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Puig is only 127 at-bats worth of greatness

By Mike DiMauro

Publication: The Day

Published July 09. 2013 4:00AM

It is coincidental, surely, that Yasiel Puig, the young man who has become baseball's latest cause célèbre, was born the same year, 1990, that Kevin Maas had the 150 at-bats of his life.

Perhaps we should begin there with the line, "150 at-bats of his life."

Because what if Puig is nothing more than the modern version of Kevin Maas?

For the uninitiated: Maas is a former outfielder for the Yankees who made his Major League debut in the middle of the 1990 season, an otherwise moribund time in franchise history. Maas captured the fancy of the big, bad city for at least part of the summer, hitting home runs at a historic pace, before the clock struck 12.

And then he became just another guy.

All of which at least invites the question: Don't we need a more comprehensive sample size from Puig before we declare he's an All-Star over other players whose stories aren't as sexy but whose resumes are more complete?

The Puig-Maas debate will get pooh-poohed, no doubt, by that growing faction of social commentators, in and out of the media, who know one more fact than the rest of us about everything.

Shall we examine, nonetheless?

Puig had 127 at-bats through Sunday's games. His numbers: .407 average, eight homers, 19 RBI, .437 on-base percentage, .677 slugging. Through the same period in 1990, Maas was hitting .269 with 15 homers, 27 RBI, a .380 on-base percentage and .634 slugging.

So while Puig owns a considerable advantage in batting average, Maas has nearly twice the number of home runs and more RBI. Puig's on-base and slugging percentages are slightly better. But on average, don't the numbers offer a basis for discussion?

Once again: What if Puig is nothing more than the modern version of Kevin Maas?

What, we can't ask?

Maas' ability to hit homers en masse drew some historical comparisons in 1990. Until Maas hit his 13th homer in his 110th at-bat, the player quickest to 13 homers in his first season: Sam Horn. Until Maas hit his 15th homer in his 133rd at-bat, the player quickest to 15 homers in his first season: Wally Berger.

Send up smoke signals when Horn, Maas or Berger inspire comparisons to Willie, Mickey and the Duke.

Makes you wonder if Puig's 127 at-bats are the stuff of future genius or the residual effect of this new proliferation of pundits looking for the topic du jour. Think about it. There was no 24/7 news cycle in the days of Kevin Maas and Sam Horn. But if the same bands of blatherers existed in the those days, they'd have hyperventilated with the same verve.

I understand that "test of time" now doesn't last any longer than lunch. But don't you think that it's about time the experts out there tried some decaf? Maybe Puig, with his five walks thus far, becomes Vlad Guerrero, the man who swung at everything and still produced. Or maybe his impatience leads to less success in the next 127 at-bats.

This much I know: Based on 127 at-bats, I have no idea what will become of Yasiel Puig. And neither does anyone else.

And yet some of the blatherers make it sound as though Puig's potential All-Star snub is a greater affront to society than Apartheid. Baseball, too, should realize that whether Puig gets the last spot is all but irrelevant, given that the media craze around this has already provided a bigger publicity bump than Puig's one at-bat in the game.

Perhaps Bud Selig could actually step in and become the commissioner on this issue, instead of merely playing one on TV.

Frankly, I'd rather the spot go to Freddie Freeman, who only has 39 more RBI than the Flavor of the Month. But then, hey, Puig's been at this for 127 at-bats now. That makes him a 24/7 news cycle veteran.

This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro.

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