Winston Churchill once said something about an enigma wrapped in a riddle and surrounded by mystery. I don’t know what Churchill was referring to, but it sure as hell sounds like Yasiel Puig to me. Is Puig an enigma? Is he a riddle? Is he wrapped in something? I’ve thought about this quite a bit and I think I have it figured out. Puig is a pain in the ass wrapped in a bigger pain in the ass. Yasiel Puig is like a box of chocolates except the box is filled with WTF. Make no mistake, Puig is a game changing beast with five tools. He has enormous upside. Unfortunately, he also comes with some baggage.
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On June 2, 2013, the Dodgers were a cellar-dwelling disappointment 8.5 games out of first place. Puig made his Major League debut the following day and the Dodgers haven’t been the same since. Puig’s first game with the Dodgers was against the Padres and ended with him making a catch at the wall in right field and doubling up a stunnedChris Denorfia
at first base to end the game and preserve a 2-1 victory. Puig had arrived; his 2-4 performance at the plate that night rendered a footnote.
Puig’s arm is sort of like Denzel Washington in “Training Day” – FREAKING AWESOME!!! Five days after his MLB debut, Puig threw outAndrelton Simmons
of the Braves who was attempting to go from first to third on aJason Heyward
single to right. If baseball porn was an actual thing, Puig’s throw on that play would be the gold standard.Luis Cruz
was playing third for the Dodgers and he didn’t even need to move his glove to apply the tag. Simmons walked off the field looking like someone just told him he was traded to the Angels.
Surprisingly, there have been many others. I think I read somewhere that the definition of insanity is trying to go from first to third on a ball hit to right field against the Dodgers and expecting to be safe….or something like that anyway.
Puig’s rookie year was historic. He had 44 hits in June 2013, breaking the Dodgers franchise record previously held by Steve Sax for hits in a single month by a rookie. Joe DiMaggio holds the all-time record with 48 hits. Puig also played a big role in the Dodgers climb out of the cellar after a miserable start and ultimately winning the NL West – he hit .319/.391/.925 for the season.Dee Gordon
, andMike Trout
are widely considered the fastest players in baseball. Add Puig to that list. In a game against the Mets in 2014, Puig made a catch that can only be described as phenomenal.Wilmer Flores
hit a ball deep into the gap in right-center and Puig gave chase. According to Statcast, he covered nearly 100 feet with a top speed over 21 mph to make a diving backhanded catch just inches off the grass. It was insane. I’ve been accused of having a man-crush on Yasiel Puig. I am unable to confirm or deny such an allegation.
Puig is a pretty incredible player except for those times that he’s not. Alas, those times are more frequent than Dodgers fans would like. Puig has either been unable, or unwilling, to hit the cut-off man. In a playoff game against the Cardinals, he threw a ball into the stands while Cardinals baserunners circled the bags. His runs into outs on the basepaths. A crippled 47 year oldAlbert Pujols
tagged-up and advanced to second base on a routine fly ball to center while Puig posed after making the catch.
He has also been habitually late. During the division series against the Mets last season, Mattingly informed Puig that he would be starting the following day after spending some time on the bench. It was Puig’s first start of the post-season and he had recently been activated after a lengthy stint on the DL. Inexplicably, Puig was late to the stadium and missed part of pre-game warm up. If ever there was a moment where Puig should have been on time, it was that game against the Mets.
Puig recently approached the Dodgers and requested permission to travel to home games in a helicopter – dude can’t even get around town in a car without incident and he wants to mix in four gigantic titanium blades moving at 700 feet per second into his daily commute. Unbelievable. I realize he probably wouldn’t actually be flying the helicopter, but this whole scenario feels way too much like running with scissors so it should probably be avoided at all cost.
Puig grew up in a decaying, dystopian state isolated from the rest of the world. He earned about $17 a month playing outfield for a communist government. And then he found himself in Tinseltown. Remember when you were a little kid playing baseball in the street with all your friends and everyone would just run into a pickle every time they hit the ball? You were so excited just to be playing baseball and there was no way in hell a routine ground ball to short was gonna keep you at first. That seems like Puig. He’s a big kid running into a pickle, just happy to be here. Maybe a happy Puig isn’t the best type of Puig for the Dodgers. It was a desperate, hungrier Puig fresh out of Cuba that stormed onto the scene in 2013 and knocked MLB on its ass. Where is that Puig? The Dodgers could use a Puig like that.
Which Yasiel Puig are Dodgers fans going to get this season? Will they get the tooled-out, jaw-dropping, baseball super-specimen that we’ve seen tantalizing glimpses of or are they going to get another season of a happy little kid running into a pickle? There’s some buzz coming out of spring training about a new and improved Puig. Hopefully, the little kid is all growed up. Dodgers fans are about to find out.