Yasiel Puig Asks MLB to Address 'Unique Needs of Latino Players' amid Lockout

Paul KasabianFeatured Columnist IIDecember 4, 2021

Cleveland Indians right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) bats against the Chicago White Sox during the first inning of a baseball game,Thursday, Sept. 26, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/David Banks)
AP Photo/David Banks

Former MLB outfielder Yasiel Puig implored MLB officials on Twitter on Saturday to better consider the needs of Latino players as the league and the MLBPA work on constructing a new collective bargaining agreement amid the current lockout:

Yasiel Puig @YasielPuig

So I got something on my chest. I know its long so some of you may be happy for me, or sorry that it happened. If you actually read it, you will probably say the same. And yes, I had help. <a href="https://twitter.com/lisettecarnet?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">@lisettecarnet</a> asks me how I feel, then she puts it in your language. She speaks Puig. <a href="https://t.co/v5KtJigPl8">pic.twitter.com/v5KtJigPl8</a>

Puig discussed the difficult transition Latino players undergo when they come to the United States, saying in part:

"Latino players go through hardships for not educating ourselves from the beginning when we arrive in the U.S. We do not understand what is expected from us as public figures. Latino Players need to learn not just English, but we need to better understand American values and social norms, so that we can make better choices for our career and lives."

Puig defected from Cuba to the United States in 2012, when the Los Angeles Dodgers signed the superstar to a seven-year deal. He played in the Dodgers' minor league system in 2012 before getting the call to the big leagues in 2013.

He further talked about how difficult it was for him personally to assimilate to the United States and conform to the country's social norms:

"As a Cuban immigrant I came to play on the biggest stage of baseball without the proper guidance in place to help me fully assimilate, so I had to learn my lessons the hard way. I do not want another player with a similar background to experience the same hardships that I went through. I hope negotiations consider this gap."

Puig was one of the more entertaining and exciting players in baseball during his MLB tenure, particularly when he played for the Dodgers.

His legacy is a complicated one, though, as Andy McCullough (then of the Los Angeles Times) wrote in 2019. He was simultaneously a lightning rod for criticism and a player whose physical talents were unmatched by nearly anyone else in the game.

Puig, who was accused of sexual assault in a 2020 lawsuit and before that twice charged with reckless driving, further said that the media unfairly put a target on his back during his time in the bigs and that he didn't know how to change the narrative:

"Almost as soon as I got here, the media pushed certain narratives about me because it sold more newspapers. They didn't understand my deficits here because of my lack of assimilation. They didn't understand my culture or how my background played an important role, and I also didn't know how to help them understand.
"My color, my size and my poor communication skills made me easy to pick on. The worst story was always easiest and juiciest to believe. Every bat flip, every situation on and off the field was judged with a tainted viewpoint, and this made me an even bigger target for people who knew the system better than me. Baseball, culture and people are so different back in our countries."

Puig played for the Dodgers, Cincinnati Reds and Cleveland over a seven-year MLB career. He made one All-Star team and hit .277 (.823 OPS) with 132 home runs and 415 RBI. He signed with Aguila de Veracruz of the Mexican League for the 2021 season.

He closed by saying he hoped sharing his story would help other Latino ballplayers as they worked to find their own voices. He also said he hoped the media would see his growth as a person and who he is as a human being today.

Puig also said he hoped he had a chance to return to the big leagues: "I hope baseball comes back soon, and I hope I am allowed to return to the big stage, now that I have that figured out."

That remark comes a month after Puig settled the lawsuit with the woman who said that he sexually assaulted her at Staples Center during a Los Angeles Lakers game in 2018.

The woman sued Puig for sexual battery, assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress, negligence and false imprisonment.

Chris Cwik of Yahoo Sports provided more details:

"The woman, who went by Jane Doe in the lawsuit, claimed Puig tried to take off the woman's clothes and touch her sexual organs in the bathroom at a Lakers game. The woman then said she was forcibly pinned by Puig, who exposed himself and reportedly started masturbating."

Puig denied the allegations and claimed the encounter was consensual. The woman's attorney told TMZ Sports that Puig paid $250,000 as part of the settlement.

With the settlement now over, Puig is looking to return to the big leagues.

Barring the lockout delaying the start of the season, Opening Day is scheduled for March 31.