Tag: Yasiel Puig

Yasiel Puig

Dodgers Chairman Mark Walter on Yasiel Puig: “I wouldn’t give up on him now”


Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times spoke with Dodgers chairman Mark Walter. The first of many topics of conversation: Yasiel Puig.

Puig has been hampered by injuries this season. And, while there haven’t been any notable controversies involving the Dodgers’ right fielder this year, the release of Molly Knight’s new book on the Dodgers has put a spotlight on Puig, his complicated relationship with his teammates and the fact that, well, he can be annoying.

Some have speculated that the Dodgers would try to trade Puig in an “addition by subtraction” kind of mood. Walter, while saying he would not stand in the way of his baseball operations people should they decide to do that, is not himself ready to give up on Puig:

“I wouldn’t give up on him now . . . I think he’s just going to be a great player,” Walter said.

Walter pointed to a groundout by Puig last week in a home game against the Philadelphia Phillies.

“If you watch him, he’s playing hard,” Walter said. “Did you see that squibbler? He ran his butt off. He almost got there too.”

Walter continued, “Puig clearly, clearly has incredible potential and talent. And I think he’s got a big heart and wants to play hard. So I think that will show up.”

The real issue with trading Puig right now is that he’s been hurt and ineffective of late. Until he shows that he’s healthy and can return the form he showed before his hamstring injury earlier this season, the Dodgers would be selling low. Which, in the case of some players may not be an issue — everyone knows he’s talented and will play better — but given Puig’s reputation, anyone willing to give up a lot for him may want to be dang sure that he comes in as an impact player, not a set of damaged goods, however temporarily that may be.

Personally, I think it’s a bad baseball and business move to trade Puig unless you get a massive return. When healthy he’s one of the better hitters in the league. And he’s making peanuts for the production he is capable of providing. This year’s salary is $4.5 million. Over the next three years that only goes up a million a year. For guy with a line of .299/.380/.491 over his first three seasons, that’s a bargain.

What Yasiel Puig being a pain in the butt means. And what it doesn’t mean.

Paul Sancya -- Associated Press

As I mentioned last week, Molly Knight has a great new book coming out on July 14 about the Dodgers of the past few years. As I mentioned then, there is a LOT of Yasiel Puig stuff in that book, the vast majority of it which shows him to be a fairly significant pain in the butt for his Dodgers teammates and team management.*

Last night Jeff Passan recounted a few of the Puig anecdotes from that book, and added some new reporting which reveals that even though Puig has cut out the tardiness and, it seems, the occasional lackadaisical play on the field in 2015, he remains an annoyance in the clubhouse. I’ll add that, after I wrote that post about the book last week, I spoke to a current Dodgers player who said much the same thing: Puig gets on everyone’e nerves.

As a pretty prominent Puig defender, I have had a lot of folks asking me if I’m changing my tune about Puig in light of Knight’s book, reporting like Passan’s and the stuff I’m hearing independently. Stuff like this:

That’s fair, of course. I have certainly waved my Puig flag high over the past couple of years. Still, I think it’s worth pointing a couple of things out about the criticism of Puig and the basis of my defense of him.

To the extent my defense of Puig has been a direct defense, it’s rarely if ever been that his behavior was exemplary. Personally I like a good bat flip and some emotion on the field, so I’ll always like that. But when it comes to the other things — him being late for games or making dumb mental errors — I’ve always acknowledged that you can’t be doing that sort of thing. Look around the HBT archives and you’ll see no shortage of coverage of Puig’s perfidies.

When I do defend Puig it’s almost always when someone — primarily Bill Plaschke — comically overstates the gravity of his offenses against God, nature and baseball. The guy has claimed, with a straight face, that Puig will bring armed drug dealers/terrorists to Dodger Stadium, putting fans at risk. Less sensationally, he and some others placed every Dodgers failure at his feet for two years, regardless of whether or not he contributed to it, and proclaimed that he will bring on the team’s downfall. Over and over again. And of course there is a serious double standard at play here.

