Yasiel Puig's Play Is All Baseball Fans Should Care About

Rob GoldbergFeatured ColumnistOctober 18, 2013

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts as he hits a RBI triple in the fourth inning against the St. Louis Cardinals in Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on October 14, 2013 in Los Angeles, California.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Los Angeles Dodgers rookie Yasiel Puig has seemingly made more headlines for his antics than his solid play this season. That needs to change immediately.

The 22-year-old outfielder has been outstanding all year, posting a .319 batting average with 19 home runs in only 104 games. He has also displayed incredible fielding ability, a rocket arm and impressive speed on the bases.

His five-tool ability should make him an instant fan favorite and media darling the way Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were in their rookie seasons. Unfortunately, he also likes to enjoy himself during games, which is something not everyone appreciates.

The latest controversy came in Game 3 of the NLCS against the St. Louis Cardinals when Puig flipped his bat after thinking he'd hit a home run. He ended up with an RBI triple that still stands as one of the biggest hits of his career.

However, many took exception to the play, complaining about his showboating. Brad Kallet of WFAN.com (via CBS New York) was one of many who dedicated an article to the cocky, arrogant youngster who "doesn’t play the great game of baseball the right way, the way it’s supposed to be played."

It wasn't just members of the media who were offended, either. Cardinals outfielder Carlos Beltran had this to say about Puig, via ESPN:

As a player, I just think he doesn't know [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.

Of course, Beltran was the one who could have thrown the runner out at third if he had played the ball correctly off the wall. The only thing Puig did was provide a better opportunity to get him out. If anyone should be angry at the play, it is the Dodgers.

Then again, Los Angeles certainly is not complaining, because the team and its fans realize how great of an impact Puig has had on the season. 

Puig made his major league debut on June 3, when the Dodgers were 23-32 and in last place in the NL West. They stood 8.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks for first place. However, they went 69-38 the rest of the year and easily won the division.

LOS ANGELES, CA - OCTOBER 14:  Carl Crawford #25, Andre Ethier #16 and Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrate after the Dodgers defeat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-0 in Game Three of the National League Championship Series at Dodger Stadium on
Jeff Gross/Getty Images

While many players on the roster made an impact in the turnaround, the rookie played as big a role as anyone with his play and the energy he brought to every game. He made mistakes, but he helped his team much more than he hurt it.

That same energy has kept the Dodgers alive in the postseason despite a 3-2 deficit in the series against the Cardinals. After starting 0-for-11 in the NLCS before the triple, he is 5-for-8 since with two RBI and a run.

If the Dodgers are able to come back in this series, it will likely be thanks to the strong play of Puig.

In reality, that is the only thing that should be discussed during these playoffs. The MLB postseason is when great players shine in front of a national audience and truly make names for themselves. Young players like Michael Wacha and Sonny Gray have done that with their play, but for some reason, Puig has not gotten that luxury.

Instead of noticing that he has a .361 batting average in the playoffs with more hits (13) than anyone else in the National League, the discussion is focused on whether he plays the game "the right way." The last I checked, the right way to play is by hitting, throwing and fielding better than the other team.

The truth is that Puig does these things better than virtually anyone else in baseball, and he is certain to only get better. If you do not like watching the way he celebrates, watch something else. Turn on football or soccer, where each player has a choreographed dance whenever he scores.

Baseball is not above these sports, and fun is certainly allowed. If the team and manager do not have a problem with it, neither should fans or anyone else.

Puig is one of the best young players in the sport, and it is about time we start talking about his play and nothing else.


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