Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has been a lightning rod for criticism since making his major league debut on June 3 last season. He has upset several pitchers — along with plenty of writers, commentators, and fans — for flipping a bat. Sometimes on home runs, sometimes not. Puig has also made some fundamental errors defensively and on the bases.
Puig has also been, without question, one of the best players in baseball over the last two seasons. He’s tied with Mike Trout and Chris Davis for the third-best weighted on-base average (wOBA) since the start of 2013 at .412. The league average is .314. His 6.6 Wins Above Replacement, per FanGraphs, is tied for 17th-best with David Wright despite having the lowest amount of playing time among those in the top-20.
Puig doesn’t seem bristled by people who ignore his talents to focus on other details. Via MLB.com’s Paul Hagen:
“It’s my style. It’s the way I’ve played baseball for a long time. I don’t really worry about the other team or what other players think about me, other than our team,” he said. “As far as what other people think, I try to play the game hard and I try to play the game happy. I want to have a good time when I’m playing. This is a game of entertainment. I don’t play it to offend people. But I do have a good time playing the game of baseball.”
Puig made a ridiculous circus catch on Thursday night against the Mets. It’s a catch few outfielders past or present make. He’s fun to watch, and it’s fun to watch him having fun. Many hate the athletes who are clearly in it for the money, but then they turn around and try to ostracize one of the few players who is demonstrably having a good time out there. It’s tough to understand.
It’s can’t be easy being a Mets fan. Your team plays in the biggest city in America and should, theoretically, have big payrolls and always be in contention. They aren’t, however, partially because of horrendous luck and ill-timed injuries, partially because of poor baseball decisions and partially because the team’s ownership got taken down by a Ponzi scheme that, one would think anyway, sophisticated businessmen would recognize as a Ponzi scheme. We’ll leave that go, though.
What Mets fans are left with are (a) occasional windows of contention, such as we saw in 2014-16; (b) times of frustrating austerity on the part of ownership when, one would hope anyway, some money would be spent; (c) an inordinate focus on tabloidy and scandalous nonsense which just always seems to surround the club; and (c) a lot of disappointment.
You can file this latest bit under any of or many of the above categories, but it is uniquely Mets.
Team president Jeff Wilpon spoke to the press this afternoon about team payroll. In talking about payroll, David Wright‘s salary was included despite the fact that he may never play again and despite the fact that insurance is picking up most of the tab. Wilpon’s comment:
I’m guessing every team has a line item, someplace, about the costs of insurance. They’re businesses after all, and all businesses have to deal with that. They do not talk about it as a barrier to spending more money on players to the press, however, as they likely know that fans want to be told a story of hope and baseball-driven decisions heading into a new season and do not want to hear about all of the reasons the club will not spend any money despite sitting in a huge market.
This doesn’t change a thing about what the Mets were going to do or not do, but it does have the added bonus of making Mets fans roll their eyes and ask themselves what they did to deserve these owners. And that, more than almost anything, is the essence of Mets fandom these days.