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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.

Cubs extend Pedro Strop through 2018

CLEVELAND, OH - OCTOBER 25:  Pedro Strop #46 of the Chicago Cubs reacts during the sixth inning against the Cleveland Indians in Game One of the 2016 World Series at Progressive Field on October 25, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reported over the weekend that the Cubs and reliever Pedro Strop agreed to a contract extension. He’ll remain with the Cubs through 2018 and the new deal includes a club option for the 2019 season as well. Per Mark Gonzales of the Chicago Tribune, Strop will earn $5.85 million in 2018 and the club option is worth $6.25 million with a $500,000 buyout. The two sides already avoided arbitration earlier this month, agreeing on a $5.5 million salary for the 2017 season.

Strop, 31, has been a very reliable reliever for the Cubs over the last three years. He has a combined 2.65 ERA with 212 strikeouts and 69 walks over 176 1/3 innings in that span of time.

The Cubs replaced Aroldis Chapman with Wade Davis, so Strop and Hector Rondon will be bridging the gap to Davis this coming season.

Strop joined the Cubs along with Jake Arrieta in the July 2013 trade that sent Steve Clevenger and Scott Feldman to the Orioles. That trade panned out well for the Cubs.

Video: John Axford discusses 2017 Oscar picks

MILWAUKEE, WI - JUNE 08:  John Axford #61 of the Oakland Athletics throws a pitch during the seventh inning of a game against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park on June 8, 2016 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
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Sure, it may feel gimmicky to go around asking players to make predictions for the Academy Awards, but when it comes to the Athletics’ John Axford, he knows what he’s talking about. The right-hander has a proven track record of making near-perfect ballot predictions, getting 14 of 15 winners correct in 2013, 18 of 18 in 2014, 17 of 24 in 2015 and 17 of 24 again in 2016.

With a range of award-worthy films to choose from this year, Axford selected the crowd-pleasing (and record-breaking seven Golden Globe winner) La La Land for Best Picture, Manchester By the Sea‘s Casey Affleck for Best Actor and “the sweetheart of Hollywood,” Emma Stone, for Best Actress.

His full ballot was released to Twitter on Saturday, locking in La La Land for eight total Oscars. Going a perfect 24-for-24 might be a near-impossible feat, but if anyone can pull it off, Axford’s the one to do it.