Puig Becoming a Lightning Rod

Puig has created a lot of talk in just one month and it's both positive and negative.

It would be very easy at this point in the career of Yasiel Puig to say that he is an amazing talent who is doing things very few have ever done through their first month of pro baseball. It would also be very easy to say that the fame and attention that has come to Puig so quickly is turning him into an arrogant jerk. I think right now it’s a combination of both but let’s be fair for the time being.

Yasiel Puig is from Cuba. In case you don’t know much about our island neighbor to the South, they are a communist nation that struggles to provide for its’ people. Many over the last 50-60 years have attempted to defect to this country in an attempt to gain freedom and start a new life. Some Cubans are successful and many are not. Those that are not are returned to Cuba where they face punishment for trying to flee.

Puig attempted to flee on at least two known occasions. One was when he was with the Cuban National team in Rotterdam. He tried to defect but was caught and was punished by being banned from his Cienfuegos team for a year. That was in 2011.

A second attempt was recently documented by Jeff Passan of Yahoo! Sports. Puig was part of a group in a small boat that was intercepted by the US Coast Guard and after two weeks was returned to Cuba. I highly suggest reading the piece.

Before long, Puig was spotted playing baseball in Mexico. How he got there remains a mystery as much as does the question of who got him there does. He eventually signed witht he Los Angeles Dodgers and as they say, the rest is history.

Puig has now played in 38 major league baseball games. His average now stands at .397 and he has eight home runs and 19 RBIs. No rookie has had a first month of a career since Joe DiMaggio back in the 1930’s. His presence has been the driving force behind the Dodgers getting right back in the race for the National League West Division. The boys in blue are just 1.5 games behind the Arizona Diamondbacks who they recently trailed by as much as seven games.

Papelbon is one of several players not overly enthused by Puig.

It has not been all hot dogs and apple pie for Puig though. Many have clamored for him to get put on the National League’s All-Star roster but a backlash ensued. Many, including ballplayers like the Phillies’ Jonathan Papelbon, believe Puig has not done enough to garner an invitation to the game. I happen to agree with Papelbon although I didn’t voice my concerns quite as harshly as he did.

As of this morning, it’s a moot point because Puig lost out to Atlanta’s Freddie Freeman for the one spot selected by the fans. Baseball insiders are citing the backlash against Puig for his defeat. This is not just because he has only played 38 MLB game either.

Puig recently snubbed Diamondbacks’ World Series hero Luis Gonzalez during a brief meeting instigated by Puig’s hitting coach Mark McGwire. Puig claims it was blwon out of proportion even though McGwire reportedly had to talk to the youngster about his conduct.

Several D-Backs including Ian Kennedy and Miguel Montero were quoted as saying that Puig’s style of play was “stupid” and “arrogant.”

Everything else I’ve heard about Puig says that he interacts with fans and is very friendly with the staff at Dodgers’ Stadium. He doesn’t decline autograph requests and is great with kids. Perhaps a lot of it relates to baseball’s ‘unwritten rules’ where up and coming players often need to check themselves or the established players will do it for them.

I have no problem with Puig not being in the All-Star Game. It’s a game for guys who have played well over the last year, not for the last month. If Commissioner Bud Selig and MLB want the All-Star Game to truly be about ratings and just an exhibition, then by all means, let him play to boost the ratings. That is not the case yet.

It will be interesting to see how Puig is received the rest of the year especially if he keeps up his torrid pace.