Bench Yasiel Puig? Really?

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When things are going as well for you as they are for the Dodgers, I suppose it’s understandable when people start looking for nits to pick. Today Jon Paul Morosi of Fox has decided that it’s time for the Dodgers to bench Yasiel Puig because of his mental lapses. After acknowledging how good Puig is overall and how fun he is to watch play, Morosi says …

… if I were a Dodgers fan, I’d be nervous about Puig in October. He’s as likely to cost the Dodgers a playoff game with a needless mistake as he is to win one on a walk-off home run. For a while, Puig’s frequent fundamental lapses were forgivable. Airmailed cutoff men and unnecessary outs on the basepaths were accepted as part of The Puig Show. Besides, he was saving the season. Let him be.

No more.

He notes that Don Mattingly and his coaching staff have tried to work on fundamentals with Puig but it hasn’t taken yet and that perhaps he needs a message sent to him.

I guess I see his point about the fundamentals — Puig has not played baseball in the U.S. very long and it’s likely the case that his obscene amount of natural talent has gotten him pretty darn far so far.  But I feel like that’s the case with a lot of players. Manny Ramirez messed that stuff up for his entire career but was always valuable.

More to the point: every player has some flaw that could cost their teams. Puig’s may seem more correctable because it’s something which could be worked on with practice, but it’s no more dangerous to his team’s chances than playing fundamentally-sound but nowhere nearly as talented players in his stead. Or to risk messing with Puig’s abundant confidence and aggressiveness which, so far anyway, have been a greater strength to the young, inexperienced man than his flaws have been a weakness.

The Dodgers have a big lead and there’s time and room to work with Puig between now and the postseason. And of course they should continue to work with him. But I wouldn’t mess with a good thing. I wouldn’t make a show of benching him. Turning a small problem into a big one that dominates the airwaves and newspapers while L.A. plays out the next month or so and prepares for the playoffs.

Let the kid be. He’ll figure it out. And if he doesn’t: he’s still the best thing you’ve got and one of the biggest reasons the Dodgers are in first place to begin with.  For now this is a solution in search of a real problem.

Mets to move Matt Harvey to the bullpen

Matt Harvey
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Mets right-hander Matt Harvey is heading to the bullpen, according to comments made by club manager Mickey Callaway on Saturday. As predicted, Harvey doesn’t appear to be taking the news particularly well, going so far as to tell Callaway that the decision has him “at a 10 with being pissed off” and that he’s motivated to prove himself as a starter.

It’s been rough going for Harvey this spring. After missing significant time to a shoulder injury last season, the 29-year-old righty returned to the mound with a lot left to prove. He pitched to an 0-2 record in four starts, issuing 14 runs, four home runs and 17 strikeouts in 21 innings. It’s been a while since the Mets have seen anything better out of their starter — he hasn’t turned in a sub-4.00 ERA since 2015 and hasn’t pitched well enough to earn an All-Star berth since 2013 — and now it appears they’re at the end of their rope.

At this point, the Mets insist that the shift is a temporary one. While Callaway has helped successfully convert several starters to the bullpen, including Trevor Bauer and Carlos Carrasco, that’s not the plan for this veteran right-hander. Instead, both the team and Harvey seem to view the change as a way to clear up any mental blocks Harvey may be encountering on the mound. “We know he’s healthy,” assistant GM John Ricco told reporters. “He’s feeling good. Then you get to, is this a little bit of a mental thing, a confidence thing? One of the things we talk about is getting him into the ‘pen, where he can have success in short spurts, get that confidence back and really let it go and get back to being a guy who can dominate the way he’s shown in the past.”

Harvey will be eligible to pitch out of the bullpen on Tuesday, when the Mets are scheduled to kick off their next road series against the Cardinals. As for his replacement, left-hander Jason Vargas will resume his role in the rotation when he comes off the disabled list next Saturday.