Are we going to see a brand new Yasiel Puig this year?

Associated Press

It’s one thing when Yasiel Puig says that he’s going to work harder, that he wants to be a good teammate and that he is a dedicated member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. It’s another thing for him to actually walk the walk. He said it last year and probably wasn’t in the best shape of his life, missed a lot of time and undercut the sentiment. He said it before that and was often late to work and clashed with his manager and teammates. All along he has drawn criticism of his teammates and his manager which is telling. Even if some criticism of Puig, particularly from the media, has been overblown, the fact that he has been a source of friction in the Dodgers clubhouse is undeniable.

It’s possible, however, that things truly have changed this year. Not because of anything Puig is saying, but because of what other people are saying. Notably, people who have not been predisposed, historically, to speak well of Puig. Guys like Clayton Kershaw, who say that Puig is impressing them this spring and that he’s putting in his work.

That sentiment is included in this excellent column from Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times. In it he talks about Puig’s better physical conditioning, his apparent engagement with teammates, which is much improved, and comments from Dave Roberts and others suggesting that Puig has made changes to the way he, as the ballplayers say, goes about his business.

Is it all worth believing? No, not yet. Ultimately what matters most is his production. The better it is the more room he has to be eccentric or aggravating. If he plays 150 games or more, is effective and if the Dodgers win, none of this matters too terribly much. Either way, Puig has talked the talk before and hasn’t always delivered.

But this is certainly worth bookmarking. We can check back in June or July to see if performance has matched promise.