Are Yasiel Puig's Immaturity Issues Finally Causing On-Field Dropoff?
Yasiel Puig is an MVP candidate and then some...unfortunately, by "and then some" I mean that he's also a diva.
Puig has taken Major League Baseball by storm since being called up to join the Los Angeles Dodgers, turning the team from a basement-dwelling team to a World Series favorite. He has had arguably the best first month in baseball history by a rookie and become a national star seemingly overnight, but he's still not perfect.
Everyone has their vices, and Puig is no different. He's had quite a few incidents since defecting from Cuba to play the game he loves in America, and Tuesday brought a new fiasco.
Dodgers beat writer Bill Plunkett reported that Puig was very late to the ballpark, and was fined by manager Don Mattingly because of it.
So Yasiel Puig hustled into locker room at 4:50. 35 minutes before stretch. Well after most players here. Now in mgr office with Mattingly— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 20, 2013
Puig is out of mgr office after 10 minutes. #Dodgers— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 20, 2013
Puig was fined for late arrival today. Mattingly: "More than a dollar. Less than 10,000". Told Mattingly he got caught in traffic. #Dodgers— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 20, 2013
Puig being late and fined comes just one day after he reportedly cursed out media members in the visitor's clubhouse in Miami.
Yasiel Puig was in the visitors clubhouse here at #Marlins Park & looked at us gathered there and yelled, "F**K the media" and left the room— Josh Friedman (@Friedo790) August 19, 2013
It's worth noting that Puig's words may have been taken out of context.
For the record, I was in the clubhouse when Puig said what he said. It was in jest and not addressed to anyone specifically.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) August 19, 2013
Puig was basically venting to a couple teammates about some of the reports about him hanging with LeBron last night.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) August 19, 2013
@LBSports he said something nasty, an equally offensive phrase, but I didn't think it was directed at anyone particular— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) August 19, 2013
No matter what happened in the clubhouse on Monday, it caused another distraction for Puig and the Dodgers, and coincided with an 0-for-5 performance with two strikeouts.
Puig's antics in the last two days have not been isolated incidents. He's ignored MLB legends like Luis Gonzalez, argued with teammates in front of reporters, had heated exchanges with Adrian Gonzalez because he held at third when Puig wanted to extend a double into a triple and played a major role in a benches-clearing brawl.
What's worse, we may finally be seeing his off-field issues interfere with his performance on the field.
Puig has struggled over his last nine games, going 6-for-35 with 10 strikeouts and just one RBI. He's posted a .171 batting average and .257 slugging. This is the worst slump of his short career, and he was benched on Tuesday night (although that was not related to his being late).
Puig may simply have become too bright a star for his own good. He's been living it up, going clubbing with celebrities like LeBron James even after losses (per TMZ).
The Dodgers remain the hottest team in baseball and are among the top contenders to make it to the World Series. However, Puig's new celebrity status appears to be going to his head—and it's affecting his play.
Fox Sports' Jon Paul Morosi argued that Puig is a liability in the postseason, and is just as likely to cost the Dodgers a game as he is to win one for them.
ESPN's Mark Saxon documented Puig's recent troubles with umpires, and how manager Don Mattingly has had to do some damage control multiple times over the last week.
During Monday night’s 6-2 loss to the Miami Marlins, Mattingly had to walk out and make peace with an umpire after Puig inexplicably erupted at John Hirschbeck after a three-pitch strikeout in the fifth inning. Only one of those pitches was a called strike, the last was Puig swinging wildly at 97 mph fastballs.
Mattingly said he had to assuage an umpire in Philadelphia just a day or two earlier. Monday’s dispute started with Puig glaring at Hirschbeck and ended with his teammates having to hustle him out of the dugout before he was ejected. Puig has already alienated opponents with his flamboyant style. Of course, you could argue, who cares? It's a little bit riskier to get on the wrong side of umpires.
We know that Puig is a star, but we also know that he has his issues. He's an immature 22-year-old, and the argument can be made that we can't fault him for acting like one.
However, when that interferes with his play, it's a problem. Very few 22-year-olds have as much freedom as Puig, and very few would keep their jobs if they acted like Puig has.
I'm not saying that Puig needs to be benched long-term—he's the reason the team is where it is now. However, he does need to get back to focusing on baseball. Otherwise, the Dodgers could be in trouble in October.
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