Puigmania is over. It’s old news. Could there be any better illustration than the fact that Freddie Freeman beat out Yasiel in a popularity contest this week?
It’s OK, though. White Sox catcher Josh Phegley is the new big thing. He hit a grand slam Thursday in the White Sox’s 6-3 win over the Tigers, giving him three homers in his first five games.
The 25-year-old Phegley is the 29th player in major league history to hit three homers in his first five games. Only Mike Jacobs and Puig have managed four. Other recent players to hit three include Manny Machado, Yoenis Cespedes, Will Middlebrooks and Yasmani Grandal.
Phegley’s eight RBI through five games is tied for the 10th highest total in big league history. Jack Merson, Danny Espinosa and Puig had 10 RBI through five games. Hall of Famer Paul Molitor is among the players with nine.
A 2009 supplemental first-round pick out of Indiana, Phegley took a big step forward by hitting .316/.368/.597 with 15 homers in 231 at-bats for Triple-A Charlotte prior to his callup last week. He hit just .266/.306/.373 with six homers in 394 at-bats last year for the same team. While this year may prove to be something of a fluke for him offensively, he has overtaken Tyler Flowers in the White Sox’s plans, and he’s probably going to be the team’s primary catcher going forward.
Now if only Salvador Perez will back out so we can get him on the All-Star team where he belongs.
Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.
It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.
Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:
He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.
“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”
The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.