Yasiel Puig, our favorite peacock, is apparently at it again. It took him two whole games to start his special brand of irritation, pretty spectacular even by his standards.
Spectacular is what he is, of course, whether making an incredible play or one that leaves you incredibly baffled. He’s an electron zooming around in all directions, almost defying containment.
The Dodgers recognize his singular ability and want very much to nourish it, to enable his still-raw talent to develop as he becomes the kind of player the likes of which few have seldom hinted at.
But he’s young and headstrong, and keenly aware of his brilliant talent. There is clearly some major diva to him, whether it’s flipping a bat after a home run or simply strutting through the clubhouse less like a rookie than the king in his personal domain.
Right now the Dodgers want a focused player, ready and eager to learn. That prospect was put into question when he showed up to camp weighing 26 pounds more than he did at the end of last season. Whatever concerns that gave the Dodgers, they were never spoken of. He did hit the cutoff man more frequently this spring, but he also batted .122 and sometimes flashed that casual attitude.
He broke out of his slump in the Dodgers’ second game in Australia on Sunday, going 3-for-5 with a double and two RBIs. Yet he also had two more baserunning blunders that led to a pair of outs.
Before Sunday’s game, Mattingly complained it was difficult to know when Puig was hurt and when he wasn’t. Then after Puig left Sunday’s game in the bottom of the ninth after a strikeout, Mattingly was asked what injury was the impetus for the move.
“I guess his back,” Mattingly said.
Saxon wrote that Mattingly then seemed to react sarcastically when asked about the injury’s severity.
“Shoulder yesterday, back today, so I'm not sure if they're going to get him tests or get him to the MRI Monday or a bone scan on Tuesday, maybe,” Mattingly said. “I'm not quite sure what we'll do. We may not do anything. I'm not sure.”
This is clearly one frustrated manager, one who previously indicated if it were simply up to him, Puig would be dealt with differently. But the Dodgers have a lot invested in their unbridled star, both in salary ($42 million) and already in marketing.
Puig is not going anywhere. And if kids typically don’t grow up overnight, they do hopefully show signs of maturing. All the speeding tickets and dubious throws and silly baserunning mistakes don’t indicate that’s exactly well underway.
If Mattingly is frustrated with Puig, imagine his teammates’ reaction. It’s a clubhouse filled with professionals who take their jobs very seriously. Then there’s the wild one, almost impervious to counsel.
His story is a long way from its final draft, but it’s ultimately in the hands of the wunderkind. However it goes, it figures to be spectacular.