Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Built For Cuban Links: Yasiel Puig Valdés and the Grand Hype Machine

Summer brings many things- more sunshine, less clothing, and without fail, the summer blockbusters. Big movie studios tread out their big-budget titans midsummer to lure the disposable-income led youth. Year after year, it pays off. Baseball has its yearly tradition as well. The early summer call ups of hyped prospects with nearly insurmountable weight on their shoulders. Sometimes the summer gives us Bryce Harper and Mike Trout. But it's this hype that lessens the impact of non-superstars, simply because the mainstream has come to expect the next blockbuster prospect to be unveiled once June rolls around.

It's my line of thinking that everyone loves spectacle. Every person wants something to cheer for, and sometimes we dig a bit too much for it. This is not to say Yasiel Puig (pronounced Yazzyell Pweeg I believe) is just an average ballplayer. The kid, and I can say that as he was born in 1990, has all the tools to be a superstar. But this afternoon I watched the highlights from his debut, and I couldn't help but be underwhelmed. Yet there were many in the baseball writing universe who felt the need to bill it as a grand, even triumphant, debut. Perhaps it was the condition of the Dodgers, with a payroll well above $200 million, that spurred on the Puig hype. A shot in the arm is what a team in their position needs.

When a summer blockbuster movie is hyped, and the trailer plays ceaselessly on TV all day, the expectation grows. It grows almost to the point where the promotion of the movie is shoved down the collective public's throat so far we expect the movie to change our lives somehow. And then we go. The movie ends, and we talk about it briefly. Maybe recommend it to a friend if it was worthwhile. Maybe even see it again. I saw The Dark Knight in the theater three times. But there isn't a film like that every year. For the casual moviegoer like myself, there must be substantial grounds for me to even step into a theater. Yet every summer I find myself getting sucked into the hype of a flashy half-billion dollar, half-worth-my-ten-bucks movie, of which I have been inundated with promotion for months.

Puig is a solid athlete. His arm is going to be an asset in the Los Angeles outfield. My point is not to undermine him as a potential superstar. He does play minutes from Hollywood after all. I just grow tired of the constant expectation that is placed on the June call ups. If Puig had gone hitless last night with two errors in the field, he would have been cast aside, much like I feel the Will Smith vehicle "After Earth" is/was. But in actuality, he had about as average of a game as can be. Serviceable is an apt term. Time will tell if his career will be worth watching every year. For now, lets step back and let the kid write his own narrative.

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