Say hello to my little (but also really big, fast, and strong) friend!
My friend is Yasiel Puig, and he is the latest phenom to hit Major League Baseball.
If Puig looks and plays a lot like someone you may remember from the 1980s, let me hit you with one of my all-time favorite Nike campaigns to spark your memory. Does “Bo Knows” spark any memories?
Sadly, I was too young to watch Bo Jackson captivate the world with his god-like athletic ability and his amazing talent. However, I have seen plenty of the YouTube highlight videos to know that “Bo Knows.”
Twenty years later, a new kid on the block is causing baseball fans across the globe to wonder if “Puig Knows” too.
Although Yasiel Puig is only a one-sport athlete (it would be fascinating to see what he can do with a football in his hands), he is being compared with the likes of arguably the greatest athlete to ever walk this Earth: Bo Jackson.
Even though Puig and Jackson have made their claims to fame with their god given talent, their paths to stardom are quite different.
Originally, Jackson’s first sport wasn’t even baseball. Jackson played college football and baseball at Auburn, where he became the most decorated athlete the school has ever seen. After winning the 1985 Heisman Trophy as a senior and being selected #1 overall in the 1986 NFL Draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Bo decided to walk away from what looked like a sure Hall-of-Fame football career. Instead, he decided to pursue a baseball career with the Kansas City Royals.
While playing for the Royals, Bo became a highlight sensation and a game-changing athlete. He became a full fledged superstar the moment he hit a lead off home run in the 1989 All-Star game. He was named MVP of the game, and from there, his legacy only began to grow.
After the 1987 baseball season, Jackson decided to join the Oakland Raiders midway through the NFL season, famously saying that anything that’s not baseball is considered a “hobby.”
Sadly, Jackson’s career was derailed by injuries. He was out of both baseball and football by the end of the 1994 season. However, his impact on American sports and his persona as the greatest athlete to ever live has carried on long after his professional days. Bo has become the standard for elite athletes to compare themselves to. In almost every case, even the greatest athletes of today’s standards fall short of Bo’s legacy.
On June 3, 2013, the Los Angeles Dodgers were in crisis mode. Tanking towards the bottom of the NL West, it all but seemed like Dodgers manager Don Mattingly was headed to the can as the team was looking at another disappointing season. Safe to say, the Dodgers were desperate for a spark.
In comes Yasiel Puig, a 22 year-old Cuban defect with only 63 games of Minor League experience. But don’t be deceived by the inexperience.
At 6’3” 245lbs, he looks like NFL running back. He has the legs of a body builder, combined with the upper-body strength of a pro-wrestler. A hero the Dodgers didn’t deserve, but desperately needed.
Since being called up to the big leagues, Puig has absolutely torn the ball to shreds. In just 36 games, he is batting .397 with an incredible 58 hits (not to mention eight home runs as well).
But it’s not just his hitting that’s deadly; his arm might as well be a cannon too. He’s throwing guys out at third base from all the way in deep right field (see below). He’s stretching singles into doubles. He’s stealing bases. Robbing home runs too. You name it, Puig’s done it.
But most importantly, Puig has helped the Dodgers get right back into contention heading into the All-Star break. Once last in the NL West, the Dodgers stand just 1.5 games out of first place.
Puig is just the latest wave of young talent making a name for himself with his incredible play. Like so many other young guys coming into the big leagues now, you have to appreciate the attitude he brings to the game. Puig, along with young stars Bryce Harper and Mike Trout, are the type of guys that can revitalize baseball with their work ethic and passion for the game. Their edge and sometimes-arrogant play may anger some fans, but it’s exactly what the game needs.
Thirty-six games into a guy’s career, it’s not right to start comparing Puig to the mythical legend of Bo Jackson. But it wouldn’t be sports if we didn’t begin to make note of their similarities and differences.
When Bo broke into the big leagues, the caliber of athlete was nothing compared to what it is now. Bo Jackson was a transcending athlete in more ways than one. His training, his preparation, and his pure talent were something no one had quite seen before.
Puig is sensational. He is a spectacle to see. If you haven’t seen what this kid can do, I’ll save you the trouble of searching the Internet to find his highlight tape.
But lets settle down a bit. A month of big league baseball isn’t enough for me to buy in to Puig Nation.
Puig has had an incredible start to his career, but the dark days of the long MLB season have yet to set in the rookie. There’s no doubt in my mind, “Puig Knows,” but does he really know like “Bo Knows?”