On Sunday, the last game in a memorable first month in the big leagues, Yasiel Puig went 4 for 5, with a double and a triple, raising his batting average to .436. The Dodgers' 22-year-old outfielder is already drawing comparisons to Joe DiMaggio, who in his first season with the Yankees hit .323 with 29 homers and 125 RBIs.
Puig is off to a tremendous start, obviously, but the safer parallel is Rockets point guard Jeremy Lin, who became the rage after being thrown into the starting lineup and taking off for the Knicks in 2011-12. Partly because he was an unknown, partly because it was unexpected and largely because he played in New York, it was, in fact, Linsanity.
And it didn't last for long.
Puig, who now has eight homers and 17 RBIs in 27 games, is certain to make a similar U-turn toward the norm. For now, the fans in Los Angeles can't get enough of the Cuban rookie. In fact, there is much to appreciate. The kid deserves praise for putting a much-needed jolt into the Dodgers and for perhaps saving manager Don Mattingly's job.
Just remember that this is baseball, where failure is interrupted by moments of success rather than the other way around. The argument that he deserves a place in the All-Star Game, after 101 at-bats, is ridiculous.
Puig is a specimen at 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds. He's a good hitter, and Lin is a good point guard. There is no disputing the numbers, but let's not get carried away with the 22-year-old just yet. He's had the benefit of seeing good pitches that come with hitting one spot ahead of Adrian Gonzalez. Plus, the scouting report on Puig is incomplete.
The Dodgers signed him to a seven-year deal worth $42 million, a heavy price in exchange for him defecting from his homeland. Not even they would have expected his first month to be so productive, especially after he batted .313 in 40 games in Double A.
ESPN.com examined each of his 44 hits in June, outlining the count, pitch selection and velocity, and the result. The overriding theme revealed a hitter who knows how to handle pitches left over the middle of the plate.
That hardly makes him a star. The same could be said about most big-league hitters. In fact, that's how they reached the big leagues.
The best hitters have two strike zones, the one outlined in the rulebook and their own. The first one changes with maddening frequency from umpire to umpire and game to game.
The second one, his zone, is where he's most likely to hit the ball hard. Pitchers eventually figure out where to throw pitches in their zone, not his zone. That's when it becomes a game.
Puig played against only seven teams in his first month in the big leagues. One was the Yankees in interleague play. The Padres are the only team he has faced twice. He was five for 12 (.416) in the first series and four for 16 (.250) the second time around. He should expect similar results in the next two months.
Simply, he hasn't been around long enough – or built a large enough sample size – for big-league pitchers to identify his weak areas within the strike zone. While the search continues, so does his success. Here's hoping he's enjoying himself. No matter how excited fans get, history suggests it's not going to last for long.
It rarely does.
Briere's return unlikely
Darcy Regier confirmed Tuesday morning that the Sabres are interested in speaking to Danny Briere's agent about the possibility of bringing back their former captain. It makes sense for the Sabres, but how does that work for Briere? He reportedly has more than a dozen teams interested in his services.
Briere would give Buffalo another top-six forward and leader, which is why the Sabres should never have allowed him to walk out of the door in the first place.
Briere has made it clear that he's looking to land with a team that has a chance to win the Stanley Cup. The Sabres are years, possibly many years, from contention.
The only reason Briere would come back is because he loves Buffalo, which he has said repeatedly before and after his departure. Is there a chance he would come back? Yes, but it appears to be slim at best with other teams, such as the Islanders and Predators, in better shape and reportedly ready to make strong pitches.
While Regier saying he's interested in Briere may be true, he must know he has little chance of signing him. If anything, it smells like a weak public-relations move.
Coyotes to Seattle?
The NHL was waiting for a critical vote Tuesday night from the Glendale City Council on a lease agreement that would keep the Coyotes in Jobing.com Arena. If the council approved the 15-year deal worth $225 million, the franchise would remain. If not, it's virtually certain to be headed elsewhere.
So far, the biggest obstacle in completing a sale of the Coyotes has been allowing public funding to be used for a professional sports team.
It's not currently permitted under local government laws. The NHL has controlled the franchise while waiting for public officials and prospective owners to get their acts together.
At some point, and perhaps soon, the NHL will run out of patience and open the door for the Coyotes to relocate. Las Vegas, Portland, Kansas City and Quebec City are among many cities that have long been mentioned as possible destinations. The one that makes the most sense is Seattle.
It's a major sports market in the Northwest with three teams, which should make for an easy sell for the NHL. Hockey should be an easy sell for the fans.
“Since the new CBA came into being, NHL teams have spent a total of $97.9 million on compliance buyouts to players to not play for them.” – @thnkencampbell
52 – Years between the Nationals-Braves game May 2, which aired Sunday in Cuba, and the last Major League game shown on television in the Communist country.
1 – Current NBA player who has scored 25,000 points and grabbed 13,000 rebounds, which Celtics center Kevin Garnett will take with him to Brooklyn.
3 – Major titles won this season by Inbee Park, who captured the U.S. Open after winning the Kraft Nabisco and LPGA Championship.
• Recent rumblings had the Flyers interested in goaltender Tim Thomas, who is set to become an unrestricted free agent. He sat out the 2012-13 season to spend more time with his family. The Islanders traded for him to be in compliance with the $44 million salary floor in the collective bargaining agreement. Philly could also bring back Ray Emery.
• You never know with Dwight Howard, but the Rockets are doing their best to sign the unrestricted free agent. They had Hall of Famers Hakeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler working on Howard, selling the idea that he and James Harden could win a title the way they did. If money is the biggest issue, Howard will stay in Los Angeles.
• Give the Leafs credit for acquiring Jonathan Bernier and Dave Bolland through trades before and during the NHL Draft. Bernier should provide stability in net and Bolland is a gritty player and leader.