To Puig or not to Puig

Would electing a player who has played just one month in his MLB career violate the sanctity of the game and cost a more deserving, more proven veteran a spot?


Is the All-Star Game concerned with any of these things? 

Absolutely not. 

See, you can argue that Yasiel Puig, the Dodger outfield sensation who's hit .409 with a .437 on-base percentage and a .677 slugging percentage in his first 32 major-league games, doesn't deserve to be in the All-Star game because he's only played 32 games. Just don't tell me that's why he SHOULDN'T be there.

There is a difference. If preserving some halcyon, lofty concept of the game's sanctity were important to the Midsummer Classic, home-field advantage in the World Series wouldn't rest on the outcome of an exhibition game. And if the rosters were truly to be populated by the best players at their positions, they wouldn't be decided by fan voting. 

I love baseball fans. I'm one of them. But they don't vote for the best player at his position in a given year. They vote for the player they like the most, or who has the most name recognition, or who is on his way to breaking an iconic record. Witness the continued election of Cal Ripken Jr. as his legend grew while his production declined. 

You don't have to go back that far in baseball history. In fact, let's take this year's National League roster, which includes Nationals outfielder Bryce Harper but not shortstop Ian Desmond (at least until the Final Vote(s) - Google it, it also makes my point) are counted. True, Harper's on-base (.375) and slugging (.549) percentage are higher than Desmond's (.315 and .437), but Desmond's batting average is higher (.281 to .274) and, as the leader of Washington's infeld, his skill set is different than that demanded of Harper, who also missed a chunk of games with injuries and who was almost benched recently by dissatisfied Nats manager Davey Johnson.

Ask the National players, or Johnson, who's had more to do with the team's wins (which haven't been as many as some expected from a trendy preseason World Series pick). But the All-Star voting doesn't ask the players or the managers, aside from the reserve vote (and why does that happen? So egregious errors in fan voting can be somewhat mitigated) and naming of the starting pitcher, which is the skipper's call. It asks the fans, who know more about Harper and his rapid ascension to the Show, his confident-to-arrogant attitude and his ferret-like facial hair than Desmond. 

Also note the absence on the American League squad of, say, Evan Longoria, the Rays' third baseman who is hitting .295 with a .371 on-base percentage and a .531 slugging percentage with 17 home runs. Third base may be the deepest position on this roster (any position that starts with Miguel Cabrera would be), but a convincing case could be made for Longoria as a reserve. The same could be said for Indians catcher Carlos Santana (.270/.379/.453), also not expected to be at Citi Field on July 16. 

As you can see, like anything that requires voting, All-Star selections are subjective. So why not include the game's most-buzzed about player, the subject of Tuesday's USA Today sports centerpiece, the player whose 44 hits in a month (June) represents the most auspicious MLB debut since Joe DiMaggio pounded out 48 in May 1936? 

Is Puig, who also possesses a cannon arm and an intriguing though little-known backstory as a seldom-seen Cuban defector who signed with the Dodgers for $42 million and seven years last summer, among the best outfielders in baseball? That's a ridiculous question for a 22-year-old kid who's played 32 games. 

Should he be roaming right field in the All-Star game? That's an entirely different matter.