With the Midsummer Classic in our rear view mirror as well as the resulting few days of break, now is as good a time to stop and take stock of where we are. As an excellent philosopher once said, “If you don’t stop every once in a while and look around, you might miss something.”
Where do we begin? There are so many stories happening during the baseball season. Mike Trout proving his Rookie of the Year season was not a fluke by having another “Quiet as it’s kept, I’m the best player on a team with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton” season.” The Pirates are over .500, way over .500 with Pedro Cerrano’s spiritual heir Pedro Alvarez and Andrew McCutchen leading the way. But when I think about the really cool and important things that have happened and are going to happen, This is what has drawn my attention.
The best is yet to come from Yasiel Puig.
1: Yasiel Puig has reached the point where he’s going to be this generation’s something. What that is ain’t exactly clear.
Stop. Listen. What’s that sound? Everyone look what’s going down. Yasiel Puig started out bending the baseball to his will. Now he’s suddenly become a guy who is rubbing people the wrong way. Whether it’s this or this, he has shown natural talents for prodigious power, a ridiculous throwing arm and an ability to plunge himself head-long into controversies. All of this leads to one thing: We will refer to Yasiel Puig for quite a while after this. The only question is how?
On the low end? Puig becomes Todd Hollandsworth. Forgot about him didn’t you? He won the 1995 Rookie of the Year over Edgar Renteria, Rey Ordonez, and Jason Kendall. Winning the award usually portends to stardom. Guess what happened? You never thought about him again. He was a good player, but never the potential star you imagine a Rookie of the Year as being. That’s the low-end of what his potential is. What you can imagine him being? I’m pretty sure it’s not what anyone associated with the Dodgers wants to happen. Another of their Rookie of the Year candidates to become a 4th outfielder. At that point, they might settle for him turning into Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez.
The high end is a little scarier to contemplate. For fans of the San Francisco Giants, this is not what you want to happen.
He becomes the best possible version of Vladimir Guerrero. He’s already got the prodigious power and the belief he can hit anything. Add speed and supreme confidence — which according to some borders on arrogance and we can begin to see those comparisons. Keep in mind Vladdy kept the Expos alive and kicking long past the point when their despicable owner wanted to close the doors. He won an MVP, and was thought of for a while as the best player in baseball.
Those are the two roads Yasiel Puig can travel. The low: A life where the baseball cognoscenti wonder if he was just hype and a hot month before people adjusted. The high: A hall-of-fame career with plenty of explosive moments of brilliance.
The only question left to ask is this: Which way does he go?
Miguel Cabrera is looking for an unprecedented second consecutive Triple Crown.
2: Miguel Cabrera is already the greatest modern Detroit Tiger ever, and is well on his way to being the best Detroit Tiger ever.
Quietly, the Detroit Tigers are one of the league’s more well-known franchises. They’ve had great players since their inception. From George Kell and Al Kaline to Ty Cobb and Hank Greenberg, the Tigers have had more than their fair share of baseball royalty at Tiger Stadium. The list is a bit smaller for the Comerica Park Tigers. Up until last season, it started and ended with Justin Verlander. Now, the list includes Miguel Cabrera. He was the best hitter in baseball last year. (Frankly, I still believe Trout was the best all-around player but this is neither the time nor place to have that debate.)
After the year he had — where it seemed like he was bending baseball to his will — you would have been forgiven for assuming he couldn’t have repeated that standard. It’s understandable, really. Usually, a Triple Crown year is understood to be a career’s apex, the best year a player will ever have. It was this way for Mickey Mantle and Frank Robinson. If you thought last year was the best Miggy could offer, it’s not a ridiculous theorem.
Strangely, though, you’re wrong. This year he’s better.
I know everyone is fawning over Chris Davis and with good reason because he’s having a tremendous year. However to be perfectly honest, Miguel Cabrera is having one of the greatest offensive seasons a hitter has ever produced. Think of the ground that covers, everyone from Micky Mantle and Joe DiMaggio to Manny Ramirez and Albert Pujols. Those men are some of the greatest hitters our eyes will ever glimpse and Miguel Cabrera has placed himself firmly within their reach. He’s been that good this year.
Depending on how you choose to feel about any of the seasons Tigers greats Hank Greenberg or Ty Cobb had, it is perhaps the single greatest season of any Tiger. Just look at his slash line. (Slash line is explained as batting average, on-base percentage, slugging percentage.) He’s hitting .365\.458\.674. Those are Bondsian numbers, Ruthian numbers, prime Pujols numbers. If he can keep up this inferno-like pace, he’ll win back-to-back MVP’s. And just like last year, it won’t be as close. This is the Miguel Cabrera Era right now. We’re all just lucky enough to be a part of it.
3: The Future of Baseball is in good hands, despite what the media wants to think.
For some reason, people in the media have started to tut-tut about baseball’s problems. It doesn’t get enough attention from young people for whatever reason. Or because it isn’t football. That’s the main reason if you sit down and think about it. Nothing in sports is football, but you don’t see other sports held to that high standard. But the one that really galls me is “there are no stars in baseball.” This is false, to the point of being a lie.
Take a look just at the position players. Mike Trout is in Anaheim, on the verge of not just being the best outfielder in baseball but maybe the game’s best all-around player. Manny Machado in Baltimore is doing things no O’s fan has seen since the days of Cal Ripken Jr. and maybe even better than that. Yoenis Cespedes in Oakland just obliterated the Home Run Derby and is looking very much like he’s ready for a gigantic second half with the rest of the A’s. Adam Jones is looking like what we all imagined if we gave him enough time — a darkhorse MVP Candidate — who along with the aforementioned Manny Machado is leading a revival of one of the game’s Cadillac franchises.
Meanwhile in the NL, you’ve got Bryce Harper — who’s Robin Yount-ing his way through the league right now (and yes that’s a verb I’m using.) — add Yasiel Puig here. As we discussed earlier, it might be a touch too early for him. Don’t worry though, we still have Carlos Gonzalez, Carlos Gomez, and David Wright as people you’d pay money to see. Or at least you should pay money to see. This list even includes Giancarlo Stanton. If he can get out of the witness protection program that is baseball in Miami. The best part of all of those names I listed? Those are just the HITTERS.
Matt Harvey in NY is on his Doc Gooden right now. Yu Darvish in Texas is trying to top Hideo Nomo as the best pitcher from Asia ever. Chris Sale and Max Scherzer are looking like future aces for their teams. Clayton Kershaw goes without saying of course.
I could keep going on and on listing players until I’m blue in the face. The point is the same: The future of this game is in great hands. Young, supremely talented, hands. The shame of all of this is for whatever reason, it’s a lot harder for people to realize it than we all wish it was. What we saw glimpses of in New York at the All-Star Game is only the beginning. The future isn’t just coming, it’s here. The future is now.