Friday, August 23, 2013

Yasiel Puig criticism reaches new heights of stupidity and rabble-rousing

Let me preface this by acknowledging my Dodger fandom plays into this opinion. Everyone needs to get off Yasiel Puig’s back, and the media needs to be far less lazy.

For some reason, two national writers decided to lambaste Puig in columns this week. The first was Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports. Here are some excerpts from his Tuesday column: 
“But if I were a Dodgers fan, I’d be nervous about Puig in October. He’s as likely to cost the Dodgers a playoff game with a needless mistake as he is to win one on a walk-off home run. For a while, Puig’s frequent fundamental lapses were forgivable. Airmailed cutoff men and unnecessary outs on the basepaths were accepted as part of The Puig Show. Besides, he was saving the season. Let him be.”
No more. Puig and Hanley Ramirez have turned the Dodgers into near-certain NL West champions. Now it’s time to prepare for the playoffs. And clearly, Puig isn’t ready.
Morosi would go onto talk about Puig’s series against the Phillies in which he made a few mistakes. 
The Dodgers are in a precarious position here. Mattingly should bench Puig for a day – the clearest form of manager-player communication – to make certain he understands the need to be more aware of game circumstances. But that’s probably unrealistic because Puig helped the Dodgers go on an historic 42-8 run, and the paying customers in L.A. would be displeased if they bought a ticket to Dodger Stadium only to learn their hero wasn’t in the lineup.
The second was Scott Miller of CBS Sports, who was about two days late in his criticism. Not only was he two days late, his piece was like reading two of Morosi’s morose columns. Some excerpts: 
“You can see it coming from here to the autumn leaves. Crowd screaming. National television cameras blazing. Game 4 … or 5 … or 6 of the playoffs. And Yasiel Puig runs into an out, overthrows a cutoff man, commits some egregious mistake that costs the Dodgers the game. Maybe even costs them the playoffs. The Dodgers go home for the winter. Their fans are left hugging only their chipped and faded 1988 World Series champions coffee mugs. And Puig jets off to join a South Beach conga line for the winter. Party on! Hoo, boy.”
“Do you think they haven't tried? School is in session every day with Puig. Manager Don Mattingly talks with him. Coaches lecture him. General manager Ned Colletti schools him. Teammates from Juan Uribe to Adrian Gonzalez try to teach him.So far, Puig doesn't appear to be much for school. Or lessons. Or umpires, or sleep.”
“So what do you do if you're the Dodgers? Wine and dine him even more? Sit him down indefinitely? Sit him down for six innings, then insert him into the game in a sixth-inning double-switch? Wait. They did that last one Tuesday. And Puig emerged from his time out to immediately stroke a game-winning home run. The guy can do no wrong even when he does wrong.”
And probably the worst string of sentences… 
“Biggest question this season now is this: Can the Dodgers eke a Kirk Gibson moment out of Puig this October before they get a Frankenstein moment?
This Tasmanian Devil of a player has mesmerized a community and captivated a baseball nation. He is Must-See TV, one of the game's most exciting talents. What Mike Trout and Bryce Harper were last year, Puig, to some degree, is this year.
Yet this late-night carousing, cutoff-man missing, curfew busting phenom borders on going berserk-o out of control. Did you see the tantrum he directed at plate ump John Hirschbeck after striking out Monday in Miami? Holy smokes.”
The funny thing is, Miller’s column makes Morosi’s look like a Pulitzer prize-winning piece. And, predictably, Miller is playing the victimcard after Deadspin ripped him a new one.

The fact that some think Puig is actually a detriment to the Dodgers is something straight out of a bad “Saturday Night Live” skit.

Guess what? ANY player on the Dodgers could cost the team come playoff time. Just because Puig is young and "doesn't play the right way" doesn't make him any more or less likely to make a mistake. But don't let that get in the way of a pageview-grabbing column.

Where is this all coming from? Was it that Puig said, “Fuck the media,” (or did he?), or is it that he’s “different” than some of the guys criticizing him?

I’m not accusing Morosi, Miller and others of flat-out racism, but there are definitely some racist elements at play. Craig Calceterra of Hardball Talk tackled the issue:
If you go back and look at the commentary about a young Roberto Clemente or, really, almost any other young Latin superstar in baseball history, you see a lot of the same things being said about them that are being said about Puig. Many of the actual words are different — I don’t think anyone these days actually calls them “hot-blooded” or anything — but there is this presumption, it seems, that most young Latin ballplayers are some breed of wild horse that needs to be tamed. Contrast this to young American ballplayers who mess up sometimes and are talked about as if they need to grow up. We assume age-appropriate immaturity in the latter that will inevitably be grown out of and assume culturally-determined otherness in the former that must be beaten out of them via discipline and disapproval.
Morosi got his wish – kind of – on Tuesday when Puig was not in the Dodgers’ starting lineup. Of course, he promptly came in on a double-switch and hit the eventual game-winning run with a towering home run to left-center field – because of course he did. That’s Puig. That’s who he is.

