkokieDog @jamesbar Who cares what Puig does after the break?  Or next year? Or 5 years from now.  The All-Star game is about the best players now.  Puig qualifies.

weir6
weir6

@drm166 @Jeff63 

He's "better" because he has hit 8 home runs to Freddy's 9?  Freddy has 60 RBI in the first half.  Clearly, you're one of those fantasy baseball guys who places all emphasis on HR. 


Remember Jose Contreras?  Yeah, I do too.. the Cuban started off molten and unhittable... Sports writers were proclaiming him the next Cy Young.  Peruse your fantasy statistics and see how that one panned out, knucklehead.


hostrauser
hostrauser

@drm166 @Jeff63 Take a statistics class and you'll learn about "sample size" and the dangers of small ones.

drm166
drm166

@Jeff63 @drm166 He's hitting .400, has one of the best outfield arms in baseball, and has one less home run than Freeman in less than half as many at-bats (303 to 146).   Yeah, he's better.

mitchryoung
mitchryoung

@jamesbar @mitchryoung @drm166 Every team that had a player in the final vote process partnered with another team. Look it up. We were just smart enough to start it early. I think it helped Delabar more than it helped Freeman anyway. If you look I think Puig beat out Freeman in Canada.