(1972 AL All-Star Freddie Patek, the sort of media savvy, telegenic presence that Yasiel Puig can only hope to match much later in his career)
Perhaps it’s a moot point, given that Braves 1B Freddy Freeman beat out Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig for the NL “Final Vote” honors, but Fox Sports’ Jon Paul Morosi — taking into account Puig’s blowing off interview requests and allegedly snubbing Luis Gonzalez — argues the LA outfielder, “is unprepared for the All-Star hype vortex”. As opposed to say, Mark Loretta, who was the most polished public speaker of all time. In all seriousness, I wish Morosi’s editorial had been published before the vote was over — it might’ve provided exactly the push Puig’s candidacy needed.
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?
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.