Yasiel Puig

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Andre Ethier: “I want the opportunity to play every day”


Andre Ethier has stated before that he doesn’t appreciate being buried on the Dodgers’ outfield depth chart, and now the 32-year-old is doubling down as spring training opens in Glendale, Arizona.

“I want the opportunity to play every day,” Ethier told ESPN’s Mark Saxon on Tuesday. “I felt like when I get a chance to play every day, I put up the numbers they ask of me. … You’re not wishing for it ever to end, but sometimes that opportunity takes you somewhere else. I’m not going to do anything to sit here and force it. Hopefully it works itself out.”

Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig are expected to open the 2015 season as the Dodgers’ primary starting outfielders.

Ethier is owed $56 million over the next three years and carries a $17.5 million vesting option for 2018, so pulling off a trade could be tough. He hit just .249/.322/.370 with four home runs in 130 games last season.

This is how non-insane organizations view players arriving to camp early

Yasiel Puig

From the Los Angeles Times — headlined “Yasiel Puig says he has more respect for the game,” which is just fantastically on-the-nose — comes a story about how the Dodgers are optimistic that this is the year Puig turns a corner, maturity-wise. Part of that? The fact that he arrived to camp early.

Puig said he did so because he wants to elevate his game and be talked about as one of the best players in baseball. And not just baseball, really, as he cited Kobe Bryant and LeBron James as the sort of stars and leaders he’d like to emulate. And here’s how his team views that sort of drive:

Position players don’t have to be at Camelback Ranch until Wednesday, but Puig reported here last week with the team’s pitchers and catchers.

“That’s the first step,” said hitting coach Mark McGwire . . . “He doesn’t have to be here,” McGwire said. “He’s been here a week prior to when he’s supposed to be here. He could have stayed away today, but look at what he’s doing.”

Thank God he doesn’t play for the Yankees. If he did, some anonymous executive’s head might explode.

Beyond that: a lot of stuff in there about how Puig is vowing to show earlier to the park, work harder and listen to his coaches and teammates more. Given how the Puig narrative has gone in the past couple of years, this is a story worth bookmarking in the event a PuigSplosion hits at some point this season. Or, in case one doesn’t.

Yasiel Puig has reported to spring training early

Paul Sancya -- Associated Press

From the desert:

Actually, he’s not early for spring training. He’s super, super late for last year’s spring training.

Andrew McCutchen: Baseball leaves lower-income kids behind

Andrew McCutchen

When he’s not patrolling center field for the Pirates, Andrew McCutchen serves as the senior editor for Derek Jeter’s The Player’s Tribune, a media platform for professional athletes. McCutchen published a must-read article today in which he explains how baseball has increasingly left children from lower-income communities behind.

McCutchen goes over the various costs a family considers: equipment, motels/hotels, gas, tournament fees. Kids from families that can’t afford it or choose to spend their money on more staple needs are simply never seen, and many wind up quitting baseball as a result. McCutchen, who didn’t come from riches, is an outlier as he was fortunate enough to meet several people who helped pay his way into competitive baseball.

The financial struggles don’t end once you’re in college or the minor leagues, either, as McCutchen details. “The fact is, no matter how good you are, you’re not getting a full ride in baseball,” he says. Had he not torn his ACL when he was 15 years old, McCutchen would have chosen to play football in college over baseball as his tuition would have been paid in full on a scholarship compared to only 70 percent with baseball. In the minor leagues, players are paid less than minimum wage, a problem that has been brought up recently.

Fixing the myriad issues are quite difficult, but McCutchen has one idea that he thinks would work well:

[…] when I was a kid, I looked at baseball players growing up in Latin America with a lot of envy. If you’re a talented kid in the Dominican Republic or Puerto Rico, a team can come along and say, “We’re going to sign you for $50,000 and take you into our organization and develop you, feed you, take care of your travel.” To me, as a 14-year-old kid whose family was struggling, that would have meant everything to me. I would have taken that deal in a second.

That kind of system would make the game a lot more attractive to kids from low-income families.

This is a more important issue than it may seem at first blush. If the only people who can afford to play baseball are those born into privileged families, then the baseball talent pool will become very homogenized, and that would be boring. Part of baseball’s allure, along with the beauty of the game itself, are the diverse personalities from Yasiel Puig to Alex Rodriguez to Chase Utley, each of whom can appeal to various segments of the fan base. Craig Calcaterra has done yeoman’s work refuting the claim that baseball is dying, but it certainly could begin to die if issues like the one McCutchen brings up aren’t addressed properly.

Krukow on Yasiel Puig: “he’s just young and dumb”

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Last week Yasiel Puig raised some eyebrows when he said that he considered the St. Louis Cardinals to be the Dodgers’ primary rival, not the San Francisco Giants. Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow was on a radio show yesterday and responded:

“He’s just young. He’s just young and dumb and he’s gonna say some stuff,” Krukow said on KNBR 680-AM Monday morning. “As a group, I doubt if they are gonna be talking about it openly but they are gonna be thinking about it. They don’t miss stuff like that … if there was any way to refocus a whole group with a World Series hangover, this is it. Thank you Yasiel Puig.”

Probably worth noting that Puig has had his only two big league seasons ended in the playoffs by the Cardinals so, just maybe, it makes some sense for him to consider them his team’s biggest rival, even if fans and folks who have been around longer think of it as the Giants.

Also: probably worth noting that historical rivalries are functions of fan bases more than anything. Which is why players generally don’t get too bent out of shape about guys like Brett Butler or Dusty Baker or whoever playing for both ends of a rivalry. Stuff that happens on the field, not the laundry they wear on their backs, is what motivates players.

For Puig, losing to the Cardinals likely looms way larger in his competitive consciousness than something that happened between the Dodgers and the Giants years before he got here.