Yasiel Puig needs a great baseball mind like Don Mattingly to temper his juvenile shortcomings. Mattingly, in turn, needs Puig to to produce [and mature] to save his blazing hot and suddenly cool seat of a job. Their relationship is not without its complications, though.
Puig was benched in the fifth inning in the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ 4-2 win over the Chicago Cubs Wednesday. It’s the first time the star has been benched this season, although Mattingly did hold Puig out of a game a week ago when Puig showed up late for team activities. Though Mattingly would not elaborate, preferring to keep ‘it in-house’, he hinted at a defensive liability.
“At that point in the game Skip [Schumaker] gave us a better chance to win the game” Mattingly explained. He must be joking, the Dodgers are 52-23 with Puig in the lineup. So was this decision made because Puig is stubborn? Or is it that Puig makes a mockery of Mattingly’s managerial style? Puig told reporters through a translator post-game that “I wasn’t playing properly…He [Mattingly] made a good decision.” It’s a headache for the Dodgers as they enjoy their best season in recent memory.
This latest fiasco follows a recent dust up with an umpire and teammate just two weeks ago. And it’s truly a shame. Puig is easily the team’s best story and arguably its best player. And that’s saying a lot for a franchise that has recently birthed gems over the years like Andre Ethier ,Clayton Kershaw and Matt Kemp. None of those players are getting the kind of ink and hype that Puig currently is.
And MLB needs all the [good] ink it can get these days. It’s a league that suffers for its rigid stance on instant replay and its lukewarm approach to testing for steroids. Puig is everything to the Dodgers as they have the best narrative in a season marred by controversy. To his credit Yasiel Puig is a great player, but his discipline seems to be clashing with Mattingly’s vision. Even as Mattingly’s job rode on the back and bat of Puig.
For one, Puig has ignored the cutoff man all season instead opting for the big play at home. His wild base-running has been privately-and publicly- panned by his own teammates. Puig is well aware of his stature and never pushes it too far – not enough to earn a suspension or jeopardize his career with steroids. No, Puig instead plays up his boyish bravado and that just isn’t going to work for a team steamrolling into the playoffs. World Series aspirations are usually birthed by modest beginnings.
Puig needs to be humbled; he needs experience. He needs Mattingly.