The Los Angeles Dodgers have an elephant in the room and his name is Yasiel Puig.
Two summers ago he stepped foot into Dodger Stadium and set the Ravine on fire. He joined a languishing team that couldn’t get out of its own way and was in need of a healthy dose of 5-hour energy. What they got was a raw, young Cuban baseball player that hit everything in sight and didn’t stop hitting until the season ended. His jolt of energy helped propel the Dodgers to an amazing 42-8 record over an 8-week stretch and saw them surge into the NL West lead and eventually the division title.
With Puig came challenges, he was nick-named the “wild horse” by our beloved Vin Scully because he ran wild on the bases and didn’t seem to care what the third base coach wanted him to do, Puig just did. His Dave Parker like arm threw missiles from the outfield, pegging runners who were trying to take the extra 90-feet, but occasionally he completely missed the cut-off man and runners would get the extra 90. We all over-looked his lack of judgement at the plate. It was hard to criticize a guy squaring up so often, but with two strikes he never shortened his swing to either extend at bats or simply live to see another day. It was either outhouse or penthouse with Puig and Dodger fans were living on the top floor and had caviar dreams.
2014 was not a horrible year for Puig. He hit .296 with a .380 on base percentage but he fell into a tailspin at the end of the year and the much maligned former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly bench him in the playoffs. On one hand it was surprising, Puig came into Spring Training woefully out of shape and never really shed the excess pounds. When you really delved into the numbers his high strikeout numbers were not going to serve the Dodgers well against a Cardinal team where situational baseball was at a premium. Puig had some awful at-bats in the post-season and he seemed completely lost as the Dodgers were once again unceremoniously shown the door by St. Louis.
During 2014 we start hear rumblings about Puig having issues with teammates. The “issues” seem to revolve around Puig’s inability to get along with fellow Dodgers. Molly Knight’s amazing chronicle of the 2014 season in her book “The Best Team Money Can Buy” highlights numerous instances where Puig alienated himself from the team and got into skirmishes with those in Dodger Blue. There was the altercation with Justin Turner where teammates had to hold them back and then the most famous run-in came with former Dodger Zack Greinke. The Dodgers were stuck in traffic heading from the airport in Chicago to their hotel. During this traffic jam, Puig angrily got off the bus, tired of waiting and lifted the cargo bay looking for his luggage. Ignoring pleas from his teammates to close the bay, Greinke got off the bus, found Puig’s luggage and tossed into the middle of Michigan Avenue. Puig and Greinke needed to be restrained.
Fast forward to 2015. A year I like to classify as the lost year for Puig. He played in only 79 games. Pulled his hamstring twice. He was still overweight. His average sunk to .255. He struck out in roughly 23 percent of his at-bats and he had become a shell of what we knew him to be. Puig defender’s cite how difficult it is to acclimate to the American way of life after living on crumbs in Cuba. I won’t discount this. The problem is that we are now in year three, moving on to year four in the Dodger-Puig tenure and I don’t see a player who is an asset to the organization. I don’t see a player who understands responsibility to team. I don’t see a player who wants to get better. He keeps making the same mistakes on and off the field. Whether he is flailing away at a two-strike breaking ball out of the zone or is driving 120 miles per hour in South Florida, it’s simply the same crap on a different day.
His act has grown tiresome.
The entitlement crowd feels it is OK that he is still trying to grow up. They constantly make excuses for him; whether he is speeding through a stop light or a third base coach’s stop sign.
They see him as a wayward young man who deserves the patience of a fan base that is hungry for a championship but must continue to watch the “wild horse” play the game the way HE sees fit.
Chemistry matters in baseball. Puig’s periodic table is toxic.
I loved Yasiel Puig. He was fresh, new, exciting, rambunctious and played the game with a hunger that was infectious. He seemed angry with the world while playing at an “all systems go” level on the baseball field and we were angry with people who ridiculed and criticized him. I spent the better part of two years defending Puig against all comers because he was MY guy, he was OUR guy. I can’t defend him anymore.
I just don’t believe this union should continue. Whether it’s a recent scrape in a Miami hot spot or his continued lack of professionalism as a teammate I think it’s time to sell-low and rid the organization of this prima donna player who slowly chisels away at the fabric of the unit.