Bullying is a hot topic in sports these days, with the Jonathan Martin and Richie Incognito saga in Miami with the Dolphins. So when J.P. Howell talked to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times on Thursday about the subject, it made for a nice story.
Howell and his wife read one of her children's books to a classroom of elementary school students in Los Angeles, encouraging kids to let someone know if they are being bullied. But a passage from Shaikin about Yasiel Puig drew interest:
Howell said he saw Yasiel Puig bullied in the Dodgers' clubhouse, though he would not discuss who was involved, or what happened to Puig.
"The guy is such a champion," Howell said. "He has such a big heart. Sometimes he acts like a jerk, but that is his defense mechanism. It's not really him.
"Someday, he is not going to be 22. He's not going to be like that. I love the guy. I hope he never changes, just maybe matures."
But on Friday, Howell adamantly denied he said Puig was bullied by teammates. He clarified his words to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
"Dude, I don't know how it happened," said Howell, who said an interview he gave while making a Thursday appearance has spun out of control.
In the interview with the Los Angeles Times, it was written that Howell said he saw teammate Yasiel Puig bullied in the Dodgers' clubhouse. On Friday, Howell insisted that's not what he said.
"Not in the clubhouse, never by teammates," he said. "I was asked if Puig had been bullied and I said yes, but I meant by fans and media and people on the outside that don't know him. Never in the clubhouse. Are you kidding? People early in the season said our clubhouse wouldn't have chemistry, and it turned out to be an awesome clubhouse -- everybody got along."
I see no reason not to take Howell at his word here, that it was just a misunderstanding in his interview with Shaikin.
Having seen firsthand the clubhouse this season, I was not witness to any type of bullying, of Puig or otherwise, not that it couldn't occur without media present. But on one level, the idea of Puig getting bullied seems farcical as he is the biggest, baddest dude in the room.
Given how well Puig got along with several of his teammates, it is unlikely that he was bullied by any Dodgers players. The Dodgers released a statement through a team's spokesman.
"Bullying is an issue we take very seriously. We've discussed this with Yasiel and he has assured us that he is comfortable with the clubhouse environment as well as his teammates, coaches and support staff. As an organization, we will continue to be proactive in monitoring what goes on in and around our clubhouse."