When you watch Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig and his devil-may-care style of play, it is hard not to immediately be reminded of Manny Ramirez.
The parallels of "Puig Being Puig" and "Manny Being Manny" are striking, albeit for very different reasons.
Gabe Kapler, who played with Ramirez in Boston from 2003-06, actually made the comparison between Puig and Ramirez during his appearance on Fox Sports Live Wednesday night (h/t NESN.com).
It brings me back to the 2004 Red Sox and Terry Francona and how he decided to discipline Manny Ramirez. [Francona] told everybody in the clubhouse that "Guys, we have to look the other way when Manny does crazy things."
Kapler continued, stressing the crucial need to set boundaries and enforce discipline in a young star's career:
In this case, ‘Puig being Puig’ isn’t exactly "Manny being Manny," and [Dodgers manager Don] Mattingly has to enforce a little bit more. Young players, they need boundaries in order to develop appropriately. Puig is reckless on the field.
Puig's antics—if that's what you want to call them—both on and off the field have caused a media stir. Some of it can be justified as necessary news reporting, while bits of it appear to go out of the way to paint him as an egomaniacal, immature man.
It must be stated, of course, that Puig is going to come off as a combustible element at this point in his career. Not only is he 22 years old, he is a 22-year-old from a poverty-riddled land who is now armed with a $42 million contract for playing a game.
On top of that, less than three months into his MLB career, Puig has become a national sensation nearly overnight, with some of the hype bordering on the ridiculous. That said, there are some red flags that the Dodgers will have to address in the near future to ensure that their golden child can stick for the long haul.
Ramirez, for all his faults, was always able to perform on the field. He was one of the greatest hitters of his era (the PED subject notwithstanding) and did things with a bat that 98 percent of professional baseball players could only dream of.
Because Ramirez was so talented, specifically at his peak, teams were willing to overlook all of the shenanigans that came with him. Hence, the birth of "Manny Being Manny."
That mantra became a rallying cry in defense for Ramirez. The leash was always loose on Ramirez—as it is with all stars who help teams win—because he was so good at what he was being paid to do.
The differences between Puig and Ramirez are the types of things they generate headlines for, as well as our reaction to them. Looking back over Ramirez's career, it's absurdly comical how ridiculous some of the things he did actually were.
In 1995, former Cleveland manager Mike Hargrove unintentionally coined the "Manny Being Manny" phrase in the presence of writer Jon Heyman after Ramirez left his paycheck in a pair of boots in a visitor's clubhouse (h/t ESPN.com). Here is a young 23-year-old professional athlete leaving his well-earned paycheck laying around as if it was some old newspaper or something. How do you not laugh at that?
Things would just get crazier for Ramirez from there. Some of the more notable instances of "Manny Being Manny" include a trip into the Green Monster in the middle of an inning (during a coach's visit to the mound) to use the toilet, cutting off a throw in deep left field from Johnny Damon, and high-fiving a fan in Baltimore while running up the wall after making a catch.
Not all of the "Manny Being Manny" stories were of the comedic variety. He once got into an altercation with a 64-year-old Red Sox employee over his ticket allotment to a road game that resulted in Ramirez shoving the employee to the ground.
There were times, especially during his final weeks in Boston, where Ramirez had clearly checked out—doing everything he could to get traded out of town. That eventually led to his move to L.A. and that insane 53-game stretch when he hit .396/.489/.743 in the 2008 season to help the Dodgers make the playoffs.
Puig's moments, at least so far, have been all drama with no comedy. He plays the game with a reckless abandon that tends to get him in trouble.
Since he knows how good his throwing arm is, Puig doesn't feel the need to hit the cutoff man anymore. He puts his team at risk in an effort to make the spectacular play.
Like Ramirez, Puig also has moments on the bases where he gets caught with his hands in his pockets. He has tremendous speed and will bust down the line as hard as anyone (which is something Ramirez never did), but he's just 7-for-13 in stolen bases and is a well-below-average runner (at minus-3.4 runs per Fangraphs' baserunning stat).
Off-the-field issues have also become problematic for the young Cuban sensation, though some of it is just the media overreacting (as they're wont to do).
For instance, Puig was chastised for a pregame incident in Arizona when he didn't acknowledge former Diamondbacks outfielder Luis Gonzalez until Mark McGwire stepped in to let Puig know who exactly Gonzalez was.
Another reason for the media backlash is because, unsurprisingly, Puig doesn't care for the media. According to Miami radio host Josh Friedman, prior to Monday's game against the Marlins, Puig had some very choice words for a group of reporters gathered around the Dodgers clubhouse.
Then comes the latest story of how Puig was fined by the Dodgers on Tuesday for showing up late to Marlins Park for pregame drills. Oh by the way, Puig would hit the go-ahead pinch-hit home run in the eighth inning of that game.
You can actually see some of that Ramirez showmanship in Puig after a big home run.
Just "Puig Being Puig."
And there is a clear parallel that exists between Yasiel Puig and Manny Ramirez. It may not be exactly the same because Ramirez was just kind of aloof in many regards, while Puig seems to have a confrontational side to his personality.
Those distinct personalities have worked well for Puig and Ramirez, and, as Kapler observed, the respective teams they played for showed/have shown great restraint and a willingness to simply look the other way in many respects due to their indispensable talents.
Eventually, Father Time always wins out and every player sooner or later runs out of get-of-jail-free cards.
Puig is just 22 with many years ahead of him. If he keeps hitting .300/.400/.500 and makes spectacular plays while hustling all over the field, "Puig Being Puig" will become the new "Manny Being Manny." But you have to be really, really good for teams to put up with that for a prolonged time.
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