The explanation winding its way from Des Moines to Los Angeles went like this: Last weekend, late in a summer of scuffling, members of the triple-A Oklahoma City Dodgers asked for and received permission to unwind Monday night. The group had recently found access to a party bus, the sort bedecked with neon interior lighting and a booming speaker system, which seemed like a harmless venue to let off steam amid the cornfields of Iowa.
The players declined to consider one variable — the outsized fame of new teammate Yasiel Puig and the dizzying speed of social media. In a late-night blitz Monday, Puig posted a series of videos on his personal Snapchat account of the players carousing inside the bus. The behavior veered closer to dorkiness than debauchery but still raised eyebrows within the Dodgers organization.
The videos prompted a tepid rebuke from President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman and a rhetorical eye roll from Manager Dave Roberts. As the front office seeks to resuscitate Puig’s production or trade value, the on-field staff has ventured forth with Puig acting as an emblem of the past.
“We are aware of what Yasiel posted on social media last night and while we are disappointed in his and some of our other players’ judgment, this is a matter we will address internally,” read a statement from Friedman released in the afternoon.
Before Tuesday night’s game with the Philadelphia Phillies, President Stan Kasten and General Manager Farhan Zaidi declined to comment beyond the statement.
Roberts offered scant commentary on the situation. He appeared disinterested in discussing the exploits of a player no longer on the major league roster.
“I was surprised,” Roberts said. “I didn’t see it until a little bit ago. We’re going to take care of things. His goal is and should be to continue to be a better baseball player. So we’ll handle it.”
Unable to find a trading partner for Puig before the Aug. 1 deadline, the Dodgers demoted him after the acquisition of right fielder Josh Reddick. Puig went two for four Sunday in his debut. On Monday, after going hitless in a 3-2 loss to the Iowa Cubs, Puig and his teammates hopped aboard the aforementioned bus.
Puig had landed in the minors for a variety of reasons, some rooted on the field and others related to his behavior. Despite some temperamental improvements in 2016, Puig still displayed a lack of consistency in effort, focus and willingness to take instruction, in the eyes of some Dodgers officials.
When the team sent him to the minors, one of their instructions was for him to improve his relationships with teammates. On Monday evening, Puig offered documentary evidence of his attempt.
The videos start in relatively innocuously, with Puig soliloquizing to the camera in the clubhouse.
“I think it’s so funny,” he says. “Lose today, and everybody happy.”
In the next clip, Puig straps on a pair of sunglasses and dances in his boxers. The footage shifts to the bus, music blaring and players hollering into the camera. Puig screams himself hoarse, unleashing expletives at a rapid pace.
His teammates behave in innocuous, if uncouth, fashion. They sing along to Yo Gotti and Fat Joe. They flip off the camera. One man references an Internet meme about Harambe, the gorilla killed at the Cincinnati Zoo in May.
One odd moment occurrs when the entirety of the group chants “F--- Sege,” a reference to recently promoted utility man Rob Segedin. As Segedin explained the situation, the chant stemmed from the team attempting to rally around his departure. Segedin carried the Oklahoma City lineup during the summer, hitting 21 homers and 23 doubles, and the group joked that he deserted them by receiving a promotion.
“A lot of inside jokes, and stuff, that when you put it on the Internet, people can judge it a certain way,” Segedin said. “A lot of guys texted me this morning saying it was completely the opposite of the way it was portrayed.”
The constant inside the tumult is Puig. His caption for one video reads “I love this team.” His energy appears indefatigable.
“Let’s go, guys!” he shouts. “Let’s go!”
The last video ends with Puig wagging his tongue at the camera. The Dodgers chose not to cast the behavior as a gesture of defiance, a response to the embarrassment of his demotion. The front office is still seeking to recoup value for Puig on the trade market. And the on-field staff is just looking to move forward.
“We’ll handle it accordingly,” Roberts said. “For me, I want to focus on the guys here.”
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