The trouble with Yasiel Puig …

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.

17 comments

  1. Hollywood Dodger Mark

    Not sure I understand the Miami situation. Mattingly denied discipline there but wasn’t Puig fined? Did Nolasco confront Puig on no attempt to break up double play? Why do Puig, Hanley and even Kemp avoid sliding so much? Never seen anything like it in my life. What gives? Is it uncool to slide now?

  2. I think Mattingly was denying that the benching in Miami was disciplinary, which was true — he had decided to give Puig a day off BEFORE Puig showed up late that day, just the standard day off that he tries to give every player every so often. When he showed up late, he was called into the office and fine. Donnie is employing a little bit of revisionist history in the video, saying THAT meeting was just to explain to Puig why he wasn’t playing that day. He conveniently forgot to mention that he also fined him in that meeting for being late. … And no, I don’t believe Nolasco confronted him for not sliding. In the extremely rare instance that a pitcher confronts a teammate, it’s usually for something that teammate screwed up in the field, not on the offensive side. … As for the no sliding, I honestly hadn’t noticed, but I’ll keep an eye out for it.

    • I think the line being drawn is that anyone who showed up late would have been fined so the day off wasn’t an additional punishment for being late.

  3. called into the office and FINED. I left the D off of fined there.

  4. Way to much is being made of this, Puig is going through a maturing process that most of us don’t see because it normally happens in the low minors. The fact that he has so much physical talent the organization has pushed him quickly up the ladder but that doesn’t mean that he is also maturing at that pace. Many of the same things could have and were said about Harper who is still a work in progress.

  5. Just heard somebody say Puig is getting all this great advice from many sources and is listening to none of it.

    Didn’t see the no slide play, but the general rule of thumb is slide or get out of the way. Coming in standing up can be considered interference if it impedes a throw.

  6. For all the criticism Mattingly gets about his game management, bunt calling, excessive double-switching, etc. – he generally gets good marks for how he relates to players. He’s supportive, but he can/will call them out when they’re not giving 100%. With the new generation of athletes, I guess it takes a balanced approach. You have to call them out without causing them to shutdown. Imagine what the Dodger clubhouse would be like if Larry Bowa was still on the coaching staff…

  7. I feel bad for Puig. He is a young kid who defected from Cuba. As patriotic Americans, shouldn’t we see applaud that move from dictatorship to freedom? As cynical Americans, we can see that as a move to make money with his talent, but even so isn’t that completely American?

    I hate listening to Rick Monday and the disdain in his voice for Puig, he has no respect for Puig’s fierce talent. Not just Monday, but others as well. I respect Rick Monday, but there is no comparison to his talent vs. Puig. To hear him talk you would think he was MVP every year he played.

    I bet if you were to get inside Puig’s head you would find a world of confusion: I came here for freedom and to play, but I am being shackled by an old game with old cranky men. Don’t they see how I have turned around this team? Can they only see my mistakes?

    I really hope they don’t push him too far. He is such a talent and even if his throws don’t hit the cutoff man every time, you cannot doubt his heart is in the right place. Oh, yeah. Have you seen his stats? He is still among the most reliable hitters on our team. Who else hit against the Red Sox?

    Why can’t we just let a success, succeed?

  8. This kid amazes me and confounds me & vice versa! Reminds me of my kid, oops, I just figured that out! I guess I’m just supposed to love him right where he’s at….

  9. Puig was thrust into this role due to injuries and lack of run production. He has done a good job since being recalled, leading the team in BA. He hasn’t caused problems with his teammates or lashed out at management. He is what he is at the moment, a youngster with an enormous amount of energy, talent and potential. It’s not every day that someone comes along, with enough positive’s to be allowed to learn on the fly in the show.

  10. Excellent comments, everyone. This is obviously a hot-button topic, and everyone who is paying attention to it brings a unique and interesting perspective on it. As Mattingly has said many, many times, no one faults Puig for being energetic and demonstrative. But I think what happened today was that he let his emotions get the better of him. There is a point at which it becomes sulking. Is it a matter of maturity, and the fact he’s young? Yes, of course it is. But as one of you pointed out, we help our children mature by guiding them every step of the way, and sometimes that means tough love. That is what Donnie employed today, a little dose of tough love.

    • I don’t think most people have a problem with the way everything was handled. You guys are doing a great job covering it too.

      We’re just bracing for the national media to exaggerate and BS about it, I think.

  11. Puig is a great talent. He isn’t being held back. He’s getting constructive criticism and listening.But he is a work in progress and can and will be that much better as he learns form his mistakes. I plan to take him at his word that he understands what Donnie and Ned were telling him. in addition to being a great athlete, he’s no dummy, and we can continually see him making adjustments.
    And I certainly don’t hear Monday the same way Jimmer does.

  12. Look here’s the thing. Puig rakes as a rookie and hopefully will only get better. Most of his problems have been maturity but a lot of his proglems have been lack of preperation. Takiing the time to understand how you are going to be pitched and gameplan accordingly. Knowing the ump and his tendencies behind the plate and adjusting as needed. Team defense based on how you are pitching someone….etc…. Preperation has more to do with work ethic than maturity although you could say maturity brings a better work ethic. I think thats where the problem lies. He’s a stud out there winging it on pure talent and could/will be the franchise when he starts working hard on the details that make professional players hall of fame caliber. Give him time to grow into the responsibility to be a franchise player. Hell give him time to learn how to play a game in the majors….. Hopefully he will get it and become what we all expect of him. I beleive he will!!

  13. I agree with snake. Puig is obviously willing to work hard. You don’t get a body like lying around eating chips and playing video games all day. Preparation to play the game at the MLB level evidently requires more than hitting .350. You gotta go along to get along. He’ll figure it out.

    Anybody remember Joe Don Looney? I remember reading this about him…. a conversation he had with his coach…

    “I’m in shape, right coach?”

    “Yeah Joe Don, you’re in great shape”

    “I know the plays and run them correctly right coach?”

    “Yeah Joe Don, you know the plays and you run them terrifically”

    “Then why do I have to practice?”

    Puig is young. And he has more raw talent than anyone in the Dodger organization. Hopefully he gets his ego in check and everybody will continue to love the guy.

    • Great points, and keep in mind, working mentally (preparing for games, watching video, interpreting scouting reports on a pitcher, etc) is very different from working physically (keeping in shape, taking extra swings in the cage, etc). Some guys are balls-to-the-wall at one, lazy at the other, and vice versa. It’s the guys who go hard at both who put themselves in the best position to succeed.

  14. Well I would say one is cerebral. We all have seen those that show up with physical tools only to get checkmated by being forced to figure stuff out, snd failing to do so. This guy has been given both the physical tools and a good mind. If it doesn’t work, it will be his ego that stops him.