Yasiel Puig marked his one-year anniversary with the Los Angeles Dodgers on June 3. Puig has become the face of the Dodgers in just one year as a major leaguer, which has brought intense highs and lows. But fittingly and ironically, Puig was upstaged by 2014's most high profile rookie, as Jose Abreu and the Chicago White Sox shut down the Dodgers by 4-1.
Puig was the Cuban sensation that took the Dodgers and baseball by storm in 2013, and now Abreu is filling that role with the White Sox this season. The only thing that has interrupted Abreu's path is injury, but his return has gone pretty smoothly. He hit a home run for the second straight game since coming back from the disabled list, which propelled the White Sox to victory over the Dodgers.
In contrast, Puig didn't have an RBI on his big night, although he had a double and two hits. He was lucky to play, however, since he was late for batting practice. Yet manager Don Mattingly cut Puig some slack, although he hasn't always done that when he was late.
Nonetheless, it didn't give the Dodgers a spark, as they were shut down by someone who hadn't won as a starter in two years. Yet Hector Noesi held Los Angeles to five hits and one run over six innings, before the Chicago bullpen took over. As it turned out, Puig and catcher Drew Butera were the only Dodgers to get two hits, while Dee Gordon drove in their only run on a sacrifice fly.
Puig's batting average is now at .343, second only to Troy Tulowitzki in the National League. There have been no signs of a sophomore slump, regardless of any other issues with the unpredictable budding superstar. But for all of Puig's progress and all of Los Angeles's pitching power, the team is still only 31-29 while the rival San Francisco Giants pull away in the NL West.
The more Puig excels, the higher the standards get for both him and the Dodgers. While he keeps hitting a higher ceiling after just one year, Los Angeles has to make sure it rises up with him. However, the White Sox are only 30-30 despite Abreu's 17 home runs in his first 46 major league games -- so it's not just record setting Cuban rookies from the National League who aren't getting support.