Enough with the outrage! Puig's an All-Star

Enough with the outrage! Puig's an All-Star
July 10, 2013, 3:15 pm
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SEATTLE -- As Major League Baseball's All-Star Game draws closer, the impending suspensions of several big-name players hang over the sport like an anchor, ready to drop and do further damage to baseball's already tarnished image.

But to hear some tell it, there's a greater threat to the game's sanctity and purity: the chance that a player with slightly more than six weeks of service time could soil the All-Star Game.

Oh, the horror.

Want to know why some -- including a lot of young fans that the game is desperately trying to connect with through social media and other entreaties -- find baseball too full of itself?

Here's why: because the notion that Yasiel Puig, the Los Angeles Dodgers gifted young outfielder, might not find himself on the National League's roster next week at Citi Field.

For many of the game's purists, Puig's presence will serve as some sort of slap in the face.

"He hasn't earned it!" some shout.

"He's not established enough! Anyone can have a hot month and a half!" others bray.

"Some more deserving player will be left off!'' cry others.

All of these claims are true, to a degree. And yet, none of them should matter.

The All-Star Game is, at heart, a popularity contest. MLB invites fans to vote for the starters and their votes count. If the fans want to vote in a big-name player who isn't necessarily having the best season at his position, so be it.

The game is designed to showcase the stars for a one-game exhibition in the middle of July. Taking part doesn't confer immortality on a player. Goodness knows, some pretty average ballplayers -- and good day to you, Scott Cooper, two-time All-Star -- have had the honor of taking part in the Mid-Summer Classic.

Somehow, the sport didn't crumble and the republic continued to stand.

This isn't about Cooperstown, reserved for the greatest of greats and a permanent and sacred spot in baseball's history. No, this is about a nine-inning exhibition game that some players leave before its conclusion so they can catch their private plans back home.

So spare us, please, any suggestion that an at-bat or two by Puig is going to be an afront to the game.

And yet, that's what player after player, manager after manager, commentator after commentator have suggested in the last week.

Mike Matheny and Mike Scioscia -- once major league catchers, now major league managers -- are suggesting that Puig should (pick your admonition) wait his turn; know his place; stay home.

Otherwise, the very sport will be turned on its ear and natural order will be disrupted.

Instead of rushing to market one of the game's bright young stars, some would prefer he remain hidden under a bushel, since he so clearly is undeserving of this adulation.

Some in baseball are so hidebound by tradition, so insistent that the game's natural order be maintained, that they fail to see the benefit of highlighting its newest stars.

And make no mistake, Puig is already a star. His highlights are nightly SportsCenter staples and enough fans wanted to see him in the game that he drew almost 900,000 write-in votes.

Now that he's included as one of five National League players for fan's Final Vote, he stands to be the winner when results are announced Thursday.

Blame MLB itself for some of the overheated reaction, since it can't seem to make up its mind about the game. Is it the baseball equivalent of a friendly, "Hey kids! Why not host a ballot-stuffing party at your house?'' Or is it some deadly serious winner-take-all match for the right of some undetermined team to have an extra home game three months from now?

Currently, the game brings to mind the great quote from the football novel North Dallas Forty: "Every time I say it's a game, you say it's a business; Every time I say it's a business, you say it's a game."

What it is, really, is a showcase. Baseball has been incredibly fortunate to have a handful of marketable, exciting players in the last few years, including Bryce Harper, Mike Trout and Manny Machado.

Puig is merely the latest.

Put away the consternation, the outrage, the tradition and enjoy him.

Let him play. He's fun.

In case you haven't noticed, baseball could use some of that.