What do a boxer, pinup girl, Santeria priest, an air-conditioning repair man from Miami, the Los Zetas Mexican gang, and chicken blood have in common with Yasiel Puig? Well, only the most fascinating story you’ll read all week, and truthfully, probably all year.
Yasiel Puig is a man who baffles both friends and foes alike. Not much has been spoken publicly about his past, and he’s done enough in the present to give people plenty to talk otherwise, both on and off the field. That is about to change though.
Jesse Katz, of Los Angeles Magazine, posted a featured Sunday night about just that – Puig’s past. It’s titled Escape from Cuba: Yasiel Puig’s Untold Journey to the Dodgers – The shocking saga of Major League Baseball’s most controversial player. The headline lives up to its name, as I can tell you, I sat for 45 minutes straight, not able to take my eyes off the screen, and read every inch of the article word for word.
Here’s some spoilers for you:
Finally, in June 2012, the 21-year-old outfielder left his home in Cienfuegos, on Cuba’s southern shore, and set off by car for the northern province of Matanzas, just 90 miles from Florida. He was traveling with three companions: a boxer, a pinup girl, and a Santeria priest, the latter of whom blessed their expedition with a splash of rum and a sprinkle of chicken blood.
At 2 a.m., wired on Mountain Dew, White woke up Paul Fryer, another high-level Dodger scout who had traveled to Mexico, and laid out his plan: seven years and $42 million, a record for a Cuban defector.
“Are you out of your f–king mind?” Fryer asked.
“Look,” insisted White, “if you don’t have the stomach for this, let me know now.”
He cornered Despaigne, who recalled having a pistol jammed against his liver—an oddly anatomical detail, but a boxer knows where it hurts. “The man…told me to tell Puig that if he didn’t pay them, that they would kill him,” Despaigne said in the affidavit.
Let me first address the obvious. Yes, this is a San Francisco Giants website and Puig plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But if you think for a moment this story isn’t relevant to everyone in baseball, you are mistaken. Besides, what happens with the Dodgers is the business of the Giants.
But that’s not the point here. The point is that this story truly is shocking, fascinating, horrifying, and unbelievable all at once. After reading the article, my feelings about Puig were so mixed. I mean, I’ve made no bones about the fact that I don’t like the type of player he is on the field. I do believe in respecting the game. I also am not a fan of his antics off the field, but he doesn’t play for my team so I care less about that. Does that mean I think he’s a bad person or a bad baseball player? Not by any means. I think he’s an excellent baseball player who needs a lot of discipline. I personally never really cared if he was a good or bad person because baseball is just baseball.
This article changed that for me. He moved from baseball player to human. A man who at times I ached for in what he went through to get to this country. A man at times that horrified me if everything in this account is true. It’s hard to get a sense whether he is just a kid with a dream of playing major league baseball, or a man willing to do anything and discard anyone to look out for his own self-interest.
The answer to that will probably never be known fully, and what’s written in the stars for Puig is yet to be seen. All I know is that his story, even if only partially true, is one for the books…and movies. So, take the time to read it sometime this week. I promise, no matter how you feel about Puig now, or even after, you won’t regret it.
That aside there are some legitimate questions posed by Bill Plaschke of the LA Times in response to the LA Magazine article. I recommend reading both articles, but start with the original saga in LA Magazine.
• The story reports that late in the summer of 2012, the smugglers still wanted their money, and threatened to harm Puig unless he paid. Now that Puig is a multi-millionaire, are the smugglers still involved, and could that involvement one day lead to Dodger Stadium?
• The story notes that in the fall of 2012, one of the smugglers was killed, execution-style, after Puig allegedly complained about the harassment to his former agent, Gilberto Suarez. Could there be revenge involved, and could that one day lead to Dodger Stadium?
• The story details how Pacheco will be given 20% of all of Puig’s future earnings in a deal that is not unusual for desperate Cuban players. Does this mean that the rumors of Pacheco’s appearances around the Dodgers last year were true? Is this Miami man quietly pulling the strings on Puig’s turbulent life?
Personally, I’m hooked. I want to know as much as possible, and what exactly the Dodgers organization and players knew about this and when. It’s not a judgement on their organization, just an overall curiosity at the behind-the-scenes of things that average folks never know about.
Thoughts? I’d really like to hear them after you read the article.