I was, foolishly, listening to ESPN Radio on my drive home last night (while Scott Ferrall was on commercial) and the clueless host (Jeff something-er-other… didn’t catch his full name) was talking about the Puig situation. He said Puig was benched on Tuesday “for being late,” which was entirely untrue. He then said Puig has been in the country for all of “six months,” which is also untrue. He got a number of facts wrong – facts that can be confirmed with a simple Google search.

Some of the national media has gotten lazy and have officially reached troll status. When guys with some of the biggest platforms are writing and broadcasting things that are completely foolish, uninformed and subtly racist opinions, that’s not good.

This epidemic breeds uninformed opinions, treated as fact, and the masses eat it up. Because of that, it becomes the popular and prevailing opinion, no matter how wrong it might be.

I’m not going to sit here and pretend there aren’t facets of Puig’s game that need improvement. He absolutely needs to hit the cutoff man (at times) and make smarter decisions on the basepaths. That will come with age and experience. He’s 22, after all. This time two years ago, he was trying to defect from a country – an experience many of us will never (thankfully) know. He’s literally gone from nothing to almost everything. The culture shock is something I know I can’t relate to.

Bloggers, despite still being labeled as those in their mother’s basements, are some of the most informed and intelligent folks around (this blogger notwithstanding). Yet, most of their platforms are miniscule compared to the likes of Fox, ESPN and CBS.

Some are trying to fight the good fight. The aforementioned Calceterra brought up Clemente when talking about Puig. Man, if only Puig hit the cutoff man more, he might be less like Clemente. Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports brought up Vladimir Guerrero in his column. Man, if only Puig didn’t swing at pitches out of the strike zone, he might be less like Guerrero.

The Dodgers are 51-20 since Puig arrived on June 3. If only he didn’t get picked off or thrown out on the bases so often, the Dodgers might still be in last place.

Jay Jaffe of Sports Illustrated and Jason Gay of the Washington Post threw their respective hats into the Puig corner with a couple of great pieces.

And here's another great piece. This is where Puig comes from.
"A few months after Puig made his debut, with every game he plays still opening itself up like some brand new, unexpected gift, I feel like the isolated one. Despite our various advantages in communications, Americans are nearly as removed from Cuban baseball stars as Cuban fans are from major leaguers. Puig may only now be learning the blessed and sacred unwritten rules of American baseball, but we are only learning now what the Cuban game has to offer."
People seem to forget that just two years ago, he was trying to escape Cuba so he could pursue his dream of playing Major League Baseball. It's not like he's been around this lifestyle that long. He's 22 years old and this level of fame for someone who hasn't experienced anything close to it is something difficult to digest.

So, to the lazy national media writers attempting to crucify Puig for being 22 years old and for “not doing things the right way,” I say, start being better at your jobs and stop stooping to the same level as an Internet troll. You’re better than that (I think). If not, then how the hell did you get your respective jobs?

At least Bill Plaschke didn’t jump into the fray. What’s that? He did? Son of a bitch.
“They need less of Puig's reckless on-field behavior. They need less of his arrogant refusal to listen to instruction. They need less of an attitude that infuriates umpires.
But they love the victories that the reckless, arrogant attitude produces.
They needed to bench him Tuesday. But they couldn't bear to bench him for the entire game.
He needs to learn. But Mattingly showed that he's unwilling to possibly sacrifice a victory to finish the lecture.”

I can’t…

Photo credit: Dustin Nosler, Feelin' Kinda Blue


  1. The condescending arrogance of certain privileged, white, heterosexual males is nothing new, and something that many of us have had to live with--and struggle against-- in our real lives forever. The anti-Puig stuff is truly racist and disgusting, and good for you for calling them on it. Just remember this kind of subtle bigotry is used against *everyone* in society deemed "other." Let's hope it ends soon.

  2. Great piece Dustin. Let me just add one (or two) additional opinions that many of the pundits fail to recognize. Puig is essentially learning the game on the national stage. With only a handful or rookie league and High A games under his belt last year and then a month and a half of AA ball this year, a lot of the mental mistakes he has made are those that should have been made at a lower level, outside of the spotlight. If he wasn't such a superstar talent that merited a rise to the major league level that would have been the case The laziness of many in the main stream media do adequate research before writing blistering opinions on Puig is frustrating. I'm glad you're calling them out.