Yasiel Puig Slumping Ignites Terrible Reactions


Sep 8, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig hits a RBI single against the San Diego Padres in the 4th inning during the game at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Here we go again: Yasiel Puig in the middle of another controversy and some people have some silly things to say about it. As I’m sure you know by now, Yasiel Puig is in the middle of a pretty bad slump. Everything Puig does is magnified to an extreme, and his slump has brought a lot of frustration from fans and intrigue to writers. Mattingly has responded by benching him a few games in favor of Joc Pederson as well as lowering him to 7th in the order, even behind Andre Ethier. This entire situation has led to a lot of talk of how to handle Puig; Bench him! Lower him in the order! Move him! At first what made me the angriest was Don Mattingly’s inconsistency in handling Puig compared to others. But now the reactions by writers who cover the Dodgers have been sad, hilarious, and inducing of many eye-rolls.

Let’s look at the articles. Here is an article by Mark Saxon, of ESPNLA.  To summarize, Saxon uses that hilarious three-error play by the Dodgers to make a larger point about Yasiel Puig (and Hanley Ramirez) needing to have the focus that Clayton Kershaw has or else the Dodgers are doomed. Let’s begin analyzing the bias in this article right here:

"The play had started with Yasiel Puig trying to double Liriano off first base. Instead of setting his feet, Puig tried to throw on the run and skipped it past Gonzalez off the railing of the Padres’ dugout. After Ellis’ throw trickled into center, Hanley Ramirez picked it up and made an even worse throw to the plate."

Look at the difference in description between Puig’s throw and A.J. Ellis’ throw. You might believe I’m being petty, but this difference in description is telling of Saxon and the larger point he tries to convey. If you look at the play, aren’t Puig’s and A.J.’s throws similar? They both throw to the bag accurately, but the ball happens to get to the base at the same time as the base runner so the ball gets away. But no, Puig’s throw occurred because of bad mechanics and it resulted into craziness, but A.J.’s throw was just a little trickle. Sure, sounds fair in analysis.

"It kind of speaks to this Dodgers’ season in a way, does it not? Imagine if Puig and Ramirez, the only Dodgers players with talent levels approaching Kershaw’s, had played with the same focus the ace has all season long."

This would be extremely hilarious if it wasn’t sad. First off, Saxon is making it seem as if Puig is having a bad year of some sorts. “Imagine if Puig was playing even better”. Sure, that would help if he was doing better. It would also help if literally everyone else was doing better, and I could make something up that others have better focus. Let’s say, um, A.J. Ellis. This isn’t just to pick on A.J., who we love for what he is, but it’s just he is a great example of what Saxon is ignoring here. A.J. Ellis is having a terrible season by every standard possible, and a down year across the board. He also has been brutal defensively, both in blocking pitches and framing. Why not say: imagine if A.J. had better focus? Use this play to make an example of Ellis, who if was playing better would have just as much, if not more, of a positive impact on the Dodgers offensive (and defensive) production.

I understand the point that Saxon is trying to make is that only Puig and Hanley can reach the type of superstar talent that Kershaw has and that FOCUS is the only obstacle in their way. Not only is this insanely speculative and off-base, but also short sighted. How does he not rule other things in the way of a better season? How does he just know it is focus? He can read minds? He has no clue. But it fits his narrative that they’re lazy or something, but I could make up the same story about anyone. I could say Kershaw wasn’t focused on his start against Arizona and if it wasn’t for that, he would be even better! But that is crazy. I’m not ruling out that it is focus of some sort. I am just saying, to speak of this and point out Puig for this play and just ignore similarities in other players is weird. Reasons for picking on Puig and not others, like say Ellis, is up to your imagination, but yeah. We’re not even done!

Switching it up, let’s go to LA Times writer Steve Dilbeck and his article today: “Time has come for the Dodgers to sit Yasiel Puig and play Andre Ethier”. The article is somehow worse then the title.

