The Misperception of Yasiel Puig
If you’ve followed the 36 game career of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig to this point you would know he has been a lightning rod for opinion. The view of Puig’s style of play and the way he has carried himself as a professional from outside of Los Angeles has had the perception that he is immature and arrogant. The arrogant part may very well be mistaken for overconfidence and the maturity issues are not different from any young ballplayer, right?
Not hardly, but I don’t mean that in a negative way. Like most rookies in the game, Puig has to learn to adjust to the level of play at the big league level and also understanding the historical part of baseball. Veterans don’t appreciate being showed up, let alone by a guy who hasn’t had even two months under his belt.
Normal rookies aren’t paid so much (7 years/$42 Million) before even setting foot on a professional field in the US and then match the hype that he created for himself. Nobody expected him to hit over .400 for the first 30 games of his career. At the moment his batting average has cooled off to .397 after only hitting .311 in 10 July games.
Ever since the speeding violation incident in April, the national baseball media has run with the idea that Puig, although extremely talented, is going about the game all wrong with his attitude on the field. That line of thinking has been intensified this week by the All-Star vote, Miguel Montero, and Luis Gonzalez.
The reason the All-Star vote has fueled the level of coverage is that there have been a multitude of players and coaches who have been outspoken in stating that Puig doesn’t belong in the game with the lack of service time in Major League Baseball. Reasons for the negativity, not the least bit that are good, is that he hasn’t been around long enough to earn the selection.
Speculating whether or not he belongs in the All-Star game has somewhat vilified Puig as if he is personally trying to take the roster spot from somebody more deserving. It has almost made the league take note as if to say, “who does this guy think he is,” when all the while he only knows full speed and isn’t trying to show anybody up.
The last few days in Arizona have turned into a nightmare for Puig’s public perception with comments from Montero and Gonzalez. After trying to score by an attempt to run through Montero on Tuesday night, Puig would be called out easily. Montero took offense to Puig coming in hard and making contact. After the game Montero had no problem sharing his thoughts on Puig:
“If he’s my teammate, I probably try to teach him how to behave in the big leagues. He’s creating a bad reputation around the league, and it’s unfortunate because the talent that he has is to be one of the greatest players in the big leagues.
“Right now, I’m not going to say he’s the best because he hasn’t proved anything yet. Does he have talent? Of course. Does he have the tools? Of course. He’s got so much talent, it’d be really bad if he wasted it doing the stupid things that he’s doing. You have to respect to earn respect. If you don’t respect anybody, you aren’t going to earn respect.”
If you didn’t know that there has been a history with these two teams the last few weeks it would be easy to miss the point. The only side that the Arizona Diamondbacks have seen has been a hot head that Puig became after being plunked off the nose and helmet in June between the Dodgers and Diamondbacks. Who wouldn’t be mad at somebody throwing a pitch at their head?
The play at the plate was legal and it would seem that Montero is only mad due to the history of the two teams this year after the big brawl that happened last month in LA which was started by the Diamondbacks throwing at Puig.
Then there is the Gonzalez situation where Puig reportedly didn’t want anything to do with the former Diamondbacks outfielder. Gonzalez approached Puig before Tuesday’s game to introduce himself and relate to the 22-year-old since he is also Cuban. What happened after the introduction has been falsely reported according to Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire and Puig.
According to the USA Today’s Dan Bickley, Puig disrespected Gonzalez by not showing him the time of day and then received a tongue lashing from McGwire.
When the Dodgers arrived back home in Los Angeles and the team started getting wind of what was being reported, McGwire and Puig both firmly denied to the media that the incident. The story that the Dodgers told was completely different in that McGwire never took Puig aside and chewed him out. Puig was said to be cordial even though he didn’t know who Gonzalez was.
Gonzalez went on Arizona radio to talk about the incident and said he didn’t really care that Puig didn’t know who he was and he was just trying to explain his Cuban roots. Whether or not Gonzalez was truly offended is not really the point but rather the backlash that followed claiming that Puig was so disrespectful that McGwire took him aside to yell at him.
Of course the national media took it and ran with it advancing the story as if it were completely true.
Fox Sports’ David Vassegh travels with the Dodgers and was on radio Thursday to dispute the incident. “I was twenty feet away, I saw it all go down. Yasiel Puig did not disrespect Luis Gonzalez.” He went on to say that the team was shocked that somebody would write such a thing and that Gonzalez would go on radio saying he was offended.
The incident happened while Puig was hitting in the cage and the only interaction McGwire had with Puig about it was telling him about what Gonzalez did in the 2001 World Series with his big walk-off hit to beat Mariano Rivera and the New York Yankees in game seven.
When Pedro Moura of the OC Register asked Puig about the incident his response disputed Bickley’s article:
[quote]“What happened in Arizona with the meeting with Luis Gonzalez, Mark McGwire was there and it wasn’t true. What transpired was different. I shook his hand and I said hello to Luis Gonzalez, just like the rest of my teammates did. Everything else that was said was different.”[/quote]
This incident just goes to show you why it came out last week that Puig didn’t like the media. If that’s true, this fabricated Gonzalez story isn’t going to help much in that regard. It should serve as an example to all writers to have their information correct before they publish.
Yes, Puig should probably not flip his bat and stare down a pitcher every time he gets a big hit but at this point in his career he doesn’t deserve half of the scrutiny he has received. The scrutiny has been from a select few people and blown up nationally without really understanding the situation.