Yasiel Puig and The Hater Army

I think people are having trouble seeing the forest through the trees.

Yasiel Puig, for those living under a rock, is the 22 year old Cuban sensation that has had a beginning to his MLB career so dominating, his measuring stick has been Joe DiMaggio.  The one who got with Marilyn Monroe and did incredible things on the field to the point he is almost founding father-like in the annuls of baseball lore.  He’s baseball George Washington.

It’s been gut-wrenching for me to live in Portland and miss this, my father still has our season tickets and I have not yet seen him play.  I saw the debuts of Clayton Kershaw and Bryce Harper, I’ve seen Mike Trout early on.  There’s not much you miss sitting in those seats that make me homesick more than just about anything else.

yasiel-puig-getty2

The one thing is that now I watch every game on MLB Extra Innings, affording me the “luxury” of hearing opposing teams broadcasters on many occasions.  While not getting to hear Vin every night hurts, I’ve gotten a unique perspective on Puig’s explosion onto the scene.

This perspective has raised a lot of questions, not about Puig, but about why the league is having such a hard time accepting this phenom.  The All Star Game being the catalyst, the series in Arizona being the scene of the crime.

Puig has transformed this Dodger team.  The most expensive collection of talent ever to don a uniform was awful, listless, less chemistry than oil and water.  They didn’t appear to care.  They couldn’t win three in a row.  Worst of all, they were letting their division clown them, literally beat them into submission.

The Dodgers had played reasonably against other divisions, but the NL West had owned them.  That is, until Puig arrived and suddenly, the NL West has tanked and the Dodgers have surged to .500, 1.5 games back on the Diamondbacks, who they just swept violently on the road with two dominating performances and then a soul-crushing 14 inning “fuck you, from us” homer-induced choke out.

The reason the division started tanking is because the division suddenly had games against the new look Los Puigeles Dodgers.

Puig runs with reckless abandon, he attacks pitches in every possible part of the strike zone and beyond.  He will try to throw you out from anywhere regardless of the likelihood of getting you out.  He will run into walls or into the stands without care of injury and frankly he’ll throw the ball just to show you he can.  He will flip his bat and stare at the other team.  He will pound the ground when a diving attempt comes up just short.  He’ll scream and shout and go all out and the result is that suddenly, so are the rest of the Dodgers.  The most expensive team on the planet is finally playing pissed off baseball.

We knew Bruce Bochy wasn’t picking Puig, even though complimenting him might be the only thing that could mellow the pure venom he’s shown in the rivalry so far.  Puig plays like a fan wants him to play.  The league, the announcers, anyone not wearing blue cannot stand it.

I want to look at why and what the result has been.

the picture of class

the picture of class

This all started for me when Phillies closer Jonathan Papelbon decided to rant about how he hadn’t paid his dues or played enough innings yet (despite the fact as a closer, Puig has already played more innings this year than Papelbon).  I couldn’t figure out why this was such a big deal.  I couldn’t figure out why there felt like more venom than when Bryce Harper came up with a punky haircut and the need to flip his helmet off as he ran the bases.  This was an arrogant kid who was embraced.

I tend to want to believe there’s no racist or xenophobic agenda going on because I like to think we live in a world where that shit is on the way out, at least in the mainstream.  John Rocker felt like a long time ago.

Puig is a good teammate.  There’s no way he couldn’t be.  All you have to do is look at the dugout.  Ethier, who often looks like an extra from World War Z out there, is high fiving guys before the game and diving on Puig as the both come around to score.  Kemp is pounding the outfield wall on a catch.  Hanley is somehow now a cheerleader and hitting the ball better than he ever has in his career, frankly, better than even the mighty Puig.

here an "aloof" and "standoffish" Puig signs tons of autographs for people who love him

here an “aloof” and “standoffish” Puig signs tons of autographs for people who love him

So why is he arrogant?  Because he won’t talk to the media?  If you lived in a country with so few freedoms and then probably almost died illegally trying to get away from that country, would you want to talk about that experience?  Or would you play your ass off to ensure you never have to look back?  If you were already guaranteed 42 million dollars, would you play your ass off like Puig?  Probably not.  It’s Clemente-like.  I’m fine with him tossing his glove missing a catch.  I’m thrilled he cares that much.  We’ve tried to give Pete Rose a million chances to get back in the game’s good graces, but two months in Puig is “an enemy” as Bill Plaschke suggested was his new persona around the league.  This country is about hustle and wanting to win.  As a graduate of what I think is a damn fine film school, you may recognize the league’s reaction as what people did to Rudy because he hustled to much and made everyone look bad.  That scene is in every movie where someone who came from adversity showed up and decided he was going to burn bright until there was nothing left in the tank.

