Is the Wild Horse a Wild Douche Bag?
Haha, I couldn’t resist that title. I did however resist using Puig’s mugshot for the photo at the top of this quick longer than 140 character addition. I can be mean, but I’m not cruel! On with the show…
Puigmania is everywhere and while it appears Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman could beat him out for the fan vote All Star spot, I imagine the usual injuries leading up to the game will occur and Yasiel Puig will land on the NL team. Bud Selig is after all about squeezing every possible cent out of his product, so how can they put on an All Star game with arguably the game’s most popular player not in attendance?
Personally, as I’ve said before, I can’t stand the All Star game. That said, with it “counting” nowadays and the victor league hosting the World Series, I’m intrigued. While still under .500 as of this writing, it’s not inconceivable the Dodgers could make the post-season and with my most optimistic goggles on, represent the NL in the Fall Classic.
Puig’s presence surely would mean the NL has that much better a chance to win the All Star game and therefore – possibly – give the Dodgers home field in the World Series. Does that matter? I don’t know the stats, and am too lazy to look them up, but I think offhand it means a lot. So, any interest at all I have in the All Star game relates to that potential happening.
Since I’m here to talk about everyone’s favorite Dodger, I admit I am here to raise questions – as is my custom. I like to take the unpopular stance in things, which to me is what Dodger Therapy is all about. Any idiot (no offense to any non idiots who fall into this bucket) can sing a player or team’s praises, but it takes a real cantankerous diehard from Vienna to peel the skin off certain subjects
From the very small sample size we’ve all seen, here are some of my initial thoughts on Yasiel Puig…
Amazing talent – a little Bo Jackson, a little Roberto Clemente, a little Raul Mondesi, a little Mickey Mantle, yadda yadda yadda
IF Puig is using something chemical, or even if he’s not, he should be tested. Yes, I want a clean league and am sick of seeing fake things happen on the baseball diamond and pawned off as real. IF Puig cheats, I want to know. I’d love to hear of him being tested – and pass! – as it would mean we just have a monster talent on our hands, not another of Bud’s many pharmaceutically enhanced frauds
I find it amazing he continues to hit over .400 (down from over .500 this spring, haha) and seemingly provide some highlight reel worthy event every single night
I am concerned over some facets of his game, but in his defense he’s a baby. I imagine being that good, that young, and told so everyplace you go must be daunting. If he had his head screwed on more, it would be unnatural. I mean, all of Matt Kemp’s identical looking 18-24 brunette groupies alone have stopped by OSH to make copies of their house key for him
A few of the things that worry me about Puig are his: poor base running, poor fielding, poor discipline at the plate. All of these are apparently linked to two things – his young age; meaning he SHOULD get better, and his crazy energy level. He plays every moment of every game at a ridiculously aggressive pace. He makes Pete Rose, Kirk Gibson, Steve Sax, Jackie Robinson, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, etc. look like they were taking it easy
The base running seems to emanate from doing things – everything – too fast (note to 18-24 year old former Kemp groupies, hold on the trip to OSH?) and not being able to harness that energy. I love the hustle down the line. I love the taking the extra base. I love the notion of scoring from second on an infield hit. I don’t love running us out of innings. I don’t love being thrown out at third with plus .400 hitting Hanley Ramirez at bad. I don’t love going for second, or last night home, when the ball is there long before he is. I don’t love his apparent inability to slide – or disinterest in doing so
The sliding thing is either a fundamental problem (no one taught him to slide in his 22 years?) or more worrisome, a mental glitch. He either doesn’t know he should slide, or is too macho and doesn’t feel he needs to. Sorry, Yasiel – you’re good, maybe great, but it’s still a game with over 100 years tradition and a certain way to play it. Slide when there’s a close play at a base – unless… with the one exception… you have a chance to take out a catcher, like say some little pipsqueak with a funny name up north
Puig’s fielding should concern too. While his crazy ability to run down balls, dive, rob hits, homers, etc. is fantastic and fun to watch, his overzealousness and flawed fundamentals on certain plays is not. Again, this is what, 5-6 weeks? He could just be a wild horse, as the legend says, and being 22, will learn. I want to say I’m sure that’s the case. Unless… it’s not. Overrunning balls, wild throws over cutoff men’s heads, etc. are not smart baseball plays. While they ooh and aah the fans, baseball people in the know chalk them up to mistakes. Kevin Kennedy on Dodger Talk calls them out, so does Vin Scully (Puig delights him and you can tell at times frustrates him), and so do I (great minds!)
