Published on July 8, 2013,

ESPN’s Puig Campaign

Braves Resent All-Star Media Machinery in Final Vote

By David O’Brien

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

They understand the buzz around Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and the desire many have to get the rookie sensation in the All-Star game, but some Braves took exception to ESPN.com openly campaigning for Puig to get the last spot on the National League team.

Puig, who debuted June 3, and Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman are among five candidates for the NL “Final Vote” spot to be selected by fans. The others are Nationals shortstop Ian Desmond, Giants outfielder Hunter Pence, and Puig’s Dodger teammate, first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.

On ESPN.com’s website Sunday, a link initially urged fans to “Vote him in” referring to Puig, and later said, “He belongs.”

“Nobody has a chance” against Puig, Braves second baseman Dan Uggla said. “He’s been getting covered since he broke in. And he should be; he’s an exciting story. But should he make the All-Star team? No, not this year. But he’s going to make it. Which sucks for Freddie and other (Final Vote) guys, because they’ve been doing it the whole year.”

Puig hit .407 with 17 extra-base hits (eight homers) and 19 RBIs in 31 games before Sunday, with a .435 on-base percentage and .683 slugging percentage. In recent weeks his every move has been breathlessly chronicled by ESPN.

The Braves’ rookie phenom, Evan Gattis, heard his own name in All-Star discussions earlier, when he hit .281 with 12 homers, 32 RBIs and a .619 slugging percentage in 43 April-May games. He’s been on the disabled list since straining an oblique in mid-June.

“Even though fans do want to see (Puig) play — that’s good for baseball and everything — but I don’t think anybody deserves it after one month,” Gattis said. “I don’t think I deserved it.”

When a reporter asked Freeman late Saturday about competing with Puig in the Final Vote competition, Freeman smiled and said, “Good luck with that, huh? He’s already on the lede ESPN ticker.”

Braves closer Craig Kimbrel was named to the NL All-Star team for the third consecutive season. He’ll be their lone representative unless Freeman wins the Final Vote (www.MLB.com/vote) or a Brave is added as an injury replacement.

“I think he’s the best reliever in baseball, and has been since he put on a Braves uniform,” catcher Brian McCann said. “There should be more guys going from this team, being in first place in the NL East. I think Freddie Freeman deserves to go. He’s carried this team offensively all season long.”

Freeman said it was an honor to be in the Final Vote field. In his third season, he hit .307 with nine homers and a team-high 56 RBIs before Sunday, and was fourth in the majors with a .406 average with runners in scoring position.

Some Braves took issue with media swaying votes when All-Star starters — and Final Vote winners — are selected by fans.

“I think it’s B.S.,” pitcher Tim Hudson said. “It’s pretty obvious what players certain media outlets want to have plugged in. You have young, exciting players — and they are that. I’m not saying they don’t deserve to have the opportunity to be in there, but these guys that are competing with them to get these last couple of spots, they’re just as deserving.

“The whole fan vote thing, I think is obnoxious. I mean, the starting players in the All-Star game are determined by fans who can plug any players they want in there, and it determines home-field advantage for the World Series. The World Series! It’s not fair. At all.”

Hudson said that as long as the game determines World Series home-field advantage, selecting All-Stars shouldn’t be a popularity contest.

“As players, we might have the opportunity to play in the World Series,” he said. “I think we should determine which starting nine we put out there (in the All-Star game). Our livelihood and our season and our chances to win a World Championship (are affected by) that game.”

Uggla, a three-time All-Star voted to start last summer, said: “If they wanted to start making it matter, they should let the players vote and get the right guys in. But they made it a fans’ game. The fans are going to vote in who they want in. Which is fine. They just need to change that to where this game doesn’t matter. It needs to be fun.”

Beachy to Gwinnett: After recovering well from a 50-pitch bullpen session Saturday, Brandon Beachy will step things up with a rehab start Tuesday at Triple-A Gwinnett. It’ll be his first game since his rehab assignment was shut down three weeks ago due to inflammation in his surgically repaired elbow. He had “Tommy John” surgery 12-1/2 months ago and was scheduled to return June 18, but that was postponed due to soreness in what was to have been his last rehab start. ___

(c)2013 The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.)

Visit The Atlanta Journal-Constitution (Atlanta, Ga.) at www.ajc.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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