Yasiel Puig: walking the walk and listening to the talk

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — There are no accidents. For example, when you walk into the Dodgers’ clubhouse here at Camelback Ranch, you note that, high on the wall above a row of lockers is a quote from a Dodgers legend:

“If you rush in and out of the clubhouse, you rush in and out of baseball.” — Pee Wee Reese

Directly beneath that sign is the locker of one Yasiel Puig, himself known for rushing into the clubhouse with little or no time to spare on occasion. Coincidence? I think not.

Also not a coincidence: veteran Adrian Gonzalez’s locker directly next to Puig’s, despite the fact that all of the other big-time veterans — Juan Uribe, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier — are around the corner from them. Between the Reese quote and the veteran presence, it’s almost as if the Dodgers are making sure that their young superstar is especially well-mentored.

To be fair to Mr. Puig, he was in the clubhouse bright and early today, sitting in front of his locker next to young Alex Guerrero, each having finished a workout already, and each dutifully answering the questions of the Spanish-speaking media. This despite the fact that he’s not in today’s lineup and, if he wanted to, could go hang out in the trainer’s room and be anti-social. We’ve heard tell that Puig wants to make a point to be less of a distraction this year. To just be one guy on the team and carry himself like a quiet professional. I suppose this is as good a start as any.

People who watch him every day are noticing too.

We’ve had two years to watch Yasiel Puig unleash his amazing physical gifts and baseball skills on Major League Baseball. If the appearances and talk around Camelback Ranch about Puig sharpening his focus and putting just as much mental effort into his game as physical effort are accurate, we could see something pretty damn special from the Dodgers right fielder this coming season.

Royals fire manager Mike Matheny after 65-97 end to season

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Manager Mike Matheny and pitching coach Cal Eldred were fired by the Kansas Cty Royals on Wednesday night, shortly after the struggling franchise finished the season 65-97 with a listless 9-2 loss to the Cleveland Guardians.

The Royals had exercised their option on Matheny’s contract for 2023 during spring training, when the club hoped it was turning the corner from also-ran to contender again. But plagued by poor pitching, struggles from young position players and failed experiments with veterans, the Royals were largely out of playoff contention by the middle of summer.

The disappointing product led owner John Sherman last month to fire longtime front office executive Dayton Moore, the architect of back-to-back American League champions and the 2015 World Series title team. Moore was replaced by one of his longtime understudies, J.J. Picollo, who made the decision to fire Matheny hours after the season ended.

Matheny became the fifth big league manager to be fired this year.

Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi was replaced on June 3 by Rob Thomson, who engineered a miraculous turnaround to get the Phillies into the playoffs as a wild-card team. The Angels replaced Joe Maddon with Phil Nevin four days later, Toronto’s Charlie Montoyo was succeeded by John Schneider on July 13 and the Rangers’ Chris Woodward by Tony Beasley on Aug. 15.

In addition, Miami’s Don Mattingly said late last month that he will not return next season.