When things are going as well for you as they are for the Dodgers, I suppose it’s understandable when people start looking for nits to pick. Today Jon Paul Morosi of Fox has decided that it’s time for the Dodgers to bench Yasiel Puig because of his mental lapses. After acknowledging how good Puig is overall and how fun he is to watch play, Morosi says …
… if I were a Dodgers fan, I’d be nervous about Puig in October. He’s as likely to cost the Dodgers a playoff game with a needless mistake as he is to win one on a walk-off home run. For a while, Puig’s frequent fundamental lapses were forgivable. Airmailed cutoff men and unnecessary outs on the basepaths were accepted as part of The Puig Show. Besides, he was saving the season. Let him be.
He notes that Don Mattingly and his coaching staff have tried to work on fundamentals with Puig but it hasn’t taken yet and that perhaps he needs a message sent to him.
I guess I see his point about the fundamentals — Puig has not played baseball in the U.S. very long and it’s likely the case that his obscene amount of natural talent has gotten him pretty darn far so far. But I feel like that’s the case with a lot of players. Manny Ramirez messed that stuff up for his entire career but was always valuable.
More to the point: every player has some flaw that could cost their teams. Puig’s may seem more correctable because it’s something which could be worked on with practice, but it’s no more dangerous to his team’s chances than playing fundamentally-sound but nowhere nearly as talented players in his stead. Or to risk messing with Puig’s abundant confidence and aggressiveness which, so far anyway, have been a greater strength to the young, inexperienced man than his flaws have been a weakness.
The Dodgers have a big lead and there’s time and room to work with Puig between now and the postseason. And of course they should continue to work with him. But I wouldn’t mess with a good thing. I wouldn’t make a show of benching him. Turning a small problem into a big one that dominates the airwaves and newspapers while L.A. plays out the next month or so and prepares for the playoffs.
Let the kid be. He’ll figure it out. And if he doesn’t: he’s still the best thing you’ve got and one of the biggest reasons the Dodgers are in first place to begin with. For now this is a solution in search of a real problem.