Yasiel Puig

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Yasiel Puig exits game after colliding with Howie Kendrick


UPDATE: According to Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA, Puig was hit in the neck/throat area and left as a precaution. He’s expected to be fine.

11:44 p.m. ET: Scary moment in Thursday’s exhibition game between the Dodgers and Angels, as Yasiel Puig was forced to exit in the top of the fifth inning after colliding with teammate Howie Kendrick.

Both players were going after a pop-up in shallow right field and Puig appeared to take an elbow/forearm to the face from Kendrick as they crossed paths. Puig was down for a couple of minutes before walking off the field with a trainer. Chris Heisey replaced him in right field.

Hopefully his exit was precautionary, but we’ll pass along an update when it’s made available.

Here’s video of the collision between Puig and Kendrick:

Jimmy Rollins says blue-collar Philadelphia is not “conducive to a superstar”

Jimmy Rollins Getty

FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal sat down with Dodgers shortstop Jimmy Rollins (it still feels weird writing that) to discuss a wide range of topics, including how he’s adjusting to his new team and a look back at his time with the Phillies. The entire interview is worth a read.

Rollins was a second-round pick of the Phillies in 1996 and played 15 seasons in Philadelphia, so he essentially grew up there and experienced the bad and the good and the bad again. He told Rosenthal that he “loved” playing in the city and it made him what he is today, but it also sounds like he has a load off his back.

Q: What do you feel like now that you no longer are in Philly?

Free. I feel like I’m free to be myself without someone on my shoulder. Obviously, everyone has parameters and limits. You have to play within the boundaries. But when you’re a leader, rules are a little different for you. When you’re a superstar, rules are a little different. You’re held to a higher standard, which I love. But it brings added pressure. Which I love. But if someone buds, let ’em bud. Instead of trying to keep ’em within this framework. Just let ’em be who they are at that moment.

The general area, the city (of Philadelphia) being blue-collar, it’s not conducive for a superstar. You can be good, but you’ve got to be blue-collar along the way, keep your mouth shut, just go and work. Where obviously, this is L.A. It’s almost like it’s OK to be more flamboyant. You kind of appreciate that the more you’re out there. Because L.A. loves a star.

So in that sense, I feel free. If I want to “show out” a little bit – from the outside looking in, people might say, “You’re in Hollywood.” But no, in some places you couldn’t do that.

I think most fans like in Philadelphia like good players and players who win. Rational ones, anyway. So they aren’t too different from other places. It’s a very tough place to play, similar to other East Coast cities like New York and Boston, but I grew up watching Allen Iverson and he’s beloved there. Los Angeles might be a place where a flamboyant player is more likely to be embraced, but as we see regularly with Yasiel Puig, the criticism is still there too. The main difference for Rollins now is that he was looked as one of the faces of the franchise in Philadelphia and now he can fade into the background with this team. That’s probably a nice change of pace for him.

While Rollins’ comments about Philadelphia will almost certainly get the most attention, perhaps my favorite part of the interview was his thoughts on hustle and why he doesn’t always run 100 percent. It’s something he was criticized for at times, even by his former manager Charlie Manuel, but it’s pretty logical stuff. It’s refreshing to see someone be so forthcoming about it. Anyway, good interview by Rosenthal. Read it if you get the chance.

Video: Yasiel Puig’s bat flip is ready for Opening Day

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Most players will tell you that spring training lasts two weeks too long. Yasiel Puig’s bat flip agrees, as it is ready for Opening Day. By midseason he’ll have more end-over-end rotation on that flip, but this is good for April:


Thanks to Bill Shaikin for the heads up on the flip.

How in the heck did my kids become Dodgers fans?

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Baseball fandom can be weird. Most people fall into their rooting interests due to geography or family. We’ve done it a bit different in the Calcaterra household, however, and it has led to unexpected results.

While I started out as a Tigers fan due to geography, that changed to the Braves when I was 12 or 13 when I moved away from Michigan and the only team I could watch on a regular basis was the Atlanta Braves. I have explained all of that before.

