The 2012 saw a young rookie outfielder in California take Major League Baseball by storm, in Mike Trout. Trout was a star in every facet of the game, making a run at not only the American League Rookie of the Year award, but the AL Most Valuable Player title as well. This season has seen a similar story, but the perception has been wildly different.
Yasiel Puig has had a monster rookie season. Like Trout, he’s been a star at the plate, on the basepaths, and in the field. However, unlike Trout, his failures have been highlighted. The media doesn’t see Puig as the darling that Trout was/is, and has painted him more as a villain.
Puig is a favorite for National League Rookie of the Year. You could even make a case that he deserves some consideration for NL MVP, as it was his meteoric rise that sparked the Los Angeles Dodgers to this absurd run that they currently find themselves in the middle of.
He’s hitting .345 on the year, with a terrific on-base percentage over .400. His wRC+ is off the charts, at 168. Of course, he doesn’t walk a lot, he strikes out too much, and he’s prone to massive mental mistakes on the basepaths. Regardless, his first year in Hollywood has been a wild success.
Of course, the perception and the narrative surrounding Puig don’t tend to follow down that same positive path. The mainstream media and scouts alike have trashed Puig for one reason or another: his attitude, his mental mistakes, etc. They want to tear this kid down in his first season at this level.
Puig has shown an attitude that simply states that he does not care what anyone thinks. Not the fans, not the media, not anyone. He’s shown contempt towards umpires and has been over the top in his celebrations. There’s no doubt that he’s immature, both on and off the field. That doesn’t mean that the narrative hasn’t been blown way out of proportion by mainstream media types, all over the country.
We know what the narrative is surrounding Yasiel Puig. He’s a punk. He’s immature. He’s boneheaded, both on and off the field. If there was an award for most likely to be arrested at an LA nightclub this winter, he’d probably take it home. At the same time, though, he’s exactly the type of player that baseball could use.
To this point, baseball’s list of villains features the likes of Ryan Braun and Alex Rodriguez. Guys who have cheated the system, been caught, and are now hated among baseball fans, young and old. A guy like Puig has the makeup of a great baseball villain. A polarizing player, who plays the game extremely well, and is a star, but at the same time, has that “don’t care” attitude that makes him a such a polarizing quantity.
The negative perception, and downright hate, of Yasiel Puig isn’t going anywhere any time soon. He’s going to be a polarizing player, who is an outstanding athlete and a superstar, but will cost the Dodgers games because of his foolishness. Someday, that narrative may be played out. But for now, having a “villain” like Puig, isn’t necessarily a bad thing for Major League Baseball.