|Yasiel Puig celebrates after scoring in the 8th inning of today's 6-4 win over Colorado. (source: photocapture from SportsnetLA)|
"We think he's actually better than Soler," said then Dodger General Manager Ned Colletti at an appearance before Dodger bloggers in July of 2012. "Our guys see a lot of potential in the young man," he added, "he just needs some minor league seasoning." (July 14, 2012 piece LINKED HERE)
Looking at grainy footage from Cuba of an unpolished outfielder with a rocket arm showed signs of promise. My visit to Camelback Ranch in 2013 chronicled the young man's potential. Though maybe my initial assessment was too optimistic, facts are his talent was seen immediately. (2013 Spring Training article)
Vin Scully saw it early as well, dubbing him the "wild horse" in his first week of play. He was essentially a wild mustang full of potential that needed to be tamed and shown the ropes. Looking back at Puig's start, it is really unfair that the Dodgers moved him almost immediately to the highest level of play. Yasiel Puig became a major leaguer with 14 games experience at High A in 2012 and 40 games at the Double A level at the start of the 2013 season. His immediate impact on the league was of historic measures, drawing comparisons to hall of famers such as Roberto Clemente. Inevitably the league scouted him with intensity and then started exploiting his weaknesses.
Love him or hate him, Puig is unique. And the hatred is out there. Detractors have criticized him from the beginning. Some will never come around and accept his talent. Some will always look at his antics as showboating instead of attempting to understand where he comes from.
Who gets the rounds of boos in opposing ball parks the most? Who rankles the emotions of opposing rivals and pitchers such as Madison Bumgarner and former Giant 3rd base coach Tim Flannery? Who is the Dodger player that has been the center of mini brawls and verbal jawing over the years? Who raised the ire of teammates and even both Don Mattingly and Dave Roberts?
Yes, it is Puig.
Call him immature if you will, but the truth is, Yasiel is misunderstood. And as the quote about walking in a man's shoes states, none of us and I repeat NONE OF US can even come close to experiencing the horrors that Yasiel Puig faced in his trek to the United States. Few big leaguers were fast tracked as quickly as Puig was to the Major Leagues. Add that he had to learn a new culture, and language. He went from having virtually nothing in earthly possessions, having his life threatened, held hostage by smugglers, being kidnapped, threatened. Experiencing the dregs of human traffickers to being a multi-millionaire over night with very little seasoning and instruction. None of us can even come close to understanding Yasiel Puig's thought process. Perhaps one day we'll know his whole story. It would be fascinating.
There is one thing that we can understand. The man plays with passion. He cares about his performance. He wants to win. He has a love for the game. Some may view his antics in a negative light, but perhaps they are the ones that should learn something about the man's background. If you haven't walked in his shoes, how could you possibly understand?
|An exuberant Puig, July 1, 2018 (photo capture form SportsnetLA)|
So though today's antics after stealing a run on the base paths with the celebratory flailing of his arms will probably have repercussions when he plays the Rockies in the future. The truth is, Puig doesn't care. He is is exciting, excitable and an amazing talent. As his baseball IQ rises, so will his impact on the game.
Yes, he's a wild horse and he always will be, but he's "our" wild horse, and for that reason, he's either loved or hated. I'll choose the former.