There is also a lot of weird racial and cultural baggage sitting around that colors coverage of all Latin players, and Puig coverage has been colored by this more than just about anyone’s. Remember, playing the game the right way is a subjective undertaking. So much of the Puig outrage in the public sphere has revolved around the nonsense that comes with thinking that, say, The Cardinal Way is the only right way to play. The Dodgers, for their part, don’t agree that playing the game the Puig way is a bad thing. At least on the field.

So, what to make of Puig’s testy relationship with teammates? Well, it’s not good. It’s never a good thing when players don’t get along in the clubhouse. But the fact that a guy’s teammates don’t get along for him is not the be-all, end-all of our assessment of a guy. The rundown:

  • Whether players get along with one another matters to players because it makes their life and job harder. No one likes to have a jerk co-worker. A player’s jerkiness also matters to the press, as they have to try to get quotes from him.
  • We, as fans, are perfectly capable of enjoying and even loving the play of a guy even if he annoys his teammates and the press. We really can. It should affect our enjoyment of him very, very little, assuming his behavior is not such that it reveals him to be a really bad person in an absolute sense. Short of that, someone tell me why I should care if Bill Plaschke or Justin Turner have a harder day at the office because of Yasiel Puig. They don’t have to work with Gleeman or that jackass in the cubicle next to yours who clips his nails and hums along to Maroon 5 songs and I don’t see them wringing their hands over it.
  • Players like their routines and their harmony and a certain vibe in the clubhouse. But we are too quick, I think, to defer to players’ opinions about such things and to think that it matters for us as fans. Huston Street thinks his career will end if his role changes. Players have almost come to blows over music on a boombox. They also haze each other in dumb ways and look askance at players who are perceived as intellectuals and make a big point about how we, as non-players couldn’t possibly understand what is important to players. I’m fine to take them at their word on that, but I would hope that they as players would admit they don’t understand what it’s like to be just a fan and that I don’t have to care about the things they care about in order to enjoy baseball. Even if the media, oh so often, identifies with the players’ side of such matters, likely because of some weird combination of beng in the clubhouse themselves, relying on them for information and a strain of Stockholm Syndrome
  • It does matter if the player’s jerkiness is so great that it causes his teammates to play worse. At least if you’re a fan of the Dodgers. Maybe, over the long haul, having to deal with an annoying teammate does make them play worse. For now, though, the value of Puig’s bat, legs and glove has outweighed any negative effect is attitude and personality have on the Dodgers. I say that based on the success the Dodgers have had since he’s arrived, his numbers and, admittedly, our inability to precisely measure how the bad chemistry he creates negatively affects the team. But don’t just take my guesses for it. In Passan’s article itself, the unnamed Dodgers player who said trading Puig would be “addition by subtraction” backtracked later and admitted that Puig is a top three or four talent in baseball and that the idea of trading him is a “Catch-22.” I think any honest Dodgers player would admit that, even with his problems, Puig has helped the Dodgers win more games than he has caused them to lose.
  • There have been a lot of jerks in baseball history. One of the biggest is Reggie Jackson. He led his teams to five World Series titles and six pennants.
  • Puig, for his part, has cut down on the tardiness, the dogging it and other weird behavior, even if he continues to be an annoyance in the clubhouse. Which isn’t to say he’s becoming a better teammate. Maybe he’s not. Maybe he’s growing more complacent as a professional in some ways, being a jerk in ways that are less obvious to the outside world. But if we’re going to slam Puig for stuff, it’s probably worth also noting when he does improve rather than running out the same litany of wrongs whenever he comes up. Passan’s article is fine, but let’s remember: most of it is recounting stuff from a book which covered the 2013-14 time frame. I’d be more interested in hearing how he’s bad for the Dodgers today than how he was bad for them during a 2014 road trip.

I hope those distinctions are clear, despite my rah-rahing for Yasiel Puig. I hope that we can agree that we do not have to consider Puig the same way his teammates or the press does, as we are the audience for his baseball entertainment, not people who share close quarters with him. Put differently, I hope we are totally capable of thinking that Puig is amazing and fun in some aspects (i.e. when he takes the field) even if he is less so in others.