"OK, enough. Enough waiting for the Golden Boy to become an overnight sensation or last year’s overnight sensation to get going again.The idea is to win right now. In September with a pennant on the line. It’s not time to experiment."

The last sentence is the funniest to me. It’s not time to experiment, yet, let’s experiment with what was working for the Dodgers for most of the year (playing Yasiel Puig) and play Andre Ethier in center field! Andre Ethier, who is having the worst year of his career and who is pretty much an experiment in center field himself. This is coming from someone who believes Ethier shouldn’t have been benched in favor of Carl Crawford, but putting Ethier ahead of Puig (And Joc?!) is an extreme downgrade and contradictory to what Dilbeck wants.

"And, sure, he has career-lows going in almost every offensive category. But at least he has a history. He’s been through the playoff wars. He’s responded under pressure."

Playoff WARS? Um, what. It’s hard to even know how to approach this. First off, Ethier has a .726 OPS in the playoffs. Second off, even if Ethier had a 1.003 OPS in the playoffs: It’s not a good sample size AND who cares? Puig is a better player. Also, Puig played in the playoffs last year, so he has your oh so essential playoff war experience. He was in the trenches and did his service or whatever you deem necessary playoff war service to render him suited for grown up baseball in September.

"So send him out there and see what happens. He can’t do much worse than Puig, who’s driven in one run in his last 18 games."

Yes, he can do worse. Have you watched the Dodgers this year? “Send him out there and see what happens” sounds like an experiment, something you are against. Puig is in a slump, no doubt, and you can critique his one run in last 18 games stat (although RBI’s obviously aren’t a great way to gauge player value, but let us play along here). Andre Ethier from May 28-June 23, which is a total of 20 games, drove in one sole run. Anything Puig can do, Ethier can do worse. But it’s fun to fit a story about a controversial player to fit your needs!

There’s another article by Saxon tackling some of the usual “DODGERS ARE DOOMED BECAUSE OF PUIG” stuff you see from guys like this and saw last year. Maybe I’ll analyze other articles later but I will say: Although Puig’s slump right now is concerning and does seem to ruin a lot, the Dodgers best bet is to give him at bats to get out of the slump and at the same time, the Dodgers wouldn’t be in this fantastic position they find themselves if it wasn’t for Puig. He isn’t even near the top of the Dodgers problems in 2014; not when you have a team with horrendous production from your catcher, not a team that struggled on infield defense, that had an extremely shaky bullpen, that had confusing in-game tactics. Puig isn’t even near the top of the list, yet you have writers making it seem as if he makes or breaks the season and just love to assign blame to him.

Another troubling part about this all: How come no one asked for Carl Crawford to be benched during his slump? As was written here, and then here, and oh yeah here also, Carl Crawford had a terrible slump. Replacing Carl Crawford with Andre Ethier made a ton more sense then with Yasiel Puig yet go try and find either one of these writers, or any other national writer, talking about this. Obviously, it has paid off to keep Carl in there (with the important notation that we still don’t know for certain if the Dodgers would have been better off overall if they played Ethier against righties. I mean, Carl Crawford was really bad against them. I digress). But to ignore stuff like this but pounce like hungry wolves at the chance to critique Puig makes you wonder what it is that makes them love to be this way. It’s become annoyingly predictable and just sad in general that any time Puig doesn’t have a .850 OPS or whatever their guidelines are, they are going to find a way to fit this narrative that Puig doesn’t care, loses focus, is the Dodgers downfall, is babied, and/or any other narrative they want to fit. This isn’t specific to these two writers, as others do the same.

I hope it to change, and although Puig sometimes makes it difficult to defend, I don’t want this thought process to spread beyond these writers with a broad audience and become something that is common thought amongst fans. The unfair critique of Puig spreads far beyond these two articles; I could write a textbook digging stuff about weird attacks on him. But for now, this will do.