My kids are another story. Despite what I do for a living, I’ve never pushed sports on them. Far from it, actually. There were some efforts at soccer by my son, but he got bored. My daughter has danced and recently has started riding horses, but sports are really not a part of their lives. Like, at all. Especially team sports. They watch baseball games with me sometimes, but most of my baseball watching happens later in the evening when they’re doing other things. For the most part we’re a pretty non-sporty family, and I have done nothing to force or even encourage rooting interests of any kind.

But, I suppose inevitably given all of the baseball I watch and talk about and all of the baseball stuff I have around my house, they have started to become baseball fans. Those occasional games we watch together are becoming more frequent. And over the past couple of years it’s been interesting to watch some level of baseball fandom develop in my kids.

They have some affinity for the Columbus Clippers, because those local Triple-A games were the first games they ever saw. But they also, eventually, came to realize that “minor leagues” are in some important ways “inferior leagues” so the fandom can only go so deep.

Their first major league game was a San Diego Padres-Texas Rangers matchup while we were on vacation, and for that reason they have good feelings about them too, but that’s more about that vacation and visiting their uncle Curt and stuff like that. It’s not like they knew anyone on the Padres besides Jason Marquis, who pitched the night we went to Petco. And who cares about Jason Marquis?

Local rooting? That’s straight out for them. We’re over 100 miles from Cincinnati and even farther from Cleveland. Unlike what may have been the case until recently, they’re not tied to local broadcasts. Indeed, with MLB.tv and Extra Innings it’s actually easier to get broadcasts from outside of Ohio rather than inside (great job, MLB!). And even if that wasn’t the case, I have already taught them that Chief Wahoo is racist garbage, so they’re never going to care for the Tribe, which cuts their chances of being Ohio baseball fans in half.

But something has happened over the past year or two that has made my kids — particularly my son — Los Angeles Dodgers fans.

A good bit of this is my fault, of course. At some point over the past two years they started asking me a lot of questions about “who’s the best” at this and that. Pitching fascinates them quite a bit, and as a result they are very clearly aware that, at this moment in time, Clayton Kershaw is the best. The idea of who the best hitter is hasn’t stuck with them as much, probably because I’ve differentiated more when it comes to answering their hitting questions. Sometimes we talk about power hitters, sometimes guys who hit for average.  Often times — because they recognize historical hitters’ names like Hank Aaron and Barry Bonds — we talk about old retired dudes. There’s no real idea in their head about the best hitter like there is about Clayton Kershaw: best pitcher. So they like him.

But the real game-changer, particularly with my son, was Yasiel Puig. At some point in the past two years he heard me saying something about Puig. Maybe while doing a radio spot, maybe while just talking, but he knows that I talk about Puig differently than I talk about other players. He asked me why that was one time and I explained how Puig is different than a lot of other guys for many reasons.

For one thing, he’s Cuban. My son LOVES the idea of Cuban baseball players because of what I’ve told him about how they risked their lives to get here to play (Aroldis Chapman is a favorite of his too). That’s some heroic stuff to anyone, but it really hits home with a nine-year-old boy who has lived a pretty sheltered life and loves tales of danger and adventure.

More generally, however, he absolutely loved it when I told him that Puig is a guy some people don’t much care for. Eventually, as I explained why, he boiled it down to “old grouchy men don’t like Yasiel Puig because he’s too damn much fun.” Hey, he’s my kid. He’s going to come by his contrarianism and love of chaos honestly. So between the origin story, the anti-hero stuff and seeing this insanely muscular yet insanely fast and insanely animated man crush baseballs, my boy has decided that Puig is basically Superman. If Superman annoyed old people in ways which really make my boy giggle. And make his dad giggle too.

