Baseball to raise ALS awareness

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Baseball will remember Lou Gehrig tomorrow with a nice gesture:

Major League Baseball will honor the 70th anniversary of Gehrig’s
farewell at 15 games on Saturday, when his speech will be read during
the seventh-inning stretch.

“It’s an honor to pay tribute to this American legend,” Commissioner Bud Selig said in initiating the leaguewide celebration.

The purpose is to raise awareness and money for research of
amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or A.L.S., the incurable neurological
disease that took Gehrig’s life and now commonly bears his name.

Surprisingly, this is baseball’s first real public embrace of ALS as a cause, with tomorrow’s ceremonies only coming about as a result of an article in Newsweek last November.
Then, a law professor named Michael Goldsmith, who himself suffers from
ALS, challenged baseball to raise money and awareness in order to fight
it. To their credit, many individual teams have long focused on the
disease. The Phillies have had ALS-related events before, for example,
as have the Twins, likely due to the fact that Kent Hrbek’s father
succumbed to it early in his playing career. Given the disease’s
unofficial name and famous victim, however — victims, actually, as
Catfish Hunter also suffered from ALS — you’d think that MLB as a
whole would have been out in front of it long ago.

Better late than never, of course, and good for baseball for doing
this. Anyone who lives with ALS or has a loved one who has suffered
from it knows of its insidious nature, so anything that can be done to
raise awareness — or to raise money — to find a cure is most welcome indeed.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.