There’s no single way, no guaranteed path to teach a lesson. You do the best you can, give your wisest advice, pass out the lessons and hope the light goes on.
They mess up and maybe you go, 'Bad boy, bad boy. Now come over here and give me a hug.' Issue the punishment, but make sure they know they’re still treasured.
Yasiel Puig messed up again Friday and his punishment was to be taken out of the lineup. Manager Don Mattingly didn’t say whether the punishment would extend to Saturday’s game, but with left-hander Madison Bumgarner scheduled to start for the Giants, expect to see Puig back in the lineup.
Puig was late Friday to the Dodgers’ home opener. The team was already on the field stretching and taking batting practice when he arrived on the field 45 minutes late. Most teammates had been there for hours. Puig was apologetic afterward, Mattingly forgiving.
Certainly, he’s not the first player to show up late to a game. It’s also not the first time he’s been late to a game. And in truth, he is fairly consistently the last Dodger to arrive in the clubhouse most every day.
“I hope he doesn’t make it to the point where you expect it” said first baseman Adrian Gonzalez of Puig's tardiness. “That’s up to him. Learn your lesson and show up on time the rest of your career and you don’t have to expect it. If he continues to show up late or show up just in time to not be late, then you’re pushing the envelope.
“He said he was up at 7 in the morning, so I said, 'Why didn’t you get here? You don’t have a family to hang out with. You can have breakfast here and hang out here, and you don’t have to worry about it.' He said, 'That’s what I’m going to do then.' "
Puig stood and faced the media after the game, took all the questions. He apologized to the fans, said he told his teammates he was sorry.
“It’s my fault,” Puig said. “It’s not anyone else’s fault.”
The larger problem is that this was not an isolated incident. The reckless driving arrests, running wild on the bases, missing the cut-off man, being late. It’s a troubling pattern the Dodgers can only write off to immaturity for so long.
“It’s not about apologizing to us, it’s about getting here on time,” Gonzalez said. “That’s where you show you really meant it. You show up late again, it means you didn’t mean it. It’s not about what he says, it’s about what he does.
“You want to get here, you don’t want to rush. We had sayings all over the place, but one of the sayings I like is, 'You rush in and out of the clubhouse, you rush in and out of your career.' You get in here early and enjoy being in the big leagues.”
Puig is 23, suddenly wealthy, from another country, a charismatic, confident star in a media capital where talent oozes from every corner of the city.
“I know he was humbled today,” Mattingly said. “He truly felt bad. You could tell in his body language. He doesn’t hide things very well.
“This is a good kid. Does he have to grow and get better? Yeah, but there are a lot of guys like that.”
There are precious few with the speed and strength, and just the general flair, of Puig. His potential remains off the charts.
But so much growth remains. Maturity comes at different paces, but you can scold them and hug them for only so long. There are lessons that need to be learned. And ready or not, it’s time for Puig to learn.