LeBron James = Alex Rodriguez

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LeBron James was the most talented player to enter the NBA since Michael Jordan or maybe even since Wilt Chamberlain. Yet he’s now gone eight seasons without winning it all. When his Cavs reached the Finals in 2006-07 and lost to the Spurs, he was absolved of the blame. He was just 22, and his teammates were outclassed.

King James, though, was fairly criticized after the Eastern Conference Finals loss to the Celtics in 2009-10 and he’s getting far worse this time around. His passive play was at times shocking to watch. James should be able to carry a team when he’s on. In the Finals, it looked like he was waiting and hoping someone else would do the heavy lifting.

Alex Rodriguez was the most talented player to enter MLB since Willie Mays or Mickey Mantle? The Babe? No position player can make as much of a difference on the field as a basketball superstar can on the court, but A-Rod was put into a position that allowed him to win right away. His Mariners reached the postseason in his second full season.

Those talented Mariners, though, couldn’t get over the hump. A-Rod took the money and ran to Texas, yet failed to reach the postseason in his three seasons there. After first working to get himself traded to Boston, he ended up with the Yankees instead, making annual postseason visits an expectation.

And A-Rod flopped after an exceptional ALDS against the Twins in his postseason debut with the Yankees in 2004. He struggled in the latter games as the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 deficit to beat the Bombers in the ALCS. Then in the team’s next three postseason series, all losses, he drove in one run in 13 games. Manager Joe Torre went so far as to drop him to the eighth spot in the lineup.

A-Rod finally redeemed himself in 2009, hitting .365 with six homers and 18 RBI in 15 games as the Yankees won the World Series.

LeBron will likely follow a similar path to a championship.  He will have his moment in the sun.  Though it’s worth wondering if he’ll play second banana to Dwyane Wade when it happens.

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.