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.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.