Were Yasiel Puig's Post-Walk-Off Antics Innocent Fun or Showing Up the Reds?
Rookie phenom Yasiel Puig remains a consistent source of excitement for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he delivered once again on Sunday with a walk-off home run in the 11th inning to beat the Cincinnati Reds 1-0.
The blast secured yet another victory for the streaking Dodgers, and after his signature bat flip and throwing his hands in the air before leaving the batter's box, Puig capped his jog around the bases by sliding feet first into home.
It was no doubt just a matter of the 22-year-old being caught up in the excitement of his first walk-off home run, but that is not necessarily how it looked from the Cincinnati point of view. So the question is, were his antics innocent fun by a rookie or a case of him showing up the opposing team?
In roughly two months in the majors, it has become clear that Puig seems to have only one speed, and that he plays with as much passion and energy as anyone in the game.
The Dodgers were 23-32 when Puig was called up on June 3, and there's no denying the impact he has had on the team, as they've gone 33-16 since then and have pulled into first place in the NL West.
His production at the plate has slowed some after his torrid start, but he's still hitting .372/.417/.590 with 10 home runs and 23 RBI in just 188 at-bats.
We've seen players admire their home runs from the batter's box and stare down opposing pitchers after hitting bombs, but the slide into home plate after a walk-off home run is a new one as far as I can remember.
If anything, it's certainly safer than jumping onto home plate following a walk-off. Current Seattle Mariners slugger Kendrys Morales can attest from his time with the Los Angeles Angels when he broke his ankle doing just that after a walk-off grand slam.
From trying to gun runners at first base with his cannon arm to an all-or-nothing aggressiveness on the base paths that doesn't always work to his favor, there's no one in the league quite like Puig. His exuberance has energized the Dodgers roster, but it's not always a benefit to his game.
That exuberance has rubbed some opponents the wrong way though, with Arizona Diamondbacks starter Ian Kennedy calling him "arrogant" and catcher Miguel Montero referring to some of his decisions on the field as "stupid," according to an article from ESPN.
In that same article, he was asked if he would consider changing his game moving forward, to which he responded with a resounding no:
That's my game. I'm going to play my baseball the way I play. I learned to play that way as a kid. I always like to play aggressive and always try to put on a show for the fans. They come to spend their time and lose sleep watching us play. It is one, to me, of the more emotional things in baseball.
Aside from making some enemies on opposing teams, Puig's over-aggressiveness has also gotten him into trouble on the field at times.
Here, he was thrown out trying to stretch a routine single up the middle into a double.
And here, he gets picked off by San Diego Padres starter Andrew Cashner, despite having a relatively short lead.
Going back to the slide into home through, Puig needs to realize that everything he does gets put under a microscope, and these are the sort of shenanigans that are going to make him look bad. At the end of the day, this should serve as a learning experience for him and nothing more should be made of it in my opinion.
That said, the Dodgers and Reds meet up for one more series this season from September 6-8, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Puig get drilled the first time he steps into the batter's box.
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