Cuban-born slugger Yasiel Puig has certainly captured the attention of every baseball fan and writer in America through his blistering start at baseball’s highest level. Nearly an All-Star, the Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder has displayed a myriad of skills that are absolutely shocking to watch. With it, he has also brought a new passion into the Cuban fan base unseen since the arrival of countrymen Yoenis Cespedes and Aroldis Chapman.
The mystery behind Puig is second to none, ranging from his origins, to a possible character flaw connected to a shoe theft, to allegedly using interpreters to pick up American women. Recall, though, that these same mysteries surrounded both Cespedes and Chapman. Chapman especially has only added fuel to the fire by being pulled over multiple times for going well over the speed limit.
Since the fervor has worn off, and Puig’s statistics dropped off a bit, scorn has begun to form at the player who works so hard, plays with such a determined attitude, and does things his own way. So what, he didn’t bow to Luis Gonzalez, who made his historic at-bat when Puig was just 10 years old, and more than likely not watching the World Series. (Government run programming prevented Jose Contreras’s family from viewing the 2005 World Series.)
Well to understand why Puigmania has transformed into Puig backlash, we must look at what baseball writers want out of a player. Baseball is a self-appreciating game where legends are respected and unwritten rules obeyed with a silent passion.
Yasiel Puig has certainly never been, and will never become this player. And it all comes from the country and the culture that Puig came from. Closed off, isolated and frozen in time. That is what communism does. While The United States progresses, creating new technologies and advances daily, Cuba is stuck in 1960, only recently since Fidel Castro has turned over power, achieving progress.
The simple ability to watch Yasiel Puig play is something we must marvel at and enjoy every day. It almost didn’t happen. Puig failed to defect multiple times, offenses, which land many in jail, allowed to wither away. Instead, Puig was able to escape unlike so many before and after him, under circumstances we will truly never know.
And that is frustrating. This is a player who garnered massive amounts of money despite having played in the Cuban League, which sees many players flop instead of flourish. Puig had not played baseball since 2011 when he arrived in Mexico. And the Dodgers took a massive risk. Risk and old-time baseball do not go together well.
Yet, here we are. The mystery of Yasiel Puig is in his culture. Cuban culture revolves around work as a goal. Now in America, the mysterious Puig can find himself liberated, adjusting yet to a lavish lifestyle the envy of most people.
Perhaps over time, Puig will come out of his shell and adapt to the pressure of the media. Until then, baseball fans across the world need only sit back, and enjoy the gift of an incredible baseball player that almost did not make it into the spotlight, which he is still relishing.
Follow Mike Guzman on Twitter @Mike486