Yasiel Puig excited a city, electrified Dodger Stadium, spurred record merchandise sales and helped the Dodgers to within two victories of their first World Series in 25 years. He ignited a national debate about how to play baseball the right way. He even lent his name to a rock band called "Puig Destroyer" and a rap song called "Yasiel Puig," which he promptly adopted as his walk-up music.
Even with all that, he did not win the National League rookie of the year award on Monday.
Miami Marlins pitcher Jose Fernandez did, picking up 26 of 30 first-place votes. Puig finished second and got the other four first-place votes, with St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Shelby Miller third and Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu fourth.
Puig said he was thrilled for Fernandez, who was born in Cuba but went to high school in Florida. "He worked really hard to achieve this and he pitched extremely well with Miami and he deserved this," Puig told mlb.com, "just as we deserved to be nominated. I am happy for him, that a Cuban won."
Wil Myers of the Tampa Bay Rays won the American League award, ahead of Detroit Tigers shortstop Jose Iglesias and Rays pitcher Chris Archer. Oakland Athletics pitcher Dan Straily placed fourth, with Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck fifth.
Fernandez, 21, spent the entire season with the Marlins, although he pitched only twice in September, and not at all in the season's last three weeks. He was 12-6 with a 2.19 earned-run average, second to Dodgers ace and Cy Young Award favorite Clayton Kershaw. Fernandez also held opponents to a .182 batting average, the lowest among all major league starters.
Puig, 22, started the season at double A. He did not make his major league debut until June 3, less than one year after the Dodgers had signed the Cuban defector, and then only because of an injury to Matt Kemp.
In his first five games, Puig hit four home runs. In his first month, he batted .436, and his 44 hits ranked second all-time for a debut month, behind Hall of Fame member Joe DiMaggio and his 48 hits.
Vin Scully nicknamed Puig "The Wild Horse," for extraordinary if untamed talent at bat, on the bases and in the field. Puig ran so hard he threatened to run over his fellow outfielders while chasing a fly ball, and he threw so strongly that he appeared to consider cutoff men optional.
In the NL Championship Series, Puig flipped his bat and stopped to admire what he thought would be a home run, then saw the ball hit the wall and still had speed to reach third base with a triple — standing up.
Puig finished the regular season with a .319 batting average in 104 games. He hit 19 home runs, stole 11 bases and drove in 42 runs.
Miller, 23, was 15-9 with a 3.06 ERA. Ryu, 26, was 14-8 with a 3.00 ERA.
The Dodgers used more than $100 million of the financial muscle of their new ownership to sign Puig and Ryu. They paid Puig $42 million as a free agent and spent $62 million on Ryu — $26 million to secure negotiating rights from his South Korean team and $36 million to sign him.
Twitter: @BillShaikinCopyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun