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Sunday, April 22, 2018

Yasiel Puig merchandise hotter than Manny Ramirez, Hideo Nomo, Fernando Valenzuela

Yasiel PuigLos Angeles has seen its share of international baseball sensations grace the city, but none have invigorated the town as quickly as Yasiel Puig.

The 22-year-old Cuban sensation won NL Player of the Week last week after batting .464 (13-28) with four home runs and 10 RBIs in his first week with the Dodgers. He became the first player in franchise history with 15 hits in his first eight career games, and he is already batting cleanup for the team. But his impact on the Dodgers is much greater than what he’s doing on the field.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the Dodgers sold more Puig merchandise during a four-day span (Thursday-Sunday) than they had for any player ever. The Dodgers say they sold approximately 3,000 units of Puig-related merchandise in that four-day window, including 1,600 T-shirts ($28), 400 “Viva Puig” T-shirts ($28) and 600 jerseys ($225 for the authentic version, $110 for the replicas). That is a ridiculous amount of merchandise, and even crazier when you consider he outsold former LA superstars like Manny Ramirez, Hideo Nomo, and Fernando Valenzuela.

In the ’80s, Valenzuela was a 20-year-old Mexican rookie who came out of nowhere to win Rookie of the Year and the NL Cy Young Award. He helped lead the Dodgers to two World Series that decade, and he invigorated the Mexican fan base and launched an entire “Fernandomania” movement.

In the ’90s, Nomo was a 26-year-old Japanese phenom who made the All-Star team, won the NL Rookie of the Year Award, and led the NL in strikeouts. He attracted a huge Japanese fan base, inspired the Dodgers to sell more Asian cuisine at the stadium, and launched the “Nomomania” movement, which was a takeoff on Fernandomania.

The Dodgers had some great players in between. They had perennial all-star Mike Piazza, whom they traded in 1998. They had Gary Sheffield and Shawn Green, but of whom were all-stars. They even had homegrown Adrian Beltre, who clubbed 48 home runs in 2004. But from the time of Nomomania until Manny Ramirez showed up in LA, the Dodgers didn’t really have that electrifying superstar. Eric Gagne was pretty exciting to watch from 2002-2004, but even he didn’t compare to “Mannywood” taking over LA.

Manny wore jersey No. 99, crushed the ball when he got to LA, and single-handedly made the Dodgers exciting. The team formed promotions around him. They sold Manny hair wigs. They declared the left field area “Mannywood” and sold special tickets for that seating area.

Somehow Puig has managed to become hotter than all of those stars and crazes. In a season where the Dodgers have disappointed amid great expectations, Puig is helping to change things.

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