Maybe the league is angry that when the Dodgers signed Puig, people said he was a ridiculous gamble and now every scout has to answer to why they didn’t demand their GM break the bank to bring this guy in, a guy so fascinating he’s compared to Bo Jackson, being courted by Roc Nation Sports (Kevin Durant’s reps owned by Jay Z) and breaking records left and right?  Why didn’t you find the kind of guy that can get a team that was so far under .500 their highlights barely made Sportscenter to the “it” subject in the sports world?

puig-throw

Maybe the division is pissed that suddenly the novelty of beating up on the pricey team is being met with the reality they the pricey team may have cost a lot for a reason.  Maybe they are pissed that the Dodgers signed Ricky Nolasco (whom they were all in on) and even he caught the bug pitching an incredible first start.  The Dodgers are somehow baseball zombies.  They were dead and reanimated.  Puig was the mad scientist behind it infecting them all with his all-out, balls-out hustle.  Maybe the division is mad that the adjustments haven’t really worked.  He cooled off a couple weeks in hitting only .308.

Puig is going to free swing, but pitchers make mistakes.  They leave pitches hanging.  Usually 2 to 3 times a game, Puig hits those mistakes and runs like crazy until he scores or goes out in a blaze of glory.  Speed doesn’t slump often either.

You see, Puig doesn’t have an at-bat.  He’s up there to hit the fucking ball as hard as he can.  He walked twice the other night (as the DBack’s announcers joked was impossible) not because he developed an eye, but because Ian Kennedy (who called Puig arrogant) was so scared of making a mistake, he was throwing the ball two feel outside the strike zone.  His one pitch in there, Puig took a vicious cut.  For Kennedy, it must have felt like a shark snapping at your hand as you put it near the tank.  Puig flipped his bat and snarled after the walk.  He wasn’t up there to bat.  He was up there to hit.

puig getting hit in the face by ian kennedy

puig getting hit in the face by ian kennedy

About that series in Arizona…

There’s a weird grey area that borders between racism and distastefulness that I experienced listening to Steve Berthiume and Bob Brenly called a game the other night.  Beyond being homers, they were angry.  You see their stadium mostly empty despite being in first, hosting the second place team with a phenom coming to town and you see the commercials promoting a bus that will take people from Tucson to Phoenix to see a game.  You understand that they want to be homers to increase the pride.

But I know that Kevin Towers is no genius and I know Josh Rawitch didn’t block many of Frank McCourt’s AWFUL comments or ideas in Los Angeles (like the one where they were giving free tickets to veterans but charging them for parking).  So when something rubbed me wrong about the broadcast, I knew there might be some truth to it.

They might have been cranky after proclaiming the DBacks’ defense was why they were superior to the Dodgers so far and then watch Jason Kubel and Adam Eaton drop every ball hit to them in ugly 6-1 losses.  Was Jason Kubel playing like a “little leaguer”?  No.  But Puig’s frustration after missing a diving catch was rewarded with brilliance like “that’s little league right there” and “he better watch himself or he’ll get a bad rep”.  Those are approximations, not quotes.

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers

What was a quote, was when they were talking about Puig being “raw”, which is fine and dandy, but the pile on got to the point of saying he “didn’t possess good baseball instincts” which for me is just short of saying he has a low baseball IQ.  They didn’t leave it at he is prone to bad baserunning.  They left it at “he didn’t possess good baseball instincts”.

Hitting .400 for over a month in the majors requires reasonably good instincts of when to swing and where to swing.  Frankly, maybe his instinct is to go all out and out work everyone, to out-care everyone.  Maybe that’s not baseball IQ, but it’s definitely winner-IQ.

luisgonzalez1220

And then there’s the Luis Gonzalez debacle that’s causing would-be sportswriters to pen crap LIKE THIS about the “incident”.  Supposedly, Luis Gonzalez wanted to talk about how he was Cuban and amazing at baseball.  Despite many on-field reporters tweeting that Puig shook his hand and was polite when McGuire showed up, the story is that Puig disrespected him.

