Yasiel Puig's tremendous rookie campaign ended with a thud on Friday night, as the right fielder made three misplays in the outfield in a 9-0 loss to the Cardinals in Game 6 of the NLCS that ended the Dodgers' season.
Manager Don Mattingly talked about Puig after the game, per Chris Haft of MLB.com:
"Sitting there watching it tonight, and it's what we've kind of watched all year long, it's like you don't have time to work on it, really," Mattingly said. "You kind of go over it and you try to teach. You just continue to try to teach. Not just him, but all of us, really, you know? Yasiel gets excited. He's going to try to make plays all the time, and that's the way he is. But we've got to do a better job, I think, of helping him to mature and understand what we want done and the way to do it."
Asked to summarize what he learned this season, Puig indicated awareness of the room he had for improvement.
"The one thing that stood out was that every run, every at-bat, every play in the field needs to be very important," he said through an interpreter. "You have to make sure you do your best to be good."
It's not that Puig was alone in having a bad night in Game 6, but given the divisive nature of his play and boisterous antics on the field it's natural that many have focused on him for scrutiny.
Grant Brisbee at Baseball Nation tried to assess blame for the Dodgers' playoff exit:
Puig made some amazingly silly plays in the outfield in Game 6. In a scoreless game, he made a running, off-balance throw home when the runner was 40 feet from the plate. That allowed the runner at first to move into scoring position, and he eventually scored. The sequence was inexcusable. From a cold, intellectual perspective, it made absolutely no sense. The risk was the size of the moon. The reward was a peanut. It worked out as you'd expect.
But as the reason the Dodgers didn't advance to the World Series? No, no, no. You can make a pretty easy-to-read graph that showed where the Dodgers were before Puig showed up, and what happened after he showed up. Before? Bad. After? Historically good. And while causation isn't exactly correlation, it's hard to ignore just how much better the Dodgers got with Puig on the roster.
And you want to excoriate him for a few bad, brain-dead, gawdawful, nonononono throws? Well, maybe. But just for a second. Then remember that Puig was the whole point. That's why the Dodgers were so good in the first place.
Puig, 22, is learning. He stood at home plate and pouted after a strikeout late in Game 5, and the NLCS umpiring crew was fuming, leading to an animated exchange between MLB executive Joe Torre and Dodgers president Stan Kasten, per Ken Gurnick and Lyle Spencer of MLB.com:
Apparently, this crew, which Torre oversees, feels that Puig has crossed the line. It's not known if Puig has been fined, but apparently word was sent from MLB offices to the Dodgers' clubhouse that disrespecting the umpires with displays at home plate won't be tolerated, especially by Puig.
When Puig struck out in the second inning against Michael Wacha on Friday night, he immediately retreated to the dugout.
Bernie Miklasz of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch took the Mickey Mouse nonsense to its logical conclusion with the Dodgers defeated:
Supposedly the Dodgers of Adrian Gonzalez and Yasiel Puig were going to make baseball more appealing by hotdogging, taunting opponents with mouse impersonations, striking a home-run pose in the batter’s box (while hitting a triple), showing up umpires, throwing the ball to the wrong base or sailing it to the backstop.
Vin Scully, in his 64th season calling baseball games, enjoys the enthusiasm, per Bill Shaikin and Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times:
As the story line raged about whether the Dodgers are too full of money, flair and themselves — in contrast with the old-school St. Louis Cardinals — Scully said he did not believe the Dodgers players had done anything offensive.
"They're just having fun," Scully said Friday before Game 6 of the National League Championship Series. "I would hate to see a game where there wasn't any emotion. I like to see it. I think the fans enjoy it. I would love to see more."
It was a weird NLCS for Puig. In three games at home he was 5-for-9 with a triple, a walk and two strikeouts. But in three games in St. Louis he was 0-for-13 with eight strikeouts. Dayn Perry at CBS Sports had some nice perspective on Puig's bad night:
Game 6 was an untimely reminder that Puig -- like almost any 22-year-old in any walk of life -- needs work. Fortunately for him and the Dodgers, there's plenty of time for that, just as there's plenty of time for Puig to make Game 6 of the 2013 NLCS something we all forget. For now, though, this one's going to stick with him. Fair or not.
In the playoffs Puig hit .333/.366/.436, after hitting .319/.391/.534 during the regular season. All in all, with all the ups and downs, it was an amazing rookie season for Puig, even if it didn't end the way he or Dodgers fans hoped.