Yasiel Puig, a rookie baseball player for the Los Angeles Dodgers, has generated buzz and controversy as fans vote for the last players to be named to the MLB All-Star teams. The game is next Tuesday.
Puig, 22-year-old Cuban defector, has only played in the major leagues for a little over a month and has impressed people with his stats and athleticism.
However, some people think his short tenure with the Dodgers makes him undeserving of being an All-Star. The only way he can make the All-Star team is if baseball fans vote him in, and voting ends today at 4 p.m.
JEREMY HOBSON, HOST:
Cuba is also making waves in Major League Baseball. Today is the last day for fans to vote on who the last players on the league's all-star teams should be. Twenty-two-year-old outfielder Yasiel Puig who plays for the L.A. Dodgers and is a Cuban defector is one of the leaders in the voting for the final spot on the National League team. But some of his fellow players are saying that with just a little over a month in the league, Puig is not ready for primetime. Joining us now for more on this is NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman. And, Tom, you spent some time with him. First, give us an idea of who he is and why he's causing such a sensation.
TOM GOLDMAN, BYLINE: He's good. He's really good. Yeah. As you said, he's a 22-year-old Cuban defector. We don't know a whole bunch about him, and that's part of the story. He doesn't give up a lot about himself, but, you know, for everyone to see what's he's done since he was called up on June 3rd, it's been phenomenal.
He started out hitting four homeruns in his first five games, and that ignited Dodgers fans and the team, which had had a sluggish, underachieving season up to then. And he kept it going through the month. He had 44 hits in June, second only to Joe DiMaggio - heard of him - in 1936 for most hits in a player's first month in the big leagues.
HOBSON: So it sounds like the Jeremy Lin of baseball, or something. But, Tom, in the past few days, it seems like the tide of favorable publicity for him is turning. So what's going on?
GOLDMAN: You start to hear - you're starting to hear these little snippets, little digs that players are making, that he's arrogant, and there was an incident - actually, the night I was there in Phoenix, he reportedly snubbed Luis Gonzalez, who's a hometown hero. He won the World Series for the Diamondbacks in 2001. He came up to introduce himself to Puig, apparently, and, you know, speaking in Spanish, and Puig reportedly didn't acknowledge him. And Mark McGwire, the L.A. Dodgers' batting coach, jumped on Puig for that. And, you know, I think we're kind of giving him - we're going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He is young and he plays with this exuberance, and I think there are some players who are becoming jealous of this guy.
Now, kind of feeding this problem, if you want to call it that, is his relationship with the press, and I experienced this firsthand. He only gives post-game interviews. And he speaks only Spanish, so through an interpreter for English-speaking reporters, and he gives very little. It's all cliche. It's out of the "Bull Durham," how-to-speak-to-reporters handbook, basically. It's happy to be here.
GOLDMAN: I want to help my team - which is all true and may be great, but, you know, we're clamoring to know about this guy, and he's not giving anything up. Now, he released a statement - or actually, he spoke to MLB.com, and he explained that there's not - there wasn't much press in Cuba. He didn't have to deal as much with media attention, and that he doesn't want to talk about himself. He wants it to be about his team, and he just wants to play baseball. He said, quote, "I'm not bad. I just don't like the press, and I don't like this fame." But it's going to be interesting to see how that plays out, because as he gets more famous and the press seeks him out even more, something's going to give, there.
HOBSON: Tom, we just have a few seconds, but who gets it if he doesn't?
GOLDMAN: Who gets the All-Star...
HOBSON: The spot, yeah, on the team?
GOLDMAN: Yeah. Well, right now, Atlanta first basement Freddie Freeman is holding the lead. People have until 4 p.m. Eastern to text and tweet in their votes. This is - the fans have the last say in - on the final player on each team.
HOBSON: NPR's sports reporter, Tom Goldman. Tom, thanks.
GOLDMAN: You're welcome.
HOBSON: There's more to come. So stick around, HERE AND NOW. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.