Yasiel Puig, the Dodgers and the great learning curve


Ah, kids. What are you gonna do?

They do something wrong, you explain why it is incorrect, they nod a lot and say they understand, and then go out and do it again.

What are you gonna do?

You don’t go ballistic. Don’t ridicule them in front of their peers, ground them for the rest of their lives, make them gulp a quart of Castor oil.

You take a breath and try again. Discipline where you must, teach when you can, be patient at every turn.


Just like with Yasiel Puig.

Jeez, he’s a handful. A super-talented handful. The talent almost shoots out of his pores. And, of course, he understands exactly how talented he is. Perhaps even thinks he’s more talented than he actually is, which would be something.

He’s my favorite peacock. In the clubhouse, on the field, in the dugout, there might as well be a spotlight shining down on him at all times. He acts like there is.

Yet for all his amazing talent, it is repeatedly clear that he lacks basic baseball fundamentals. Cuba might have super-talented baseball teams, but apparently its players don’t come up through the ranks learning the game’s finer points.

Raw and brash can sometimes make for a rough combo, which Puig’s short major league bio has continually demonstrated. So we have this convergence of youth, crazy ability, poor fundamental development and Michael Jordan confidence.

And sometimes it doesn’t work too well. So you let him know, give him direction and then send him out to try it again.

On Wednesday, Dodgers Manager Don Mattingly removed Puig from the game to begin the fifth inning. After the game, Mattingly would not reveal what Puig had done to earn the benching.


Chances are it wasn’t just one thing. Wednesday he failed to slide (again) into second. He continued to make those lazy, showboat, off-to-the-side catches. And after striking out in the third, he walked back to right field following the third out. Which makes for a long slow walk, all while center fielder Andre Ethier waited for someone to throw with.

So it was to the bench, and after the game, into Mattingly’s office. Sort of like the troublemaker in school being sent to the principal’s office. Mattingly and General Manager Ned Colletti explained why he had been taken out of the game and what was expected from him in the future.

Now, Puig’s detractors may believe he is out of control on the field and off. Parties too hard, plays too recklessly, reeks arrogance. Certainly, he plays with reckless abandon.

But remember, he’s 22 and stupid rich. He’s been better than everyone else his whole life at baseball largely because of the gifts he was born with. He’s played less than one full season in the minors. He’s learning the game at the major league level.

Yet know this about Puig, he is smart. He understands when to take a step back, absorb a little punishment and then try to move on. So after the game Puig said he had received and understood Mattingly’s message.

“He told me I need to prepare well for each pitch,” Puig said. “It was the right decision.”

Puig was referring to being defensively prepared, not at the plate. But see, he said the right thing, said what you would hope to hear.

Mattingly said Puig would be in the lineup Friday, which is smart. Just like when he was fined for being late to the ballpark in Miami, a message had to be sent. The Dodgers had to try and make it a teaching moment.

He’ll stumble again. He has yet to play three full months in the majors. When he does falter, what are you gonna do?

Sigh, be calm, teach and try it again.