Yasiel Puig’s overall improvements in both his attitude and his hitting have been remarkable. He has shown discipline at the plate and has not been a thorn in the sides of the coaching staff as he was in years past.
Add those two things to his always-present defensive capabilities, and Yasiel Puig had a season to remember. The ultimate ending to this incredible year would not have been winning an MVP but yet a Gold Glove Award.
The Gold Glove award that Puig truly deserved has yet again eluded him. This year, Puig lost to Cubs’ right fielder, Jason Heyward and while that result is upsetting it should not come as a surprise to anyone.
Defense has always been Puig’s claim to fame. Since entering the league, he has been known as one of the most all-out defenders in the game. We’ve seen diving catches and incredible throws but the young outfielder is yet to win the Gold Glove he so desperately wants, and his skills are not the problem.
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This year, Puig finished third amongst all right fielders in fielding percentage at .996. Committing only one error over 135 games, Puig was a reliable defender in a game’s toughest moments. Puig was responsible for four outfield assists, but that number would surely be higher had more third base coaches tested his cannon-like arm.
To win a Gold Glove, a player needs to do two things: play excellent defense and arguably, more importantly, gain the liking of opposing coaches and managers. This award, unlike MVP and Cy Young, is not decided by the votes of baseball writers but rather the votes of coaches from around the league. Players who win Gold Gloves not only represent the game’s best defenders but also the game’s most likable players.
While Puig has no problem in the defense department, his likeability is his greatest obstacle. Many coaches have made it clear how much they do not like Puig. Managers, coaches, and players have publicly expressed their distaste for his rambunctious play style, and that is what makes his “snub” no surprise.
Voters for the Gold Glove were faced with a choice that came down to the acquired taste of Puig or the quiet Jason Heyward, and we all know how that went. Puig will continue to be a great defender, but that will never be his issue. To win the award he is gunning for, Puig must either dial it down in terms of energy or wait for a new wave of coaches to start filling the dugouts.
The old style coaches such as Giants third base coach, Tim Flannery, have made it abundantly clear why they chose Heyward over Puig. Puig’s mannerisms on the field were the greatest turn-off for them, and the tongue wagging in the playoffs did not help his case.
In the end, though, Puig deserved the recognition. He played at his best all year both on and off the field and still came up short in votes. He has promised he will win one next year and it will again come down to how Puig carries himself rather than how he plays.