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Yasiel Puig, your reputation now precedes you, and that's trouble

Yasiel Puig's reputation for showboating is coming close to being a problem for the Dodgers
Yasiel Puig's home run histrionics against Giants feed a reputation that could hurt the Dodgers

It’s a story old as the pharaohs, or at least Keith Richards. Build a reputation and it precedes you.

And just possibly right now, that’s what is happening with Yasiel Puig.

Now, generally reputations are earned and there is absolutely no denying Puig has done his share to earn a certain renown for being something of a showboat. Not too many opponents are going to find those bat flips endearing.

Prima donnas are not typically welcome in this game, particularly when they reside in the opposing dugout. And even less, you would assume, when the dugout is home to your archrival.

So Puig absolutely launches a home run Friday out to dead center and the Giants, particularly the pitcher who gave it up — Madison Bumgarner — are not left happy.

Bumgarner approaches Puig as he trots down the third base line and lets him know his displeasure.

What exactly did Puig do?

Nothing all that dramatic, certainly by his standards, and, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly argued, not much different from what many do throughout baseball.

This is not 1965, when players lived by an unwritten code and utmost respect was demanded of the game and opponents. Mattingly looks around and sees players with dramatic reactions to big plays all the time.

“It really always surprises me when they react to things, when their team does the same type stuff,” Mattingly said. “It’s always the double-standard. One team’s mad because one team does it, and it’s OK for them to do different things. It’s always amazing to me.”

This is what Puig did Friday night: He crushed his hit and knew it immediately, flipped his bat several feet (though far short of his personal record), came out of the box a little slowly and then proceeded to circle the bases at less than top speed.

I don’t think any of it individually was egregious or would qualify as pimping it, but collectively it was enough for the Giants, particularly from someone already known for preening.

If Puig didn’t walk into Dodger Stadium already with a brassy reputation, it probably gets overlooked. But those days are over for Puig and some are going to be more sensitive to his dramatics than others.

“Obviously, Yasiel is a little bit of a lightning rod for a lot of different things,” Mattingly said. “But he plays hard. And when you really look at that, he hit it, he flipped it and he ran. I mean, I didn’t think he did anything wrong.”

That could be eyes-of-the-beholder material, but Puig needs to be careful. There was plenty of yelling between Bumgarner and Puig on Friday, but thankfully it did not escalate from there.

But if Matt Cain should buzz Puig on Saturday, or worse hit him and a melee breaks out, then someone could get hurt. And that becomes a very different matter.

There’s playing with exuberance and playing with intelligence, and Puig is still sometimes finding his way to mesh the two. It would be nice for him if it happened sooner, making it an old story.

Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
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