“Why can't they be like we were,
Perfect in every way?
What's the matter with kids today?”
What are you gonna do? You explain, you teach and then you cross a lot of fingers. You can say “pretty please,” cajole, flash anger and make threats.
You can pull out every trick in the parenting/coaching manual, but in the end they have to do it themselves. And sometimes, that is a great test of patience.
Yasiel Puig is 23, fresh off the boat, played barely a hiccup in the minors and has talent shooting out of his pores. All well known and understood, though at some point bordering on an excuse.
He is aggressive almost beyond comprehension, a grinning riverboat gambler in cleats. And often, that push-the-envelope approach proves costly.
Sunday our favorite man-child did the Puig-unleashed routine and it led to a triple play. These are rare baseball happenings. There have been fewer than 700 in big league history.
But Sunday, with two on, no one out and Puig at second with the Dodgers down 7-2 in the sixth, Matt Kemp bounced into a double play. Anyway, it should have been a double play. Puig rounded third as the Mets began their relay. And was then promptly thrown out at home.
“It’s just the wrong play,” said Mattingly. “That’s what we talk to him about. You play the scoreboard.
“A little disappointing because he had one of these in a similar type of game when he had that crazy slide and was safe. But we were down eight runs and it was the wrong play then too.
“He’s going to make mistakes and we’re going to live with that, and we’re going to keep teaching him. But the disappointing thing is it’s the second time that almost exact play happened, and you want guys to learn from their mistakes and get better.”
Puig has made strides from last year’s crazy horse. He does, mostly, hit the cut-off man now. And he doesn’t try to stretch every hit into an extra base.
But he still seems like a barely contained atomic particle, ricocheting about and constantly on the verge of explosion.
Maybe back in Cuba that derring-do routine works and he scores. But these are major leaguers and they are going to make plays he may not be used to, but better get used to soon.
That play hardly cost the Dodgers the game, but the next one might. And every game could prove crucial for a team that is eyeing a World Series.