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Submitted by Jim Hurley on Wednesday, July 3, 2013 at 7:00 PM

The Yasiel Puig story in Los Angeles has quickly become a big deal in Major League Baseball. It combines several elements that the mainstream media just eats up:

*It’s about a home run hitter…and the media has been desperate to worship a slugger since the steroid scandal helped clean up the game. Apparently the ONLY thing reporters love about baseball is the fact that big guys hit home runs every so often.

*It’s about a foreign import. Amazing how the media will go crazy if a guy from Cuba or Japan starts putting up numbers right away. They think they’re covering a global story and over-react.

*It’s happening in Los Angeles, which isn’t quite the national media center New York is…but is clearly second or third best. You get the natural “Hollywood story” references whenever something big happens in tinsel town. This could be Fernando-mania all over again.

*It’s created some debate…and ESPN now LOVES debate! Should Puig be on the All-Star team? Or, has playing an abbreviated slate (the Dodgers held him out two months because they could get the most out of his contract that way) eliminated him from consideration. There’s got to be a DEBATE!

If you’re a serious sports bettor and handicapper, you need to ignore as much of the nonsense as you can, and focus on the bottom line. Will Yasiel Puig make you money? Has he turned the Dodgers into a serious contender? Have Vegas oddsmakers reacted as well as they should have to his incredible first month of action. What’s most likely to happen the rest of the season?

Some facts for you to ponder:

*Heading into Tuesday Night’s game at Colorado, the LA Dodgers were 16-11 in the games Puig started. That may not seem like a juggernaut in the making. But, this is baseball, where parity rules. A 16-11 mark is the same winning percentage as 96-66 for a full 162-game season. You’re hearing a lot about Puig’s individual numbers. You’re not hearing that he may have turned the Dodgers into a 95-100 win team!

*The Dodgers have established recent superiority in their division. With Puig they went 4-3 against San Diego, swept San Francisco, and took the first game of this series in Colorado. That’s not a lot of samples. And, they did lose a home series to Arizona during a lull. But, Arizona’s been in a long slump outside of that. You can make a pretty good case right now that the Dodgers are the best team in the NL West. They can win this division by default if they keep playing well.

*The markets haven’t reacted very aggressively. Some pitchers in the Dodgers rotation don’t get much respect. And, big baseball bettors tend to be skeptical about hot streaks. We can assure you that no Vegas sharps think Puig is a .400 hitter who’s going to make everyone forget Ted Williams. They’re trying to determine how far Puig will fall as he cools off. Sharps are trying to figure that out…oddsmakers are trying to figure that out…and YOU should be trying to figure that out too!

Right now, Puig has the element of surprise going for him. Pitchers haven’t figured out how to throw to him yet. They probably will. He’s not drawing walks now….which means his on-base percentage will take a big hit once the league gets a book on him. Your ability to make money from this phenomenon will largely depend on your ability to read how that storyline develops.

If Puig is going to settle in as a true star, then the Dodgers are suddenly the best team in their division and one of the best in their league. If Puig is going to crash…well, the team was 23-32 without him! They’re going to fall back to “irrelevant” status quickly.

JIM HURLEY will be watching this situation every closely. The Dodgers finish up their three-game series in Colorado Thursday Night before flying to San Francisco for a series against the collapsing Giants (worst team in the National League the past month, and the victim of a no-hitter Tuesday!). A trip to Arizona is up next…which means that Puig and company will have a chance to make a dramatic divisional statement before the All-Star Break.

You can see if Dodgers/Rockies made the July Fourth cut right here at the website. Be sure to take care of business EARLY because there are so many day games for the holiday. If you have any questions about baseball or football, call us in the office at 1-800-323-4453.

Back with you Friday for a special series preview (Boston/LAA, Detroit/Cleveland, Baltimore/NYY are under consideration). Then, it’s back to college football previews Saturday and Sunday as we take a look at the Mid-American Conference. Mid-Majors will continue up to baseball’s All-Star Break. Then we’ll jump to the SEC and the majors when baseball takes a few days off.

Join us every day in the NOTEBOOK for handicapping information. Link up with JIM HURLEY’S NETWORK Thursday for BIG, JUICY JULY FOURTH WINNERS!

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