OK, best I can figure, based on what little information we were able to cull from the rather bizarre postgame scene downstairs, is that the last straw with Yasiel Puig had to do with his reaction to striking out for the second out in the third inning. Not his immediate reaction, when he went back to the dugout, but rather when he returned to right field one batter later, after Carl Crawford flied out to end the inning.
Instead of jogging back to his position, I’m told Puig WALKED to right field — and it’s a long walk from the third-base dugout to right field. Meanwhile, center fielder Andre Ethier was in position, ready for his traditional between-innings warmup throws with the right fielder, only there was no right fielder.
I seriously doubt, however, that this incident alone warranted Puig being yanked from the game when he was, nor did it warrant a postgame, closed-door meeting in Don Mattingly‘s office with Mattingly, Puig and general manager Ned Colletti. This was more a culmination of all of the issues the Dodgers have had with Puig, who is always going to be a delicate player to handle, especially when you stop and consider whether this team would be in the position it’s in without him.
I honestly couldn’t believe Puig actually spoke to the media afterward, but he did, and so I applaud him for it. After facing the music in Mattingly’s office — he had no choice on that one — he faced it again from reporters, even though he DID have a choice in that case. While he didn’t say much, he did reveal a little, speaking through an interpreter.
This is what he said:
“(Mattingly) told me I need to prepare well for each pitch. It was the right decision. He felt (Skip) Schumaker could come in and did a better job.”
“Everybody on this team, all these guys, are giving 100 percent. Anybody else can come in and do the job. I am not the best one on the team.”
“I wanted to finish the game, of course, but when (Mattingly) explained why, I agreed with his explanation. I agreed that my teammates can do a good job and give 100 percent as well.”
“It’s true, there were some pitches I didn’t prepare myself for. I’ll come back and give 100 percent.”
On the subject of his occasional angry outbursts on the field:
“It’s really every player in the game who gets upset when they don’t accomplish what they want to do in their at-bat.”
“I felt the meeting went well. We talked about what I’m doing and what every player needs to do to prepare for every pitch. If I’m back in the lineup Friday, I will give 100 percent. If not, I will prepare myself to play when I’m needed.”
By the way, if you didn’t see the Mattingly video, he said Puig will be in the lineup on Friday night when the Dodgers begin a three-game series with the San Diego Padres. Keep in mind this is the second closed-door meeting between Mattingly and Puig in the past nine days. One guy isn’t supposed to get called into the manager’s office with anything close to that level of frequency. It’s probably a really good thing that this team is off tomorrow and has a chance to hit the reset button. Maybe it’ll give Puig a chance to contemplate everything and come back and start fresh. Who knows, maybe this will be a major turning point for Puig in terms of his professionalism and his attitude. Maybe he’ll suddenly become a model citizen now, as well as a highly productive hitter.
Judging by the Twitter responses I have been receiving this afternoon as I have been posting updates to this story, Puig obviously is a polarizing figure. There are very few fans who are lukewarm on this guy. Most of those tweets either mocked the Dodgers for picking on all the little things Puig does that team officials apparently find annoying, or they applauded Mattingly for finally reaching the point where he isn’t going to tolerate any more shenanigans.
To Mattingly’s credit, he didn’t wait until Puig slipped into another offensive slump to take action. He did it now, at a point when Puig has five hits in his past 10 at-bats, including a home run.
One thing is for sure, it’s all on Puig now. We can no longer question whether Mattingly and Colletti and the coaches and Puig’s teammates are too tolerant. The kid has been called on the carpet. Starting Friday, we will see how he responds.