Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider has a nice perspective-inducing article today. He spoke with baseball historians John Thorn and Rob Neyer about Yasiel Puig and they noted how the sort of criticism he gets — “He’s unschooled! He’s undisciplined! He’s disrespectful” — is in keeping with a long, long baseball tradition. Indeed, some of baseball’s all-time greats got the same treatment.
Thorn on Ted Williams, who used to take practice swings in the outfield and didn’t adhere to the codes of the day about who talked to whom and how:
“He was thought to be nearly demented. He was absolutely in his own head. … Because we hold Williams in such reverence today, those who don’t have a grasp of the full history of the man will not recognize that he was made fun of when he was brought in.”
Neyer on Ruth:
“. . . the winter after the Red Sox traded him to the Yankees, the Reach Guide, which was the bible of the American League at this point, referred to Ruth as an undesirable and uncontrollable player and basically editorialized that the Red Sox were smart to get rid of him and the Yankees were stupid to pick him up. … The biggest issue was that he didn’t seem to care what the established rules of the game were, and he tried things that hadn’t been tried before.”
None of which is to say that Puig will be a Hall of Famer — it’s ridiculously early to say such things — but if he does become one, the start of his career and the treatment he gets from some quarters will have been in keeping with that experienced by many Hall of Famers who came before.