Well, well, well.
When Vin Scully himself glosses you, you kind of have to embrace it, don't you? And who can forget that day, July 28th, 2013, when Vin Scully described Yasiel Puig as "the wild horse lead(ing) the team to the barn"? Thanks to YouTube, short-term memory fans don't have to remember:
Since then, Puig has been the Wild Horse in print, on radio, on television, and certainly on SportsNetLA's promotional materials. The Dodgers, through their media subsidiaries and friends, have created this narrative around Puig, and now Dodgers fans have to live with it. As with many media created narratives it began very romantically, complete with the fascinating back story, the devil-may-care abandon with which Puig plays, and yes, his 2013 heroics. The image of the Wild Horse just fit so well, didn't it? It conjures a sense of strength, masculinity, fierceness, independence. Damn, those are some American sounding words right there!
Wild Horses are part of the American mythology, aren't they? There's the mustang, the true wild horse that still wanders the American Southwest and Great Plains, running free across the great expanses, and there's the bronco in his pen, bucking and jumping and putting on a great show at the rodeo. Both are powerful American images. The problem here is that the image and reality don't really stack up. Wild horses are . . . well, let's be honest. They're useless unless you just want to look at them. The only value any horse has is when it finally gets broken. When the horse is broken is when you can saddle it and ride it to your destination. When the horse is broken, that's when it can be yoked and, along with the rest of the team, pull the carriage or wagon to the end of the journey.
Look, Puig's physical gifts are unreal, and his baseball potential is almost without limit. At this point, though, the Wild Horse has run away with the narrative and left reality behind. Make no mistake about it, baseball fans, the time has come for someone to break the Wild Horse. This is not about Puig "not playing the game the right way," as every sportswriter over 40 years old claims (I'm looking at you, Plaschke, and you, Simers). This is not about Puig being immature - because let's face it, any other 23 year old driving a Lamborghini would have hit three digits on the speedometer too. This is about whether or not Puig is ever going to meet his potential, whether he is going to be able to be that guy the Dodgers can hitch their wagon to and arrive,safe and sound, in the October promised lands. Let Puig play with reckless abandon like so many Little League athletes still do. Let him live it up in the off season - if we could score courtside tickets at the Staples Center, we would too! These are not issues we need concern ourselves with.
What we need to concern ourselves with is that Puig still can't hit a breaking ball (Jobu, we're looking at you for help here), that he overruns the bases on a regular basis, and that even Don Mattingly doesn't believe him when he claims to be hurt after every bad showing. This is not about a young man who is acting, well, his age. This is about a professional baseball player who is not showing the on field improvement, dedication, and poise that we expect as fans, and that the Dodgers should expect as an organization. It can be done, and has been done - Ken Griffey Jr., Clayton Kershaw, and Mike Trout are all proof of that.
Puig has a choice to make - he can follow in those footsteps and become one of the all-time greats, or he can not. He can go down the other path. And, lest we forget, Major League Baseball has had a lot more Milton Bradleys than Clayton Kershaws.
Puig, now in his second year, has a choice to make. And, should he make the wrong one, the Dodgers will face a choice as well: Continue to let the Wild Horse run wild and destroy the barn, or cut him loose and call up a younger, slightly less impressive horse named Joc Pederson? Because from here, it looks like Joc might just be ready for a saddle.