This love of Puig led to him getting a Puig shirsey, which he wears all the time. That led to his teacher calling him “Yasiel,” which has sort of stuck with his friends. My boy loves it. He plays Minecraft a lot and has a pet pig in the game named Yasiel Pig. Add in some other random factors — both of my kids have it in their heads, based on one visit, that California is some sort of paradise, Los Angeles is glamorous and the only time I’ve ever really let them stay up super late to watch baseball was when Vin Scully was broadcasting a 10pm Eastern Dodgers game or two last year — and there are number of small bricks in that Dodger Blue wall. When you’re a blank slate as a baseball fan it’s pretty easy to create your own fandom story

Last year when the Dodgers came to Cincinnati we went and saw a game, my son and I in our Puig shirseys (I own one for trolling purposes and for solidarity with my kids purposes) and my daughter in her Kershaw shirt. We cheered for the Dodgers and Yasiel Puig and had extra fun doing it in enemy territory. Last week, when I asked my kids what sort of souvenirs they wanted from Arizona, they both asked for Dodgers stuff. T-shirts and pennants. Just today, when I asked my son about whether he’s going to watch more baseball with me this season he asked if it’d be OK if we recorded Dodgers games and watched them the next day since they came on so late.

Last night, instead of reading in bed, my son asked me if he could write and draw. I found this in his room this morning:


Some of that — like the dubious “established 1958” — is just copied from Dodgers junk around the house (I have explained Brooklyn to him and he gets it). Some of it is stuff he asked me, like how many titles they won. Some of it is pure fantasy like the scoreboard which has the Dodgers beating one of the New York teams infinity to zero. Which, whatever you think of the Dodgers, is a nice touch.

All of this is so strange to me. What are the odds of these Ohio kids with a Braves fan dad becoming Dodgers fans? What are the odds that this fandom sticks? Are they old enough for me to taunt when the Dodgers play the Braves and we watch the game together? Most importantly, if what they say about baseball being a thing between parents and their children is true, can it go in both directions? Because I’ll be honest: while I’ll always be a Braves fan, I’ve enjoyed Dodgers stuff way, way more in the past couple of years precisely because my kids enjoys it so much. It’s as if they’re passing it on to me rather than the other way around. Am I a Dodgers fan now too? Maybe in some ways I am.

I guess what strikes me the most about all of this is a realization of how the more traditional modes of familial baseball fandom — the tired cliches of fathers and sons and things being passed down — are sort of random to begin with. They’re accidents of geography and birth, even if we accept them as the norm. So it probably doesn’t matter much that my kids’ Dodgers fandom is rather random too.

I suppose that probably annoys some grouchy old men. But as it is with Yasiel Puig, that’s not criticism to anyone in my family. That’s a selling point.

2015 Preview: Los Angeles Dodgers

Andrew Friedman, Stan Kasten

Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2015 season. Next up: The Los Angeles Dodgers.

The Big Question: Will the revamped front office put the Dodgers over the top?

After losing in the NLCS in 2013, the Dodgers won their second straight NL West title last season before being ousted by the Cardinals during the NLDS. It was bitterly disappointing, especially to see the division rival Giants go on to win the World Series, but such is life with the randomness of the playoffs. However, rather than stand pat and hope for better luck in 2015, the Dodgers decided to shake things up by reassigning GM Ned Colletti and giving big money to Andrew Friedman to lure him from the Rays. Friedman, who was hired as president of baseball operations, then brought on Farhan Zaidi from the A’s to serve as general manager and made a host of other changes throughout the organization.

Friedman and Zaidi were accustomed to making the most out of limited resources with their former organizations, so being free from these shackles allowed them to not only improve around the margins with their new team but also make some bold moves. After letting free agent Hanley Ramirez walk, the Dodgers remade their middle infield by acquiring Jimmy Rollins and cashing in on Dee Gordon’s big 2014 to get Andrew Heaney as a chip for Howie Kendrick. They flipped Matt Kemp to the Padres and landed a new primary catcher (Yasmani Grandal) in the process. They threw money at risk with the backend of their rotation by signing Brandon McCarthy to a four-year, $48 million contract, Brett Anderson to a one-year, $10 million deal and the rehabbing Brandon Beachy for $2.75 million. The Dodgers will pay $30.5 million (between Kemp, Dan Haren, and Gordon) for players who aren’t playing for them this season. Talk about a different world.

