San Francisco Giants broadcaster Mike Krukow said it best when he declared that Yasiel Puig was just “young and dumb.” Or as my sainted father, God rest his soul, might have said, “Yasiel can’t help the way his mother dresses him in the morning.”
Puig stated last week that contrary to what fans might want to believe, in reality the St. Louis Cardinals were the Los Angeles Dodgers’ principal rivals, not the Giants. Though many fans consider the rivalry between the Dodgers and Giants to be one of the most intense in professional sports, for Yasiel, such is not the case.
Considering Puig’s well-documented frustration in the recently-completed National League Division Series, he might have been wise to have kept quiet about the whole thing. Puig went three for twelve, with seven consecutive strikeouts during one stretch, before tripling and scoring the game’s only run, in a 3-1 loss in Game Three to St. Louis. It was the second straight year that the Cards bounced the Dodgers in the NLDS, prompting Puig’s statement.
Manager Don Mattingly benched him in Game Four in favor of Andre Ethier, and though Puig made a pinch-running appearance in that deciding loss in the NLDS, he was not allowed to swing the bat. Krukow doesn’t care whether Puig is right or wrong about who gets the dubious distinction of being the Dodgers’ worst nightmare, what he is saying is, why would Yasiel Puig pick that particular hornet’s nest to prod?
Jul 7, 2013; San Francisco, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig (66) jogs towards the dugout after being called out after attempting to steal third base against the San Francisco Giants in the fourth inning at AT
No doubt the Dodgers do need to pick up their game just a tad against the Cards, but ultimately all Yasiel is doing-and astonishingly well-is placing a prominent sign on his back which says simply, “Kick me.” As if the Giants really need to have some inane comment posted on the bulletin board to motivate them, Puig has gone ahead and provided one, free of charge.
The Giants took eleven of the nineteen meetings in 2013 when the Dodgers won the first of two consecutive division titles, but lost ten in 2014.
It might serve Puig well to remember that his team must face the second-class rival Giants, nineteen times this season. Oh, yeah.
With there being triple the number of games against the Orange and Black as there are against the Cardinals during the regular season, Dodger personnel might have hoped Puig would think matters through a little more thoroughly.
Yasiel is not known for thinking things through. He is the impetuous type, reacting first and apologizing-a lot-afterwards. Youthful exuberance is a joy to behold when it manifests itself for the benefit of team and mates alike, but when it is that of the prima dona’s self-centered perspective, it tends to get old quickly.
I watched him swing and hit a drive into the right field corner at AT&T Park, while he stood in the batter’s box and watched the flight of the ball until Hunter Pence tracked it down. Puig reacted angrily and stalked off to the dugout. His inability to drop the bat and streak toward first base-or worse, his unwillingness-would be unacceptable teammate behavior in most players’ eyes.
May 1, 2013; Phoenix, AZ, USA; San Francisco Giants right fielder Hunter Pence (8) points to a child before throwing him the ball during the seventh inning against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field. Mandatory Credit: Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports
Whether he was upset the ball was not a home run or that it was caught, is of no importance; what caught everyone’s eye is that he did nothing at all except express his personal dissatisfaction. Personal as in belonging to Yasiel Puig and not the team.
And that might be enough to ruffle the feathers of some old-school types on the Dodgers. These are players who came up through a farm system, if not the Dodgers’ itself, and took their lumps in attaining their current status. They ran out every ball ever put into play that might remotely have a chance of landing fair, and a lot of foul ones as well, to show they were willing.
It’s not his poor performance in the NLDS that makes Puig’s comment noteworthy; it’s that he made the remark at all. If Hunter Pence makes that kind of declaration, you can bet the bank he has his teammates’ support. Can the same be said for Puig?
Puig is a special kind of personality, being the antithesis of a player like Hunter Pence. Pence is the ultimate team-player and puts himself second at all times, even though he is a megastar amongst a bevy of other like individuals. Puig, on the other hand, is all about Numero Uno.
How much of Puig’s statement is a revelation about himself, more than about the Dodgers, is up to you to decide. Meanwhile, you will not see any perceptible change in the collective demeanor of the Giants as Puig steps to the plate, but if Krukow is correct, they will all be thinking about that remark.
For the Cardinals to be the Dodgers’ coveted principal rival and really have it matter, the Dodgers must first make the playoffs.