Philadelphia, PA – It wasn't all that long ago that it seemed certain Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly would be out of a job.
And why not? After a nearly year-and-a-half-long spending frenzy, the Dodgers were among the biggest disappointments in Major League Baseball.
While they still find themselves in the cellar of the National League West, Mattingly seems to have been given a stay of execution ... for the moment anyway.
And there's one person he can thank specifically for that: the uber exciting Yasiel Puig.
The Cuban-born outfielder has been an absolute joy to watch since being called up to the big leagues in early June. He began the weekend hitting .424 with seven home runs and 16 RBI in just 24 games, while playing a relentless style of defense that includes one of the best arms to come around in some time.
Yes, the Dodgers are still in last place and are seven games under .500, but they are only six games back in what seems to be a division very much up for grabs.
Obviously, there has been an uptick in the Dodgers' play since Puig joined the lineup, but still they are only 13-10 with him in the lineup.
Yet that hasn't stopped the Chavez Ravine crowd from serenading him with chants of "M-V-Puig ... M-V-Puig" on an almost nightly basis.
With the amount of coverage he gets, you'd think the Dodgers were unbeaten since he joined them. Considering where they were, though, they'll take it. Regardless, everything just feels different around the Dodgers these days and the Mattingly talk has certainly died down.
And Puig is exactly the reason why.
"You feel this energy ... everything is fast ... this kid is just all fresh, nobody knows what he's going to do next," Mattingly said earlier this week.
The situation almost mirrors what happened in L.A. a year ago with the Angels. Like the Dodgers, the Angels were coming off an offseason that saw them dole out over $300 million in contracts and were off to an awful start.
Manager Mike Scioscia's job may have been a little more secure, given who he is and what he has done, but the whispers were still there that he might be in trouble. But all that changed on a late April night when Mike Trout joined the lineup and became the best young player in baseball, while almost single- handedly leading the team into the playoffs.
Actually, it's probably more reminiscent of another craze that gripped Los Angeles in the early 1980s known as "Fernando Mania" when Fernando Valenzuela made every start at Dodger Stadium an event.
There's now a campaign to get Puig into the All-Star Game. At first thought, it seems ridiculous. Sure, he has been amazing, but when the teams are announced, Puig will have played around 30 games.
It doesn't really seem fair that he'd take a spot from someone who has been there all year. But, then again, this a contest that consistently rewards players who do not deserve to be in the game.
So when you think about it, it's really not that crazy. Remember this is a game for the fans. Who is more exciting at the moment than Puig? At the very least, New York Mets third baseman and NL Home Run Derby captain David Wright should ask him to participate in that event.
Put it this way, Puig is going to be in Flushing one way or another, similar to the way the NBA showcased Jeremy Lin at their All-Star Game in 2012. Lin had only been a factor for a few weeks, yet he was chosen to the Rookie vs. Sophomore Game, would have been part of the Slam Dunk contest had Iman Shumpert not been injured and was given the star treatment with an over-the- top press conference to start the All-Star festivities.
Puig's impact may not be as worldwide as Lin's was, but my guess would be that he somehow finds himself in the "Final Vote," where fans vote on one of five players for the final roster spot in the NL.
Most fans in Los Angeles, though, could probably care less about Puig going to an All-Star Game. They want the Dodgers to keep winning.
And nobody would be happier about that than Donnie Baseball.