With the Dodgers playing on ESPN Sunday Night Baseball later, the normal week in review gets pushed to Monday. But we have time to review the week in Yasiel Puig, which was interesting in the absurdity of it all.
Puig is a larger than life character who was destined to be a star the moment he stepped on a major league baseball field. He is someone who must be watched at all times, because there is always a chance of something memorable, either good or bad.
He makes crazy baserunning mistakes that can be infuriating at times. As good as Puig's arm is, he has missed several cutoff men, in theory the simplest thing to fix, as frustrating to writers and fans who also think they could shoot free throws better than Shaquille O'Neal.
Puig's wild spectrum in the field was captured nicely by David Schoenfield of ESPN, citing Baseball Info Solutions.
According to Baseball Info Solutions, since his recall Yasiel Puig leads OFers in both good fielding plays AND misplays/errors.— David Schoenfield (@dschoenfield) August 21, 2013
Puig's weekend in Philadelphia, which featured more of the same baserunning and fielding misplays, seemed to send off some sort of national columnist bat signal of overreaction.
Jon Morosi of Fox Spots suggested Puig should be benched to send a message, or else the outfielder will cost the Dodgers in the playoffs:
Among the elite foursome of young position players in baseball today – along with Manny Machado, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout – Puig is the oldest. He’s also the least fundamentally sound. In a peculiar way, Puig’s rawness has contributed to his entertainment value at times this year. But there’s nothing funny about a mental error in the World Series, which is where this Hollywood story is heading.
Scott Miller of CBS Sports argued the same, but did so with the most painful lede possible:
You can see it coming from here to the autumn leaves.
Crowd screaming. National television cameras blazing. Game 4 … or 5 … or 6 of the playoffs. And Yasiel Puig runs into an out, overthrows a cutoff man, commits some egregious mistake that costs the Dodgers the game. Maybe even costs them the playoffs.
The Dodgers go home for the winter. Their fans are left hugging only their chipped and faded 1988 World Series champions coffee mugs.
And Puig jets off to join a South Beach conga line for the winter. Party on!
Talk about win-win and no-win converging at the corner of Chavez and Ravine.
Puig actually was held out of the starting lineup on Tuesday in Miami, though it had more to do with slumps of 0-for-11 and 3-for-23, and that Puig had played in 67 of 69 games since joining the Dodgers on June 3. Puig also reported to the clubhouse late that day, for which he was fined.
But manager Don Mattingly inserted Puig in the sixth inning in a double switch, and two innings later Puig hit a home run to give the Dodgers the lead in a game they won.
That's a good thing, right?
Not to Bill Plaschke, who wrote one of his most nonsensical, illogical columns in recent memory on Wednesday:
There is one easy way out of this problem. That would be Matt Kemp. The Dodgers desperately need the return of the injured Kemp — giving them four outfielders for three spots — so Puig can be benched more often down the stretch and be allowed to grow more slowly into the game. Kemp could be back as soon as Sept. 1, and for Puig's development, it will not be soon enough.
The confrontation Puig had with home plate umpire Jon Hirschbeck in Miami that Plaschke described as "shouting" from Puig was characterized differently by Craig Calcaterra at Hardball Talk:
After the call and after the strikeout, Puig didn’t say a word to home plate umpire John Hirschbeck. He rolled his eyes and showed some displeasure as he walked, but barely turned his head. No biggie, right? Small beer in the grand scheme of players being upset at umpires’ calls?
Except then Hirschbeck ripped off his mask and yelled at Puig, apparently trying to goad him into an angry reaction.
Luckily, Jon Weisman provided a voice of reason at Dodger Thoughts:
If Los Angeles is lucky enough to be in position to watch Puig make a costly mistake in a playoff game, whom do you think everyone in the city will need to line up and thank?
The Dodgers don’t need to watch out for Puig’s mistakes any more than they need to watch out for Mark Ellis’ inconsistent bat, Carl Crawford’s throwing arm, Don Mattingly’s bullpen choices or any of the numerous weaknesses that every member of the team has.
Until there are three other outfielders whose net production is better than Puig’s, you play Puig. And right now, no such outfielder on the Dodgers exists, unless Matt Kemp returns from the disabled list in his 2011 form. Let alone three of them.
Steven Goldman at SB Nation dropped some historical perspective, even comparing Puig to Babe Ruth and Ted Williams, and provided this summary:
Yasiel Puig's critics want him to master the finer points of playing in the majors now on that theory that he might cost the Dodgers a playoff series they wouldn't have reached without him. Puig is far from perfect, but he is the latest in a long line of flawed winners, and that last part is all that matters.
The bottom line is that Puig, in the sum total of his contributions, good and bad, has been an overwhelmingly good thing for the Dodgers this season. He is hitting .345/.406/.553, has shown the ability to adjust at the plate.
Mattingly and Puig's teammates have talked to the outfielder this week, as reported by Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports yesterday, but they also know they need Puig to win. Not Puig on the bench. Puig in the field, at the plate and on the bases.
Enrique Rojas at ESPN Deportes had a revealing interview with Puig and teammates, which as a one-on-one interview in Spanish provided much more insight than 20 reporters speaking English surrounding Puig could have done.
Yasiel Puig "Many write without knowing but when they come and meet the person, they realize it's not like that"— Roberto Baly (@rbaly79) August 24, 2013
Hanley Ramirez "In Puig, I see myself when I was his age. He's very young and needs time"— Roberto Baly (@rbaly79) August 24, 2013
Adrian Gonzalez "The most important thing is that the kid is working hard everyday to be ready. No one can criticize his professionalism"— Roberto Baly (@rbaly79) August 24, 2013
Yasiel Puig "I came to this country to play baseball and give the best on the field. What people think outside the field, I don't worry"— Roberto Baly (@rbaly79) August 24, 2013
Just another week for Puig.