When a guy is hitting .400 or more, it’s hard to criticize him. I will criticize Puig’s hitting where it deserves criticism. As Vin says, the game is not this easy. In our short sample size, we’ve seen pitchers, smart ones anyway, adjust. Everyone in the park any given night knows Puig is aggressive, cocky and undisciplined. Everyone understands he will almost always swing at the first pitch. If he doesn’t, he will the second and third. That’s ok, but at some point Puig will get more of what he’s been getting on this road trip – pitches outside the strike zone. Sliders away – well away – fastballs at his eye level and above, in the dirt, whatever. Puig must learn plate discipline and I’m not talking walks, though that would be nice, I guess. I prefer to see him continue to be aggressive, but if an opposing pitcher and manager prefer to offer him nothing, not bite. Take the base and let Adrian Gonzalez, Hanley, etc. do their magic. This is a team game, not the NBA. Puig needs to lay off bad pitches and grow up at the plate. He will not continue to hit over .400 forever
Outside of the various on the field technical aspects of his game, other little things concern me with Puig. His cockiness, which is fun for Dodgers fans to watch, infuriating for other teams’ fans and players, is problematic. I want to be careful because the meat of this article is critical, but I mean it with all due respect as I love watching Puig as much as any of you. I just think in a humbling game, it’s good – as it is in life – to be a humble person. The whole burning bridges analogy
Puig is either cocky and a douche bag or just young and a bit ignorant. There’s also the dollop of being a foreigner in a new country, exposed to a large city, adoring fans, Puigmania, etc., etc. to consider. I just have seen plenty of talented players come along who have personal issues and attitude problems that derail their careers, or at best don’t help. Milton Bradley, Raul Mondesi, Albert Belle being just a few. The reported incident Monday with Luis Gonzalez trying to interview Puig – in Spanish (mentioning his own Cuban roots) – only for Puig to ignore him is telling. Perhaps Puig didn’t care about Luis Gonzalez, or maybe even know who he was. But ignoring a stranger speaking to you in your native tongue – or a 5x All Star, if he did know who Gonzalez was – shows a poor attitude. Big Mac apparently read him the riot act, having witnessed it. So in a short 5-6 week period we’ve had no less than a handful of players and coaches talk to Puig about either fundamental mistakes while playing or his attitude when not. Again, probably youthful indiscretion, but nonetheless waves a red flag
Lest this be considered a Puig bash fest, I again state I have been fascinated with the kid since I heard he was signed by Logan White. I wanted him to break camp this spring, even though I understood he really couldn’t. I lobbied for his call up when injuries mounted and the team sunk into a deep coma. I watch every at bat, everything he does, with as much interest as the 18-24 year old lookalike brunette does (though my motives are different). Puig is a beast. If he’s juiced, he’s still a beast. If he’s clean, he’s a beast beast. But he is not perfect. He has a lot to work on. Sometimes his mistakes hurt the team. He does a lot to excite and to help the team win – and I’d argue he’s the catalyst that kicked the team out of its funk (that and Hanley’s return). But we can be honest and analyze him more fully and note areas that aren’t 100% right
I just hope he’s an enthusiastic Cuban kid adapting to a very fast moving time in his life, and will make all the adjustments necessary to have a Hall of Fame career. I want to see him smile and celebrate, hoisting the World Series trophy/trophies. I can easily see this happening (I day dream a lot).
I don’t think Puig is a bad guy. It’s not a good or bad issue. He seems to be loved by his teammates and respected. That says a lot. But he needs to learn self-control and respect. Logic says he will not be the best player to have ever worn a baseball uniform, so there’s plenty of room for humility. Hell, go take a photo or two with Vin Scully. That would go miles in saying what he’s all about. Much more so than running us out of an inning or swinging at sliders two feet off the plate like a young Adrian Beltre
Puigmania is a lot of fun. It’s like Fernandomania and Nomomania or whatever Manny mania was, but with arroz con pollo and plantains. Here’s to corralling the wild horse – if only a little.