One, maybe he didn’t want to talk to a guy who roided and randomly hit 50+ homers once.  Maybe he didn’t care about Gonzalez hitting a winner to beat the Yankees.  Probably because in Cuba he didn’t see the game and was like 5 years old when it happened.  He’s not Babe Ruth.  I’m sure he wouldn’t know Craig Counsell either.

Truth is, maybe he didn’t want to talk to a guy claiming Cuba Libre who was born in Tampa Bay fucking Florida.  Maybe he didn’t feel the need to do more than shake the hand of a guy famous for playing a game he never saw on a team he hates for hitting him in the face with a fastball before a game where his team was trying to gain in the pennant race.

Since when does Puig need to give a fuck about Luis Gonzalez?  It wasn’t Obama out there.  It wasn’t a wounded veteran.  It was Luis Gonzalez and a hand shake was all he needed.  Jeff Kent didn’t want to be friends either and we all dealt with it.

He seemed to be fine respecting an actual legend who actually played for his team and probably wasn’t trying to relate to him on the basis of being Cuban when their “Cuban” experiences could not have been more different.

ATLANTA BRAVES VS LOS ANGELES DODGERS

 

Puig looks really truculent there.  Face smack…

montero-puig-getty2

Miguel Montero, the DBacks’ catcher who Puig wanted to decapitate at home plate said this in an interview recently:  “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.”

Actually, the league is creating the bad reputation and it’s because they are tired of being asked about Puig.  It’s that Rudy scene again.  When you get swept at home and the walls are coming in and your post game interview is about “is the guy who tried to run you over the best in the world”, you get testy.

Puig is in the league’s head and they don’t like it.  The announcers don’t like it.  Puig doesn’t care, he’s thinking of turning your head into a bungalow and sticking around.  After the Giants got leapfrogged by the Dodgers in an away series, I had a friend teasingly brag that Puig had a golden sombrero.  Yup.  And then scored the winning run the next night and the Giants are now in the cellar.  The effect is enormous.  He is in everyone’s head like Scott Stevens on the NJ Devils used to be.  You’d give up a goal because you were half thinking about him taking your head off.

Michael Jordan was a prick who got in people’s heads.  Kobe.  Hell, people wanted to crucify LeBron for NOT being like this.

Brenly and Berthiume were so busy thinking about Puig and coming dangerously close to describing him as some wild animal and the Diamondbacks were so busy thinking about how “he’s not that good” that they got swept, forgetting how to hit and field, but not how to complain about Puig.

Puig lost the final vote for the All Star Game and I’m happy about it.  I prefer he stays angry and plays aggressive.  So far, all the hating seems to be working out.  Somehow criticism from THIS GUY doesn’t seem like a hardship compared to his journey to the big leagues.  Somehow, I think he’s more in your head than you are in his head.

And Bob Brenly…  Maybe Puig was staring down Ian Kennedy because not long ago he hit him in the face with a fastball.  And maybe he’s rubbing you the wrong way because his reaction was to march his team into Chase Field and take three back.

But here’s the final test.  Your team just traded for Puig.  You excited?

We are too.  Cue the hate commenting…  I’m good with it.  It’s the closest I’ll come to feeling like Puig.

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36 Comments

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36 Responses to Yasiel Puig and The Hater Army

  1. Luis

    Great piece, man.

  2. Linda from LA

    This was righteous!!!! I agree with every word. Thank you for putting to words to all the jumbled thoughts I have going in my head about Puig and the narrative some MLB players and sports writers are creating. I love Puig and haven’t been this excited about a Dodger player in decades.

  3. Alex Cabrera

    Excellent piece!!!

  4. dude

    I like what you have to say.

  5. Perrin

    NAILED IT. Every word, a bull’s-eye. Friend posted in my FB sports group – https://www.facebook.com/groups/121011997976362/ – and I DARE any of the [many] haters to try to debate any angle of this.

  6. Awesome article ZACK! Somebody posted it on the Dodgers Blog. “Puig plays like a fan wants him to play.” and “This game is about hustle and wanting to win” were two of my favs in your kick ass blog. I’m with Linda(above) as I feel much as you do but dont have your skills. I’ll be delighted to read more of your future opinions. Btw, I see you are a Trojan fan. My dad studied architecture at USC, was in a frat there and worked on the yearbook in 1927! I’m an old fart of 62 but my wife for the last 29 yrs says I’m a boy in heart. All the best to you young man! Go Troy!!

