And if he doesn’t he’ll be sent straight home after school without his supper. And he can’t play PSP, or chat with his friends on twitter. Remember when you were a kid and called into the principal’s office? It was never a god thing. Unless you were like me and being called into the Principal’s office multiple times, you’ve probably never experienced it. I guess you could say I was a troublemaker.
After the Dodger’s 4-0 win over the Cubs on Wednesday afternoon, Yasiel Puig was called into GM Ned Colletti’s office along with manager Don Mattingly. There they discussed some of the 22 year old outfielder’s transgressions over the last couple of weeks. Oh would I have loved to have been a fly on the wall for that meeting.
Dodger phenom Yasiel Puig is one of the most exciting, talented, headstrong, volatile, emotional, and intense young players the Dodgers have ever had. His every move is picked apart to the nth degree by every Baseball writer in America. Puig and the Dodgers are under unbelievable pressure to win a World Series, and I believe that it may be getting to Puig.
During the top of the fifth inning of yesterday’s game, Puig was lifted from the game, and Skip Schumaker replaced him in right field. At the time, we had no idea why he was removed from the game. We feared he was hurt initially, but we saw Puig sitting in the dugout. He was not hurt, and the team’s response was that he had been lifted because of the “manager’s decision”. Um, ok. Good thing the Dodgers have guys like Schumaker who can enter into a game and not miss a beat. (Schumaker contributed with an RBI single), but why was Puig removed from the game so early?
There were a few glaring reasons that came to mind first. Puig reacted angrily when he struck out in the third inning, slamming his bat down on the ground. Was that it? There was a moment in the first inning when after walking, Puig didn’t slide into second to try and break up a double play on a Carl Crawford grounder. Was that the reason? We still did not know.
During the after game press conference, Mattingly was vague, and avoided the questions. He just said that the choice to use Schumaker, gave them the best chance to win that day. Fair enough, but everyone still wanted to know why, and after more prodding of Mattingly for answers, they still got none.
I was not at the game, so I had no idea, and most people didn’t either. Fortunately, the always insightful Tony Jackson was able to shed some light on this. Jackson figured out that the real reason Puig was removed was not because of not sliding, or some one handed catches, (which scare me, use two hands Puig!), and it was not because he slammed his bat down after striking out. Apparently he was lifted because he didn’t get out to right field in time between innings, and he walked, nay sauntered out there, while Andre Ethier was already there. Although we still don’t know for sure, but it all seems to fit with the timing of his removal from the game.
Normally the outfielders will run or jog out to their respective positions before the pitcher is done throwing their warm-up tosses. During this time, the outfielders play warm-up toss with each other. But since Puig was not out there in time, Ethier had nobody to play toss with between innings, and that’s what must have pissed off Mattingly. After that, he was hooked immediately.
There were also reports of Puig not preparing for at-bats, which Puig even admitted, Here’s a snippet of his interview after the game, courtesy of Tony Jackson.
“(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.”
Mattingly was purposefully evasive during the presser. Understandably, these are things that get handled behind closed doors. Mattingly somewhat admitted that his relationship with Puig is more of a father son type of relationship. I’m sure a lot of the veteran players on the team view Puig as a little brother or son in some way. Everyone wants to help. What Mattingly was saying is basically work a little harder Yasiel. Dummy. Try harder. This was handled well by Mattingly. He’s finally grown a pair.
I’m impressed with Puig’s response though. He’s a good kid, he’s just full of beans, and energy, and wildness. He’s really just being himself. What this shows me is some maturity. He’s growing, he admitted he made a mistake and understood why he was taken out of the game. That should be enough, and is for me, in my opinion. Let’s give the kid a break and let him grow. I also applaud Don Mattingly for doing the right thing here and taking charge. Mattingly is old school, and if he feels like someone isn’t hustling, well, he’s not going to have any of that.
Puig has some emotional issues, he has flare, and has a bit of a temper. That’s just the way he is. He gets really upset with himself when he makes mistakes. We’ve seen it before, slamming his bat down after striking out, or shouting at the umpire from the dugout on a called third strike. We saw that in Miami on the last road trip. I think at this point, the hardest critic of Yasiel Puig, is Yasiel Puig.
Baseball is a game of adjustments. Players are constantly making them. Puig needs to make an adjustment to his attitude. And he will, or face more of the wrath of Donnie Baseball. Puig is batting .348 in 75 games. He is 100 for 288 with 13 home runs, and 30 RBI in 321 plate appearances. His numbers are on pace with the best in the game, but Puig needs to learn how to control himself, which can be a hard thing to learn for someone as young as he is. Puig has been heating up of late as well, after a small mini-slump. Puig never really slumps, they are more like micro slumps, if you can call them that.
Mattingly has already said that Puig will be in the lineup on Friday and start against the Padres at Dodger Stadium. This wasn’t that big of a deal, despite many people trying to make it more than it was. Puig screwed up, he got disciplined, and he learned his lesson. It’s over. Plus the Dodgers won anyways. If he does it again, Mattingly will handle it. There is no reason to beat the kid up over this. Obviously Puig has a lot to learn about the game and life in general, being so young. He will learn as time goes on. Let’s just leave him alone, and leave the parenting and coaching to Mattingly and his staff. Puig is fine and so are the Dodgers I might add, (despite the recent offensive lull), who now have a magic number of 21 to clinch the NL West.
We now return you to our regularly scheduled dream season, already in progress.