What a week Yasiel Puig just had.
It happened to be his first week in the big leagues.
The Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder made his debut on June 3 going 2 for 4 at the plate. He won the game with his arm by throwing out Chris Denorfia of the San Diego Padres to preserve a 2-1 Dodgers win.
In his second game, Puig hit two home runs. Two days later, he belted a grand slam home run. The following day, Puig hit another home run.
Over his first seven games, Puig has gone 13 for 28 (.464 BA, 4 HR, 10 RBI, .483 OBP).
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
His efforts have earned the 22-year old Cuban defector NL Player of the Week honors.
It could be the first of many great weeks for Puig.
At the moment, Puig has lifted the Dodgers out of their deep blue. Dodger Stadium hasn’t been this alive since Manny Ramirez’s dreadlocks turned Hollywood into Mannywood in 2008 or, dare I say, even when Fernandomania swept Chavez Ravine in 1981. You can even hear a rise in the cadence in the voice of Vin Scully.
There’s been precious little for Dodgers fans to cheer about this season. Despite having the highest payroll in MLB (north of $200 million), the Dodgers are currently in last place in the NL West seven and a half games back of the Arizona Diamondbacks. Although Clayton Kershaw has retained his Cy Young form, other Dodger starters such as Zack Greinke, Ted Lilly, Josh Beckett, and Chad Billingsley have been hurt and/or ineffective. The Dodgers’ offense hasn’t been much better, especially Matt Kemp. Two years removed from nearly becoming a Triple Crown winner, Kemp was hitting only .251 with 2 HR and 17 RBIs when he went down with an injury late last month.
Dodgers’ manager Don Mattingly, who is in the last year of a three-year contract, has been on the hot seat. Puig’s stellar play has kept focus off Dodger disarray and has undoubtedly saved Mattingly’s job – for now.
As in life, the only guarantees in baseball are death, taxes, and failure. Mattingly knows this as well as anyone. After arguably being the best hitter in MLB during the last half of the 1980s, injuries caught up with Donnie Baseball in 1990. During that season, the Yankees called up a young first baseman named Kevin Maas. In his first 77 at bats, Maas slammed 10 home runs. At one point, Maas was not only being compared to Yankees legends like Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle and Reggie Jackson, he was described as “the hottest thing to hit New York since the lambada.”
Well, Maas did not measure up to Ruth, Gehrig, Mantle or Jackson. Like the lambada, Maas would fall out of fashion. While his 21 home runs were good enough to be voted runner up in AL Rookie of the Year vote (Sandy Alomar, Jr. of the Cleveland Indians was the winner that year), he hit only .220 in 1991. When Maas was demoted to Columbus in July 1993, he said, “I’m about at the end of my rope.” Maas would play his last big league game in 1995 with the Minnesota Twins.
Could New York Mets first baseman Ike Davis be today’s version of Maas? After hitting 32 home runs in 2012, Davis was hitting .161 (about fifty points below the Mendoza Line) when he was sent down to Triple A Las Vegas on Sunday. Will Davis regain his stroke? Anyway you look at it; the Mets are taking a gamble.
Some players would just as soon forget their big league debuts. Case in point: Cincinnati Reds pitcher Curtis Partch. The 26-year old righty has been in the Reds system since 2007. He was summoned into his first game on Sunday night against the St. Louis Cardinals with the bases loaded. The first hitter he faced was Matt Holliday, who promptly hit a grand slam home run off of him.
Welcome to the big leagues, kid.
So Yasiel Puig could become the greatest player who ever lived. Or he could go 1 for 31 and get a one way ticket back to Chattanooga.
But for one week, Puig was the greatest player in Major League Baseball and no one can take that away from him.
So what will Puig do this week?