  7. Julio

    …I’m confused…which isn’t new…but I don’t understand how you can cite elitism/racism by others and single out a Cuban American for being born in Florida…now, I’m not one to comment on Cuba, having never been there, but I will go out on a far, far, FAR limb and say gonzalez’s parents and puig came to this country because they wanted, presumably, a better way of life…safe to say both the gonzalezes and puig have benefitted far better than they would in Cuba…again, just assuming….however, you can’t play the race card and then go and mention “Cuba fucking libre” (which is, admittedly, the boss way to order a rum and coke) being born in Florida… I haven’t been to Florida, either, but, as anyone who’s watched Miami Vice or played Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, there appears to be a fairly high concentration of Cubans (fucking libres, too!!) living, nay, THRIVING in the area…I don’t know that that makes Gonzalez LESS Cuban, but to say being raised in Cuba may have played a role in the interaction with Gonzalez seems too easy…with just a light dusting of elitism:racism…and if puig really is 22 by most accounts, he would have been around 10 in ’01….oh, and don’t worry about brenley comparing puig to a “wild animal”…you did that yourself when you compared him to a shark (calm down, PETA)…I’m a die hard Giants fan who grew up hating all things Doh-yer, and even I am amazed by puig’s talent…I am honestly enjoying the rivalry again…why should yanks-bosox get all the attention??…i liked your piece, especially the part about your dad and missing scully, who will always personify grace and class to me…my family and i are torn over matt kemp, who is a seorn enemy, but plays the game right and is a niner fan to boot…we excuse his successes against the giants with “well, it IS Kemp”…this upswing by the bums is bound to make fans giddy and itchy trigger fingers are sure to be expected when people bash your heroes…just look at us giants fans in the last decade on all matters Bonds….but don’t hate on Luis Gonzalez so much…he is well regarded as a true gentleman of the game…to the point that McGwire came to his defense….and it’s bad form for a dodger fan to call out potential “roid” abusers when there is still pine tar in the dugout from the man-ram era that Big Mac has to routinely step over….thanks for the opportunity to have my say…

    • admin

      This is a reasonable take. As for the shark vs wild animal, it’s like vin calling Kemp a bison, it was clearly out of love. Brenly was not doing that.

      As for roids, I would take any manny lumps (or gagne or lo duca) that anyone wants to dish out. Gonzo was a Dodger (post roids) and everything he did from overplaying the incident (there are so many accounts of how exaggerated it was) to going the radio to whine about it seems more like a washed up high school athlete mad and missing the old days. I respect his parents voyage, but truth is, who knows what he said to Puig and if you just spent years on boats trying to survive (i mean, read the Puig yahoo article) and a guy born in tampa tries to relate and is an egomaniac also and a “legend” on a team that does nothing but throw at you, criticize you, etc, I don’t blame him for the dust off.

      Anyway, nice take and may I politely (and blasphemously) say that I have always loved your ballpark and have been treated reasonably well there. It’s a great place to be.

      • Julio

        …thanks for the reply and the kind words…i do appreciate you taking up for this (for lack of a better term, and with respect) kid, and i’m glad you’ve had positive experiences at at&t (i really dug visiting dodger stadium in ’02)…my last take will be that there are only about 20 cubans active in the bigs spread out over 30 teams…even with the dustup from last month, i would think the ideal person to break the ice would be someone from the dbags with similar roots to puig….but i also thought the chip on his shoulder may have come from the divot on his face created by kennedy…looking forward to the next series against your guys….

  8. Dodger Blue

    Finally somebody with common sense! Puig takes a fastball to the face, and suddenly he’s Arizona Public Enemy #1? In what bizarro world does this make sense to DBack fans? Then they boo him whenever he comes out, cheer when he strikes out, and they went absolutely nuts when a pitch came high and inside and nearly knocked him in the face again. Understandably, Puig isn’t the biggest DBacks fan. After all this, Montero has the nerve to criticize Puig for not respecting the Arizona players. Gimme a break! Someone needs to teach that guy that respect needs to be earned. You can’t pitch fastballs at a guy’s head and generally treat him like shit and still demand that he show you respect.

    Maybe a few more losses will teach the DBacks some humility.

  9. Zane

    Such a satisfying read.

