Yasiel Puig is such a lightning rod with the Dodgers, he can even strike in the middle of November without saying or doing a thing.
Puig’s inconsistent work ethic and the Dodgers’ willingness to give him special treatment for his tardiness and commitment has not endeared him to many players in the clubhouse, but any animosity always was demonstrated with off-the-record asides.
It was simply a matter of time before something surfaced, and now the depth of that acrimony has emerged, very third-hand, but still very pointed.
Former major leaguer Andy Van Slyke, father of Dodgers outfielder Scott Van Slyke, shared a story on a St. Louis sports talk show on WGNU-AM that was clearly coming from Clayton Kershaw. Scott Van Slyke is one of Kershaw’s closest friends on the team.
When interviewer Frank Cusumano asked Andy Van Slyke what his take was on Puig, he said:
“When the best player -- the highest paid player on the Los Angeles Dodgers -- goes to the GM and tells him, or is asked what is the No. 1 need or what are the needs of the Los Angeles Dodgers club, this particular highest-paid player said, ‘The first thing you need to do is get rid of Puig.’ That’s all you need to know.”
Cusumano mistakenly guessed the quote came from first baseman Adrian Gonzalez.
“No, he’s not the highest-paid player,” Andy Van Slyke said.
Cusumano quickly deduced it was Kershaw.
“I didn’t say his name,” Van Slyke said.
Van Slyke was not asked to expand or explain his comment, but anyone who has followed the Dodgers is aware what a divisive figure the young Cuban has been during his 2 1/2 years with the Dodgers.
This is a problem, of course, the biggest name on the team calling out Puig, even if through the unusual circumstance of a father of another player.
The Dodgers backhandedly admitted Puig needed to upgrade his work ethic at the general managers meeting last week when President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman said they wanted him to lose weight.
Former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly appeared to grow weary of the entire Puig issue last season. Puig twice went on the disabled list last season with hamstring issues, and his progress from his second strain was going slowly until the Dodgers grew close to the postseason.
Mattingly called his sudden upgrade “miraculous” and “legendary.”
“Like three days ago, he was running at 80% and having pain,” Mattingly said in October. “And then, all of a sudden, he’s going 100% and feels fine.”
The Dodgers did put Puig on the playoff roster, but went hitless in six at-bats.
After a spectacular start, Puig has struggled for the past year and half. He had a .255/322/.436 slash line last season in 79 games.
Follow Steve Dilbeck on Twitter @SteveDilbeck
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