This is a lot of turnover for a roster that already had some great pieces in place. Clayton Kershaw, with three Cy Young Awards in the last four seasons, is the undisputed best pitcher on the planet. Meanwhile, Zack Greinke has been excellent during his first two seasons in Los Angeles and Hyun-Jin Ryu has gone underappreciated since coming stateside. Yasiel Puig is one of the most talented and exciting players in the game today and will likely face more pressure to be the face of this offense with Kemp and Ramirez elsewhere. Fortunately, Adrian Gonzalez is a durable and consistent force in the middle of the lineup.

Barring something unexpected, like an injury to Kershaw, it’s hard to not see the Dodgers as the overwhelming favorite to win their third straight NL West crown. Perhaps the gambles in the backend of the starting rotation won’t work out, but they have the prospect depth and the money to make a trade if an in-season upgrade is necessary. However, the great unknown of October lingers. And no front office change or player acquisition can bring certainty.

What else is going on?

  • The dynamic between Don Mattingly and the new Dodgers’ front office will be fascinating to follow. After Friedman joined the Dodgers and Joe Maddon opted out of his contract with the Rays, many immediately assumed that they would be reunited in Los Angeles. However, the Dodgers stood behind Don Mattingly while Maddon ended up with the Cubs. Still, Mattingly wasn’t chosen by them. He was a holdover. Mattingly has never been vocal about his use of analytics in the past, but he said back in January that “you’re a fool” if you’re not using them as part of your decision making. He’s talking the talk, which is a good idea for a person who wants to keep his job, but we’ll have to see if he meshes with the new regime.
  • Kenley Jansen underwent surgery in mid-February to remove a growth from his left foot and is expected to miss the first month of the season. Some speculated that the Dodgers would throw money at Francisco Rodriguez (who eventually signed with the Brewers) or Rafael Soriano (who is still a free agent), but they appear content to rely on internal options to fill in. Joel Peralta was acquired from the Rays over the winter and figures to be in the mix, but keep an eye on Chris Hatcher. Hatcher, who came over to the Dodgers in the Gordon trade, is another former catcher (like Jansen) and quietly posted a 3.38 ERA and 60/12 K/BB ratio across 56 innings last season. There’s some uncertainty with this situation, but they should be able to get by for a month.
  • Juan Uribe currently projects to be the regular third baseman if he’s healthy, but the Dodgers are one of the teams who have been linked to Cuban free agent infielder Hector Olivera. In fact, they reportedly made a $77 million offer before Olivera switched agents. Who knows if that offer was legitimate — he’d probably already be a Dodger by now if that was true — but clearly they like him. He’s 29 and was one of the best hitters in Cuba, so he could be ready to make an impact in the majors right away.
  • While Andre Ethier is on the outside looking in for playing time, rookie Joc Pederson is penciled in as the Dodgers’ regular center fielder this season. He turns 23 in April and is coming off a monster season in Triple-A where he batted .303/.435/.582 with 33 home runs and 30 stolen bases across 121 games. Baseball America recently ranked him as the No. 8 prospect in the game. He put up those numbers in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League and strikeouts are an issue for him, so expect some growing pains, but he should be exciting to watch.
  • Zack Greinke is guaranteed $71 million from 2016-2018, but he has the ability to opt out of his contract after this season and test the free agent market. He would almost certainly fetch more if his 2015 is anything close to his first two seasons in Los Angeles. From that perspective, the Dodgers likely won’t be upset if it works out that way. And heck, they certainly have the money to bring him back if they want.
  • Vin Scully is back in the booth for his 66th season, which is a treat for all baseball fans. Don’t take him for granted.

Prediction: The Dodgers will win the NL West handily.