MESA, Ariz. — Today’s game between the Cubs and the Dodgers hasn’t lived up to the hype of a Zack Greinke-Jon Lester matchup. Greinke wasn’t sharp. Lester was OK. Sort of whatever. As I write this it’s tied at three in the top of the fifth and we’re heading into the benches. Phil Coke is making his Cubs debut, so I suppose that’s something. Spring training: feel the excitement.
Know what is exciting, though? Yasiel Puig. He’s playing center field and hitting third for Los Angeles today. And if you just perused box scores you wouldn’t necessarily think too much of his day. A single and a run scored so far. But:
- That single was a full-blown sprint on a ball hit deep to short that most players would not have beaten out;
- After advancing to second, he was dead to rights between second and third on a grounder to third that looked as if it would go through. But he stopped, juked, jived, flopped and likely cast three spells of confusion on the third baseman, and managed to make it safely to third base. He then came around to score.
- On defense he saved one run by throwing a laser to third base on sac fly, holding a baserunner at second. If he had tried to kill the run that scored on the sac, the runner would be at third. Before the inning ended with no more damage done, there was an infield single, meaning that the throw saved a run.
- Earlier than that he hustled to cut off a ball in the gap, turning what should have been a three-run double into a two run single.
- Just now, in the bottom of the fourth, Puig robbed Anthony Rizzo of extra bases by slamming into the wall to catch a rocket he hit to right-center for the inning’s third out. Puig appeared shaken up at first, but got up under his own power and ran back to the dugout to a huge, respectful round of applause by the Sloan Park fans.
I imagine that, somewhere, someone is writing a column in which they question Yasiel Puig’s judgment for playing a spring training game at Mach 2 with his hair on fire rather than saving it for the regular season. But these are the same folks who, somehow, can watch Yasiel Puig play baseball every day and think that he is anything other than a joy and a gift of a ballplayer. One that, yes, messes up a good bit, but one which shouldn’t bug people without a vested interest in the Los Angeles Dodgers the way he does.