I feel so cheap. Too easy to get your attention.
That’s what he does, though, that’s what Puig has done since the first time anyone laid eyes on his Bo Jackson frame and that talent shooting from his pores like invisible lasers. He simply demands your attention.
Of course, that hasn’t always been a good thing. There were the crushing line drives, jaw-dropping throws and explosiveness on the bases, and the baseball brain cramps, slumps and disappointing work ethic.
Only now the Dodgers find they need a grown-up Puig, or at least one clearly heading in that direction. Gone are right-handed power hitters Matt Kemp and Hanley Ramirez. Which leaves Puig as their biggest power threat from the right side.
Puig turned 24 in December, so if he’s no longer that kid literally fresh off the boat, neither is he some totally green newcomer, either. The Dodgers are reaching the point where they need to know they can rely on him. To know if he’s going to evolve into that superstar everyone believes he can become.
No one doubts his ability. When Clayton Kershaw called Puig “the most amazing talent I have ever seen,” there were no cries of placating to a mercurial teammate. And when he was benched during an early September game while in the midst of a four for 30 slump and showed up at the ballpark minutes before the team stretch, neither did anyone argue when Manager Don Mattingly said, “You can’t force guys into work.”
So is he going to mature, focus, become a driven player? Interestingly, Puig admitted during the team fan fest Saturday he’s not exactly fond of exercise: “I don't like working out. It's like they have to pay me to get in the gym.”
Puig said he wants to become a more disciplined player, while also admitting he’s about 15 to 20 pounds overweight.
The Dodgers have a revamped front office and no one can say whether Dodgers President of Baseball Operations Andrew Freidman and General Manager Farhan Zaidi will have the same patience with Puig’s baseball discretions as the prior regime, or that they have the power to do something about it if they choose. Puig is big box office, a factor that isn’t lost on ownership.
The clubhouse has undergone significant personnel changes, adding veterans like Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, players respected for their leadership.
“I think Yasiel is going to have his hands full -- that’s not what I wanted to say,” Zaidi said. “I think there’s going to be a very interesting dynamic in the clubhouse. I think [with] Yasiel, any role models he has in terms of how to play the game on the field, is great.”
He’s not going to absorb much of it by osmosis. He’s going to need the desire to be great and the perseverance to grind it out. Most of his offensive numbers slipped last year, his first full season in the majors.
But he is beginning his fourth season in the organization. The Dodgers need him to take the next step. This is time for Puig to demonstrate it. And that would really get everyone’s attention.
Follow Steve Dilbeck on Twitter: @stevedilbeck.