“..there’s a small place inside of us they can never lock away, and that place is called hope.” From the film “The Shawshank Redemption.”
Well, much the way the San Francisco 49′ers have “The Catch,” Los Angeles Dodgers fans now have “The Throw.” Okay, so “the throw” didn’t decide a championship game nor was it a play that meant the difference between first place and last. It was one play in a single disappointing Dodgers season that may not add up to much over the long haul. Still, the fact “The Throw” came off the arm of a Cuban defector by the name of Yasiel Puig, perhaps the most hyped Dodger since Manny Ramirez cheated his way into the hearts of Dodgers fan five years ago, has given fans hope they may finally get to watch a rising star this season rather than a bunch of them who appear to be flaming out.
It was the top of the ninth inning Monday night and the Dodgers were clinging to a precarious 2-1 lead over the Padres. With one out, the Dodgers excuse for a closer, Brandon League, walked Chris Donorfia. Up to the plate stepped Kyle Blanks whose 6’6” body makes it seems like he should have been playing in the just-concluded NBA playoff game between Indiana and Miami. Puig was in right field and Blanks hit a deep fly ball to the warning track. Puig, who was making his Dodgers debut, ran back to make the catch and then somehow heaved a perfect throw back to first baseman Adrian Gonzalez and to get Donorfia sliding back into first (Donorfia must be in the Padres doghouse big time today-he was also picked off of first base by Dodger catcher Ramon Hernandez earlier in the game). The game ended and the place exploded (see video of the play below).
Puig also shined at the plate. He hit two singles in four at bats and showed off his speed by going from first to third on a single to shallow right.
Puig, who is listed at 6’3″ and 245 lbs, was a star in his native Cuban league batting .330 with 17 home runs in the 2010-2011 season. He defected to the U.S. and last summer became the object of a bidding war between several Major League teams. The Dodgers won out by offering him a 7 year, $42 million contract. Puig batted .517 in spring training this season and seemed to be a shoo-in for a spot on the 2013 opening day roster. The Dodgers decided to let him begin play at the Double A level instead. Although the move was questioned by fans, Puig was kept down because of the way baseball works. Bottom line, Puig would remain under control of the Dodgers for one more year if he began the season in the minors. Puig now has to wait until 2019 to become a free agent instead of 2018.
If there is one area of concern, it is how well Puig will adjust to his new found stardom. This past April, while playing for the Dodgers Double A affiliate in Chattanooga, Tenn, Puig was arrested for speeding and reckless driving.
So it is only one game but Puig’s performance makes it seem as though he has a chance of meeting the lofty expectations $42 million brings on anybody. Dodgers fans are certainly hoping he can meet them.
Fife drums up a win
Meanwhile, lost in all the Mr. Puig hype was a decent pitching performance by young righthander Stephen Fife. Fife, acquired from the Red Sox in 2011, earned his first Major League win by pitching 5.1 innings, striking out five, and giving up just one run. He has six major league starts dating back to last year and has given up two runs or less in five of them. He gave up four runs in a start against the Orioles back in April but the Dodgers won the game, 7-4.
Scott Van Slyke has played in only 17 games this season and has five home runs. That projects out to 45 home runs over a full season. Who knows, maybe Van Slyke has a little Rob Deer in him.
Deer played from 1984 through 1996 for several teams and averaged 32 home runs a season. Yet his lifetime batting average was .220. Van Slyke has played in 44 major league games dating back to last season and has hit seven home runs. That would project out to more than 25 home runs a year. His current career batting average? A Deer-like .214.