Yasiel Puig made news again today, not for what he did on the field, but because of a alleged clash with the media and an article by Jon Paul Morosi about how he needed to be benched and disciplined for his mental mistakes.
The fan reaction to both have been deservedly harsh, but I think the tone and approach of the media’s moralizing tends to cause fans to block out any relevant criticism as well.
The Moralizing Is Pointless
We all know what Morosi thinks about players who refuse to play ball with the media, so the backlash to his absurd column was deserved. Jon Weisman covered why most of what Morosi concludes basically amounts to concern trolling. Again.
As far as the clash with the media, well, that’s not even exactly what happened. The hubbub started with a guy on Twitter who reported on an incident that he got second-hand … because he wasn’t even there. Basically, it was Puig saying bad words about the media to teammates because of a TMZ report about him going clubbing with Matt Kemp, Carl Crawford, and LeBron James. Meh.
To me, both issues only serve as extraneous distractions from what he does on the field, both the good and bad.
I mean, it’s hard to get away from connecting both of those criticisms with the other incidents he’s been linked to this year. Why? Because all of it represents the constant moralizing that surrounds Puig. The Luis Gonzalez incident? Trumped up and generally irrelevant. Staring down the guy who hit in him the face with a fastball after he walks? Understandable. Pimping homers? I don’t care. Everybody BUT Americans enjoys the game that way. Celebrating? It’s entertainment, they should be happy when things go well.
I just don’t care about all of that type of crap, and that goes for everybody who does it, not just Puig.
Over the years, I’ve learned that as long as a person isn’t hurting others, I couldn’t care less about how they choose to go about their business. You could call me a player apologist if you want, and I wouldn’t mind, because people generally end up following my attitude after the dusts settles anyway.
Rarely do fans now look back at the careers of guys like Rickey Henderson and Reggie Jackson and think, “Boy what tremendous showboating assholes those guys were.” Rather, they’re remembered for their greatness and flair, which is what people like to call what they did after the fact. See, everything in present-tense seems like it’s the worst thing ever and that it’s ruining the game, but decades from now? Either nobody will care about these ticky-tack “violations” being committed or nobody will care about them at all, depending on how their careers shake out.
Either way, it’s a wholly asinine exercise to moralize over the perceived injustices that certain players have allegedly committed, but the narrative is constantly driven upon us by the people who have the most to gain or lose by covering the trumped up drama all that stuff brings. But for me? I’ll pass, as I’m not going to stop appreciating guys like Bryce Harper and Puig because they stare at a ball too long. I’d rather just enjoy the sport and all the talent on display.
Yasiel Puig Does Have Glaringly Obvious Areas Where He Can Improve
Put aside all the moralization, and the unfortunate thing is that Puig does have areas where he can be legitimately criticized for. Things that have ALWAYS been there as issues, as I’ve pointed out before.
Ironically, the BS being thrown around actually distracts from the aspects of Puig’s game that are still lacking. Tools-wise, Puig has all the talent to make a run at an MVP award one day, for much of the same reason that Mike Trout does: he contributes into all the “buckets” that makes up a successful player. Puig can hit for average, hit for power, throw, field, and run. Heck, he’s even already shown the ability to adjust at the plate. He can do all of that, which is great, but he’s also currently destroying certain aspects his value with his mistakes.
Baserunning = -1.3 Runs
Throwing = 0.0 Runs
Defense = 1.5 Runs
Doesn’t seem all that bad, right? Basically average in the other facets of the game besides hitting. Yet when you think about all the impossible highlight reel defensive and baserunning plays he’s had this season, it’s actually quite remarkable how he’s managed to cancel ALL of that out by running into outs, getting picked off, and allowing baserunners to advance on his throws.
What the data shows, and what anybody watching has seen, is that his defensive and baserunning fundamentals are now what need the same adjustments he has shown at the plate. So while the tone of a lot of the media pieces are a bit absurd to me — basically akin to saying Puig should’ve been benched when he was striking out a ton — we shouldn’t throw the baby out with the bath water and take the position that he doesn’t have very real flaws.
If This Is The Worst, Then That’s Amazing
So do Puig’s problems mean that he needs to be benched or that he’s dumb or that he’s a terrible player or person? No. All it means is that he’s not a complete player yet. That’s it.
The speculation on why he’s not making multiple adjustments to multiple facets of his game after three months in the big leagues is a bit excessive in terms of criticism. Yes, we can expect more from him. Yes, he has problems. Yes, he acts like he’s 10. But expecting a rookie to not have flaws is absurd. Just because his name drives pageviews and his antics draw attention doesn’t mean that we should go around expecting that he play like a 10-year vet or try to play armchair psychologist to his problems. He is who he is: an imperfect but entirely valuable and entertaining player.
Essentially, if the biggest problem of a 22-year-old rookie that’s been a key cog in a historic run is that he misses cut-off men and runs into stupid outs, it says a lot more about what he has accomplished for the team so far than what he has cost.