The “Yasiel Puig is a cancer” narrative is back for the new year

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Bill Plaschke is back to his favorite beat: Yasiel Puig is out of control! He needs a major attitude adjustment! Someone think of the children! Too much there to even begin blockquoting the best bits, so go give it a read.

The best part of it all is Plaschke’s dismissal of anything that interferes with or contradicts his angle of attack. Manager Don Mattingly says “Puig and I are fine,” Plaschke says no they’re not. He accuses the front office of putting a leash on Mattingly’s comments critical of Puig, the front office strenuously denies it, and Plaschke says he doesn’t believe them. Plaschke says veterans are getting angry at Puig, but doesn’t get a quote to that effect, even anonymously.

Which isn’t to say that Plaschke’s broad points are wrong. I think it’s pretty clear that Puig has maturity issues. I also think it’s pretty clear that, at times, he has gotten on Mattingly’s nerves. I find it funny, though, that Plaschke’s general point — Puig is valuable when he’s hitting but isn’t when he’s not — is some unique or newsworthy point. Or why that analysis isn’t made about every other player, for whom it is also true. Or how Puig’s problems are different or more extreme than any other famously frustrating personalities in baseball. And, with a big, big respectful nod to Jorge Arangure’s column from last October, there is no escaping the fact that almost every controversy about deportment in baseball involves Latino players allegedly doing things the wrong way. And being told by non-Latinos that they need to shape the hell up. It’s pretty damn old.

It would be great for the Dodgers if Yasiel Puig immediately turned into Stan Musial, personality-wise. But it would also be great if, in the highly likely event that does not happen, someone actually tries to figure out if maybe Puig’s presence on the Dodgers isn’t a net positive. Or, at the very least, makes an effort to determine how negative his problems truly are to a professional baseball team rather than merely posit that the guy is a cancer.

Joey Votto thinks he can win the Home Run Derby, but hasn’t been invited yet

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Despite having hit at least 20 home runs in eight of his 11 seasons in the majors, Reds first baseman Joey Votto has never participated in a Home Run Derby. Currently, he’s tied for the National League lead in home runs with 20, and he hasn’t been invited to this year’s festivities at Marlins Park.

In the event he is invited, Votto said he thinks he can win it, C. Trent Rosecrans of the Cincinnati Enquirer reports. Votto likened himself to Ichiro Suzuki, a player known more for his contact abilities and mastery of the strike zone than power. “Just think of me as the Canadian Ichiro — Japan has theirs and Canada has theirs,” Votto said. “I could pull homers into the seats at will.”

Along with the 20 homers, Votto is currently hitting .306/.419/.601 with 53 RBI, and 52 runs scored in 313 plate appearances.

Teammate Scott Schebler also has 20 home runs at the moment and Adam Duvall, who made it to the semifinals of the Derby last year, has 16. Neither of them have been approached about participating in the Derby, either. Per Rosecrans, in the event each was invited, Duvall said he would consider participating if he wasn’t an All-Star and Schebler would participate regardless. Votto said he would only participate if he made the All-Star team.

There was apparently some miscommunication between Pete Mackanin and Pat Neshek

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The Phillies won their first game since last Thursday, beating the Cardinals 5-1 on Thursday afternoon. Starter Aaron Nola pitched into the eighth inning, but left with one out. Pat Neshek took the mound with a runner on first base and induced an inning-ending double play on a 3-1 count to Tommy Pham.

Given that Neshek only threw five pitches and the Phillies were staked to a four-run lead, it wouldn’t have seemed unreasonable if the sidewinding right-hander came back out to finish the ninth inning as well. But Luis Garcia had that honor, tossing a scoreless final frame to nail down the win in a non-save situation.

After the game, manager Pete Mackanin said he asked Neshek to go back out for the ninth, but Neshek didn’t want to, per Stephen Gross of the Morning Call. Neshek told the media that Mackanin never asked him. There was also a miscommunication on Wednesday. The combination of Joaquin Benoit, Hector Neris, and Edubray Ramos combined to allow four runs in 2 1/3 innings, helping the Phillies lose 7-6. Neshek never appeared. According to Mackanin, Neshek told him that he wasn’t available to pitch. Neshek said he was told he’d have the day off.

The disconnect between Mackanin and Neshek could speak to a larger divide between the manager and his failing team. The Phillies have underwhelmed across the board due to players like Odubel Herrera (whose head was down and did not see Juan Samuel’s stop sign last night in what became a base running blunder), Maikel Franco, Jerad Eickhoff, Vince Velasquez, Aaron Nola (today’s start notwithstanding), and Hector Neris not living up to expectations. The Phillies signed Mackanin to a contract extension last month, but the team has completely fallen apart since then and the latest communications issues certainly don’t reflect well on him. Neither does last night’s travesty of a game.

As for Neshek, he said that going to the Phillies was “the best thing that happened to me in a few years” but also realized, given the state of the team, that it remains very likely he winds up in a new uniform by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. After Thursday’s performance, Neshek is carrying a 0.63 ERA with a 25/4 K/BB ratio in 28 2/3 innings. He very well could be the Phillies’ lone representative at the All-Star Game in Miami next month. That is, if he’s still wearing their uniform. Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Nationals have shown interest in Neshek.