Jun 1, 2014; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig (66) hits a single Los Angeles Dodgers shortstop Hanley Ramirez (13) against the Pittsburgh Pirates at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
“Wait it out and see how he pans out.” “He hasn’t played long enough.” “Wait until the hype dies down.” “He’s not an all-star yet.” And, one would be remiss, in the world of PED’s, not to mention, “he doesn’t play the game right.”
These are just a few things said about Yasiel Puig when he first exploded on the scene with the Los Angeles Dodgers. After the All-Star break, where Puig was inexplicably left off of the team, Puig proved to his detractors that he was the real deal. The Dodgers went from worst to first on a miraculous run in which Puig heavily served as the catalyst for amid injuries to veteran stars all the way to the NLCS, where unfortunately, the dream season of 2013 was ended by the St. Louis Cardinals.
Puigmania: 1 year later: Yasiel Puig is STILL on top of his game and has progressed into one of the best players in the majors. Puig is 2nd in the NL in batting average (.340), tied for 3rd in hits (69), tied for 6th in home runs (11), 2nd in OPS (1.036), and 3rd in slugging percentage (.606). Known as free swinging and impatient in 2013, Puig’s 2014 has shown a much more patient bat at the plate. Puig’s swing rate is down, from 58.2 percent in June 2013 to 42.3 percent last month. Puig isn’t striking out as much and looks like a much more well-rounded hitter. Puig’s fielding, described by many equally as wild as his bat, has also shown signs of progression. Puig is tied for 2nd among out fielders in assists and he’s yet to record an error thus far in the season.
Call to the Pen
Off the field you can see that Puig has matured as well. The young 23-year-old learned that it may not be the wisest idea to be behind the wheel of a vehicle, for one, and hired a driver (thank goodness). He’s improved on his English skills, which should help for his marketability and has learned to take a little more relaxed approach with the media, which, in the world of baseball, is always a good idea to make nice with the writers.
Puigmania in the last year has changed the game, like it or not. From his remorseless way of play and being his own person, to the extraordinary highlights that excite us (and make old men on porches everywhere shake their fist because it’s not old school). Yasiel Puig also makes us look deeper into the world of Cuban defectors to major league baseball. As well as the deplorable conditions and threats upon human lives that those have to endure in order to make it to the big leagues, and its strange acceptance as the norm.
The ‘maestro of the bat flip,’ as the great Vin Scully labeled him, has opened our eyes to perhaps a bright future of how the game is played. A more exciting, action packed, game of baseball to make us feel alive again. Among many in the mainstream, the game of baseball is simply just, “too slow.”
Yasiel Puig, the polarizing figure that he is, inspires those with similar skills athletically (if possible) to spark the beginning of hopefully many in the near future, of ball players that makes us want to go fast again. In a game with so many black eyes due to the infamous “steroid era,” Puig is gale force wind of fresh air in baseball.