NEW YORK — Lost in all the commotion about Yasiel Puig are the trickiest predicaments when it comes to the All-Star game.
Look at that logjam at third base in the American League!
The National League is overloaded with pitchers.
And who in the name of old Jack Murphy Stadium is going to represent the San Diego Padres?
So while the polarizing debate over whether Puig should be selected Saturday is certainly a juicy one, when all is said and done he’ll either have a backup role in the NL outfield or he won’t. The most difficult decisions involve other positions.
Buster Posey or Yadier Molina behind the plate for the NL? Robinson Cano or Dustin Pedroia at second base in the AL?
At the hot corner, Triple Crown winner Miguel Cabrera is having another monster season. OK, he’s the starter for the junior circuit.
But then there’s an overabundance of deserving backups: Tampa Bay’s Evan Longoria, Oakland’s Josh Donaldson, Texas’ Adrian Beltre and Baltimore’s Manny Machado.
“I’m not going to take five third basemen to the All-Star game,” said Detroit’s Jim Leyland, who will manage the American League team July 16 at Citi Field in New York.
So somebody gets left out. Let’s just say it’s Longoria. Then who makes it from the Rays?
Every club must have an All-Star, and rosters are limited to 34 spots — with at least 13 going to pitchers.
So maybe it’s left-hander Matt Moore from Tampa Bay. Pretty good choice. But then a more worthy arm from some other squad gets snubbed.
And on and on.
That’s the maddening part of putting together the puzzle — and the beauty of it all, too. Sizzling baseball arguments in the heat of summer.
“The hardest part is leaving guys off. That’s by far the hardest thing. It goes with the territory when you pick a team. There is more written about the snubs than the guys that make it,” said San Francisco’s Bruce Bochy, the NL manager.
“The toughest positions to pick are on the pitching side. That’s a tough position because there are a lot of guys who’ve had a really good half, both starters and relievers. Maybe outfield is tough, too.”
Several big names were on their way to this All-Star game before injuries derailed them: Troy Tulowitzki, Ryan Braun, Clay Buchholz.
Bryce Harper could fall into that category, though he wasn’t far behind in fan balloting for a starting outfield spot.
For the first time in eight years, Derek Jeter won’t be an All-Star. He’s been sidelined all season following ankle surgery. Yankees teammate Alex Rodriguez (hip) is out, too, but Mariano Rivera figures to make one last appearance.
Other stars are likely to be absent due to disappointing seasons: David Price, Albert Pujols and Matt Kemp, to name a few. But that makes room for impressive newcomers like Chris Davis, Domonic Brown and Paul Goldschmidt.
As for Puig, the Los Angeles Dodgers’ rookie sensation, the uproar over whether he should be included after only one spectacular month in the majors is nothing new.
The same thing happened with Stephen Strasburg three years ago and then Harper last season — although the Washington Nationals’ outfielder had at least had two months under his belt after getting called up in late April.
Harper got in, Strasburg was left out. And both times, the sun came up the next day.
Strasburg pitched his way onto the 2012 team, and that’s how it should happen. Puig is extremely exciting to watch and has all the makings of a perennial All-Star, but let him earn his trip with a legitimate body of work.
Otherwise, he’s taking someone else’s place.
For what it’s worth, here’s a prediction: Puig winds up on the Internet ballot for the final NL roster spot and gets voted in by fans.
And you know what? That’d be just fine.
Rosters will be announced today.
The league that wins gets home-field advantage in the World Series again, which has helped the NL secure three straight championships.