  10. David Loucks

    Wow. There is such a wealth of ignorance demonstrated in this article, I don’t even know where to start. If I did try, it would take me a good two weeks to completely outline everything that’s wrong here. You speak as a band wagon fan who has never experienced baseball from a player’s perspective, nor has any understanding of baseball history or tradition.
    Puig is an amazing talent… who is extremely raw, and extremely immature. He’s young, and he’ll learn, but the criticism coming from current and former players is not unfounded and certainly not out of jealousy… or racism (and wow… I can’t believe you even suggested that)… but rather out of a great respect for their sport, their peers, and their predecessors, and a strong desire to see a raw talent like Puig learn to show similar respect.

    • admin

      wow. you may get a post dedicated to the wool over your eyes.

    • J.F.

      Do you realize you just claimed this article is a “wealth of ignorance” and then failed to state even one single thing that the author got wrong? If you want to be taken seriously, back up your claims.

      • admin

        In fairness, he said he’d need 2 weeks…

      • David Loucks

        It’d be a waste of my time. Frankly, I don’t care if you believe me or not… if you want to verify my point of view, go research it yourself. Do your own thinking. I have no time to argue some guy’s blog post point by point, hence the reason I said it’d take me “two weeks” (intending to convey, too long to bother). Someone forwarded this article to me, I read it, and decided to briefly respond as I found it to be short sighted and poorly presented. That’s all I have to say. Disagree if you please. I couldn’t care less.

        • admin

          I don’t need to research how wrong you are or who you are. You are the kind of dude who comes somewhere and writes a long paragraph about how they don’t care and then comes back hours later and then follows up with another paragraph about how you don’t care. I have ex girlfriends like that. There’s plenty of you on the internet. Frankly, there’s plenty of snarky assholes like me also, but you’re here. I’m not on your blog, am I?

  11. jojo

    Yes, this article reeks of bias.

  12. Mike Barnhill

    Great post. I was at last night’s game and LA has Puig mania! It’s great. A sold out stadium. Ten plus teens lined up on the freeway selling bootleg Puig shirts. It’s like Opening Day all over again. You should make it down soon.

  13. Sanford Brown

    Great stuff. I was ducking from all the spittle.

  14. Awesome! It’s great to read a sports article by someone with writing with the right tools, a brain….and a heart instead of the obligatory testosterone. Thank you for your honesty, fairness, integrity, accuracy and passion. That is the kind of writing that I wish I could do!

    Like you, I am amazed that so few had problems with the youthful exuberance, hustle, mistakes and ASG selection of approved poster boy, Bryce Harper, while so many are resentful of those very same attributions to Yasiel Puig, a Cuban.

  15. MK

    I didn’t know Lee Clow wanted an autograph so bad…

  16. Pingback: The Misunderstanding of Yasiel Puig » The True Blue Crew

  17. Oscar J Montano

    Awesome piece as always. I don’t know why Kennedy and Montero are talking about Puig trying to run Montero over. If you look at the play, Puig actually tried to avoid him and the tag and changed his course by running inside the baseline. The contact came when Montero’s midget ass tried to apply the tag. Puig’s so strong that when the tag was applied, Montero was almost knocked down. If Puig wanted to run him over, he could’ve. It was set up perfectly for a collision. Had he done that, Montero would’ve been down for the count. After those comments, I bet he wished he had.

    And perhaps Puig wouldn’t be so “arrogant” if you didn’t throw at his and his pitcher’s face! The diamondbacks seem to be the only ones complaining about his play. They forget they started this mess. Jerkoffs!

  18. Stephanie

    Where’s the Bachelor recap????? Please catch up :)

    Love,
    Your Bachelor Fans

  19. duviel

    puig..THE WILD HORSE…..NICE NICKNAME

  20. Daniel Maloney

    Any,so called,sportswriter who results to vulgar profanity lacks a vocabulary.I am talking to you pal.If you’re a tough guy, nobody told me.
    Puig,he hits 250avg next year.

    • admin

      I’m sorry ATL lost, buddy.

    • Little Mikan

      Aren’t you the one who predicted Puig would hit .250 THIS year. He hit .319 after being injured and in a slump for a month. BTW, he hit .471 (8 for 17) in the NLDS, not bad for a rookie who’s supposed to choke. I don’t recall any “bonehead” plays by Puig, but noticed several by Evan Gattis, a rookie with much lower expectations, talent, speed and energy. Don’t bet on Puig falling off to .250. next year. You’ll lose…….BADLY!

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