Yasiel Puig strong play and youthful exuberance helped the Los Angeles Dodgers turn their season around, but sometimes his antics can rub opposing teams the wrong way.
St. Louis Cardinals veteran Carlos Beltran, who has more than 2,000 games under his belt, didn't approve of Puig celebrating what he thought might be a home run during Game 3 of the NLCS.
ESPN.com passed along comments from Beltran, who said Puig simply doesn't know how to act at this point in his promising career:
As a player, I just think he doesn't know [about how to act]. That's what I think. He really doesn't know. He must think that he's still playing somewhere else.
He has a lot of passion, no doubt about that—great ability, great talent. I think with time, he'll learn that you've got to act with a little bit more calm.
Puig's shot didn't get out of the park, but the Dodgers' spark plug turned it into an RBI triple in the team's 3-0 victory, which narrowed St. Louis' series lead to 2-1.
Even though Los Angeles pulled out the win, Beltran said that is the type of moment that can give the other team added motivation. The eight-time All-Star believes Puig has to learn those finer points of the game over time. He continued:
When you try to do those things sometimes, you know, you get that attention. And you don't want to wake up nobody. I always thought if you hit a home run off a pitcher, you've got to make him believe he made a mistake. You don't wake him up. Or next time, the pitcher's going to be more focused with you and he's going to try harder to get you out.
So he will learn. I don't think he's a bad kid. I just think he doesn't know right now.
USA Today's Bob Nightengale provides Don Mattingly's take on the Cardinals' comments:
In reality, baseball could use more exciting stars like Puig to increase its popularity on a national scale. But it's a sport with a lot of unwritten rules, and doing anything that appears to show up the opponent is near the top of the forbidden list.
The Cardinals are a team with a lot of battle-tested players who have gone through numerous playoff runs. They play a very strong traditional game with remarkable consistency, which is why they seem to contend every year.
On the flip side, the Dodgers are more of a new-age club. The front office spent a lot of money to put the team together, and now it's championship or bust. Puig's style of play has helped them reach this point, and they don't want him to lose that edge.
In the ESPN.com report, Jerry Hairston Jr. defended the Cuban phenom, saying he doesn't mean any disrespect to opponents with his actions.
I know, with his exuberance, sometimes the opposing team might not like it. But they've just got to understand, he doesn't mean anything by it. He just wants to do well.
I totally understand the opposite side and their view of it. But what I would say to them is, you've got to remember, this guy is like a 16-year-old kid playing Little League. He's just so passionate, so emotional about the game. He really means no disrespect. He really means no harm. He just got excited tonight. He got a really big hit for us.
Ultimately, the back-and-forth debate about Puig just adds another layer of intrigue to an already tense series. The Dodgers needed a win in the worst way heading into Game 3, and they got it, setting up an extended battle for the NL crown.
The Cardinals might not like how Puig celebrates, but the only way to prevent it is getting him out consistently, like they did in the first two games.
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