Things got plunky in the Yankees-Red Sox game

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My musings from yesterday about the Yankees-Red Sox series getting boring still stand, though they probably need to be qualified in light of the fun little dustup in the seventh of last night’s game. No, the John Lackey plunking of Francisco Cervelli wasn’t A-Rod/Varitek or anything, but there was at least some fire there.

The scene: Cervelli hit a homer in the fifth. He doesn’t hit a lot of homers and this one was a blast. So you could understand that Cervelli was a bit enthused about it. He emphatically clapped his hands as he crossed home plate.  John Lackey and catcher Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t much care for it and the very next pitch Cervelli saw went straight into his back. Benches cleared and there was jawing, but no one fought. Probably because these two teams have a lot of old guys on them and no one wants to break a hip.

Lackey, because he doesn’t want to get suspended, says the plunking wasn’t intentional. But the chatter from him and Saltalamacchia after the game suggests otherwise. Lackey said it was “a bit much” and suggested that since Cervelli hadn’t hit a lot of home runs in his career that he doesn’t have room to celebrate.  Saltalamacchia — who is all of 26-years-old — decided to play the “kids today don’t respect nothin'” card:

“As far as the clapping goes, yeah, that could have been a little much. You don’t show anybody up … The game is changing. Younger guys are coming in. I’ve seen it. Elvis Andrus, Alcides Escobar over at short. I mean a lot of guys – the Latin players – that’s the way they play the game. And it’s OK to an extent. But if they go over that, you have to kind of step back.”

He later clarified that he wasn’t singling out Latin players and that he just didn’t speak too artfully. His real point was clear anyway: these kids today are out of control!

To which I offer a hearty “meh.”  Grow the hell up. Cervelli pumps his fist when he gets a good sandwich. He woops it up if he tosses a wadded up piece of paper into a trash can on the first try. If Cervelli gets one more home run in his career it’ll be a gift from the friggin’ gods, so let him have his little moments. It’d be different if he were offering a metaphorical “in your face,” but he wasn’t. He was merely celebrating the fact that, occasionally, he’s able to transcend his basic Francisco Cervelliness.

And like I said in the recaps this morning, if you don’t want guys like that celebrating home runs, don’t let guys like that hit home runs. It’s a skill the rest of baseball has totally mastered when it comes to Frank Cervelli, so it’s not too big a trick.

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.