Rob Parker: Puig, not Shelton, a real All-Star

By Rob Parker - Sports Columnist
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DETROIT - It was no accident that fans packed into Comerica Park on Tuesday night when the Los Angeles Dodgers came to Motown.

Many fans wanted to see Yasiel Puig, live and in person.

Detroiters aren't alone. That's why Puig will be in the National League starting lineup in Minnesota next Tuesday night for the annual All-Star Game.

The Tigers have fewer All-Stars than recent years, just three: Miguel Cabrera, Victor Martinez and Max Scherzer.

Still, the national focus will be on Puig, who many wanted to rush to the Baseball Hall of Fame after he took MLB by storm in the first few months of his career last season.

Despite eye-popping statistics to start 2013, Puig watched the All-Star game from home. He didn't deserve a spot so fast. On a humble note, fans had a chance to vote him on the team as a reserve and didn't.

That was a good thing. There should be no flash-in-the-pan making it to the Mid-Summer Classic.

This year, Puig earned it.

That's why the fans voted him a starter in his first full season in the majors. It's an honor, a recognition that fans have seen you do your thing and approve.

"He plays hard, goes all out," said teammate Matt Kemp, an NL All-Star starter in 2011 and 2012. "Fans enjoy excitement. That's what they want to see in an All-Star Game and that's what they are going to get."

Entering Friday's game, Puig is hitting .306 with 12 homers, 50 RBI and 52 runs scored.

Puig tallied more than four million votes to grab the third starting outfield spot on the squad.

"I was really happy," Puig said about his selection. "I want to thank everyone who voted for me."

Fans will get an extra helping of Puig, too. He will also take part in the Home Run Derby.

Puig might only have 12 homers, but when he hits them, he hits them. According to HR Tracker, Puig's longest this season was 452 feet. He's averaging 417.3, only two others average more distance on the big fly.

"He's a fun guy to watch and that's what people love," Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said. "When you see him get going, it's like he playing like a Little League kid. He loves playing and he plays at a level, at a speed most don't. Fans love seeing that."

A year ago, there just wasn't enough playing time and fully embrace Puig. That's why Phillies' closer Jonathan Papelbon ripped on Puig in a radio interview, basically saying that putting Puig -- who at that time was batting .443 with eight homers and 17 RBI  -- on the team would be a "joke" and an "injustice" to veteran players.

This season, Puig proved he wasn't a fade, an add-water-and-stir star created by sports-talk chatter.

We saw fans quick to want to send players to the Hall of Fame in the NBA and in the NFL the past year or so.

Honestly, no one thought Puig was going to be a one-month wonder or a flash in the pan. It was just that you can't jump to anoint a player to stardom off a great start.

Go back to Chris Shelton, the former Tigers' first baseman. In 2006, he had a first month of a season that was better than Babe Ruth ever had, crushing nine homers in the first 13 games.

Not only didn't Shelton make the All-Star team despite his hot start, but was sent back to the minors by July 31.

In this current world, where there were a lot of gimmick people that wanted baseball to play to the crowd last All-Star Game and add Puig in hopes of bigger TV ratings.
Baseball kept true, held onto the tradition that makes fans hold it to a higher standard than the other sports.

This All-Star Game still matters and it's something earned. That's why Puig's selection this time around is sweet.

"He's done a great job in the first half," Kemp said. "He's shown he's one of the best players in the league. He deserves to be an All-Star."

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