*To be fair to Knight, and to clear up any misunderstanding, she is fair in her reporting on Puig. I don’t throw her in with the folks who go over the top on him. She mentions the racial/cultural stuff I mentioned above and gives both sides of the stories involving him. Many take these incidents and color them through their own filters, but I think Knight shoots 100% straight in her reporting.

Zack Greinke WILL call you out if you “do the number two” and don’t wash your hands

greinke getty

I get and read a lot of baseball books, but one which I have been looking forward to just arrived in my mailbox. It’s Molly Knight’s book about the Los Angeles Dodgers, “The Best Team Money Can Buy,” which chronicles the journey of the Dodgers from McCourt bankruptcy to, well, wherever it is they are today. Mattingly, Kershaw, Magic Johnson and all of the craziness of the past couple of years. It goes on sale July 14.

At the forefront of the craziness is Yasiel Puig, of course. Having just gotten the book an hour ago I haven’t read it yet, but if the index and my skimming around is any guide, he’s the main character. Heck, reading his index entry alone is fantastic. “Anger issues of” “chronic tardiness of” “brawls, and” “in brushes with the law””discipline issues of” “entourage of” etc. etc. Heck, I’ll just take a pic of it and show you. It takes up two whole columns:


I have skimmed over a good many of the individual anecdotes and, so far, it seems like Knight gives a pretty fair treatment of Puig. While there is some indication that he has settled down this season, in 2013 and 2014, Puig was a pretty big pain in the butt. Maybe not the team-killing, literally life-threatening monster the Bill Plaschkes of the world make him out to be, but definitely someone who gets on his teammates and his coaches nerves (and the media’s too, but who cares about them?). At times he’s naive, at times he’s calculating. At times he’s surly. At times he’s misunderstood. At other times he’s simply oblivious. It’s understandable why he rubs people the wrong way, even if the accounts of him rubbing people the wrong way are often blown out of proportion.

But so far I have a favorite anecdote. And it has nothing to do with Puig. It has to do with a team meeting held as the Dodgers stumbled just prior to clinching the NL West in 2013. Don Mattingly called the meeting and told his charges to loosen up. Then, in an unprecedented move, because he never speaks out like this, Zack Greinke stood up. “I’ve got something to say,” he said. The room was quiet.

“Some of you guys have been doing the number two and not washing your hands. It’s not good. I noticed it even happening earlier today. So if you guys could just be better about it, that would be great.”

Greinke sat down. The team wasn’t sure if he was serious. When they realized he was, they laughed. Then they took the field, far looser than they had been, and went out and beat the Dbacks. Two days later they clinched the division and jumped in the Dbacks pool.

Did I mention that I love Zack Greinke?

And, so far anyway, I love this book. Check it out. It goes on sale July 14, and can be preordered now.

Yasiel Puig drove in the go-ahead run against the Cardinals in his return to action Saturday

puig getty

Yasiel Puig struck out in his first two plate appearances Saturday night against Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia, but the just-activated 24-year-old got it very right the third time around …

Puig hadn’t appeared in a game for the Dodgers since April 24 because of a lingering left hamstring strain. Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw made that go-ahead run stick with eight innings of shutout ball and Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen returned from a bout with dehydration to pick up a seamless three-out save. Los Angeles will try to split this big four-game series with St. Louis on Sunday night behind Zack Greinke.

Puig said this winter that he views the Cardinals — not the Giants — as the Dodgers’ principal rival.

Dodgers activate Yasiel Puig from the disabled list

Yasiel Puig

The Dodgers have activated outfielder Yasiel Puig from the 15-day disabled list, MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick reports. Outfielder Scott Schebler was optioned to Triple-A Oklahoma City to clear room on the roster.

Puig hasn’t played since April 24 due to a strained left hamstring. He was expected to return earlier, but suffered a setback in mid-May. Puig, 24, was hitting .279/.380/.465 with two home runs and four RBI in 50 plate appearances prior to the injury.

Puig is in the Dodgers’ starting lineup for Saturday night’s home game against the Cardinals.