There have been few players that have reached the ranks of Major League Baseball in recent years that have been as polarizing as Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig has been. A virtual lock for National League Rookie of the Year, the Cuban product has taken baseball by storm since his callup at the beginning of June.
Puig’s ability has never been in question by anybody in or out of baseball. The kid can flat out play. He’s a five tool player, and he’s flashed that skill on multiple occasions. The numbers, for the most part, back up the story as well, and it should lead to him taking home the hardware for NL ROY this winter.
On the season, Puig’s numbers include a slash line of .319/.391/.534/.925, 19 home runs, 42 runs knocked in, and 11 swipes in 432 plate appearances. His WAR during the season was an even five, which had him in line with some of the very best in the National League.
The hype surrounding Puig this season isn’t unlike the attention that Mike Trout received in 2012, when he captured the attention of virtually every fan, analyst, and writer in baseball. Of course, the major difference there is that the criticism of Puig has been much heavier than what Trout received.
A main reason for that is his attitude. The way he carries himself and acts on the field has led to Puig becoming a bit of a villain. There’s no doubting the talent, but many, including many within the game, don’t like the attitude he brings to the table. Which is why him playing in October is such a good thing for Major League Baseball.
Baseball doesn’t do nearly enough to embrace its villains. Not Ryan Braun type villains who actually went against the rules of Major League Baseball, but guys like Puig, who are incredible talents, but are polarizing nonetheless. October baseball presents an opportunity for Puig to get on that national stage.
Puig plays on the West Coast, which limits fans’ ability to view him, at least to a certain extent. Drawing him to a national stage gets more exposure for him, which means more of a chance to see him do something amazing or perhaps something foolish (as we’ve seen him do in the field or on the basepaths this year), which helps to ignite a debate between fans and writers, which means more publicity for the game.
A deep run by the Dodgers would absolutely be a great thing for baseball, not only because they have several marketable players on their roster, but because they have Yasiel Puig on their roster. A polarizing player like that is going to draw attention no matter where he is, and now on a national stage, it’s nothing but good news for Major League Baseball.