So Everyone Hates Yasiel Puig Now

puig_2013-06-27_faceIf it seems like the the recent Yasiel Puig ridiculousness just keeps on swirling, well, it does. (Almost like a tornado full of sharks, really.) All of a sudden his public perception has gone from “fun breakout story of the year” to “mecha-Hitler multiplied by a thousand Barry Bonds,” but it’s difficult to identify exactly why, because it’s not like anything much has changed about him in the last week. I think Deadspin, of all places, put it best yesterday:

What the hell? Was there a meeting where everyone decided to treat Yasiel Puig like the new Allen Iverson?

So what’s causing all this?

Because he’s the brash new star on a big-market team that’s now probably the most hated club in baseball.

When I was suggesting the Dodgers might look into Chase Utley earlier this week, I paused in the middle to point out that I was fully aware that the Dodgers are now the bad guys. Sure, it was fun for fans of every other team to kick them while they were down — “$200 million for last place!” — but now that they’re steamrolling the National League, in no small part due to a massively endless payroll that allowed them to add guys like Puig, Hanley Ramirez, Zack Greinke, & Hyun-jin Ryu, they’re Public Enemy Number One. (And not the good kind.) We’ve heard “the Dodgers are the new Yankees” so often that it’s become trite, but, well, it’s kind of true.

So when you’re the most hated team in baseball, the best and most visible players on that team are naturally going to take the brunt of the aggravation and jealousy from fans of every other team that can’t compete. Except no one can really hate Clayton Kershaw, who is both the best pitcher in baseball and a wonderful human being. And it’s no fun for fans of other teams to hate on Matt Kemp, because he’s spent the last year being injured and ineffective.

All of that rage has to land somewhere, and the fact that this obscenely wealthy team suddenly gets to add an out-of-nowhere star who is playing like the best player on the planet seems like the pretty obvious target, fairly or not. If you hate the Dodgers, as many now do, and you can’t bring yourself to hate Kemp or Kershaw or care about Andre Ethier or Zack Greinke, Puig is the obvious target.

Because baseball players can be as petty as high school sophomores.

Let’s look at what Miguel Montero was actually complaining about, shall we?

Then on Tuesday, Puig was thrown out easily at the plate in the fifth inning but not before he collided with Montero and then stared down the catcher as he walked back to the dugout. Replays showed Montero waving his finger at the rookie, a la former NBA big man Dikembe Mutombo.

“I don’t blame him running me over, it’s part of the game,” Montero said. “The only thing I really don’t appreciate is why you have to look back at me. I really don’t appreciate that.”

Continuing on, Montero referenced a play last September in Los Angeles when former Dodgers outfielder Shane Victorino bowled into the catcher at home, but then walked away without incident.

“Victorino crushed me,” Montero said. “But I never said anything to him and he never said anything to me. That’s what the game is made of.”

I… well, hang on a second. Who looks worse here? Imagine if Puig had waved his finger at Montero? The benches would have emptied immediately, and for good reason. Montero is the same man who publicly bashed his own rookie pitcher, Trevor Bauer, last year, don’t forget. It becomes apparent that in his world, there’s only two ways to do things: the Montero way, and the wrong way. (I would have also accepted “the Max Power way,” which is the wrong way, but faster.)

Later in that story was this tidbit from Arizona starter Ian Kennedy:

“He plays with a lot of arrogance,” Kennedy said.

You may remember Kennedy as the same man who hit Puig in the face with a pitch on June 12, just nine days after Puig debuted, and then set off a massive brawl later in the game by going after Zack Greinke’s head with the first pitch. Puig lost control, going hard after Eric Hinske (though somehow avoiding a suspension for it), and that’s of course inexcusable if somewhat understandable. But considering those words are coming from Kennedy… well, you don’t need me to make the “pot” and “kettle” jokes, I imagine.

More recently, there was the story about Puig apparently “disrespecting” Luis Gonzalez that got everything kick-started this week. That would be a disappointing story if it was in any way accurate, which it almost certainly is not, as David Vassegh went into in great detail about in a series of tweets and which Puig himself confirmed. I don’t buy into the whole “the media is making up lies” point of view here, but I do think that one Arizona-friendly reporter took an unverified, unwitnessed report from an unhappy Diamondback hero and ran with it.

Gonzalez then went on the radio and whined about the perceived snub, and again I’m wondering which side is truly showing the lack of class here. I think we all remember the stories about Gonzalez’ treatment of Matt Kemp when he played in Los Angeles, and this really sounds like a case of a retired ballplayer being just a bit upset that a player who had almost certainly never heard of him not sufficiently kissing the ring. That’s especially absurd when you think about the likelihood that a guy from an oppressed, closed-off island would really have known about the star of a World Series from 12 years ago, when he was 10. Hell, would you even know Gonzalez if he walked into your office right now?

In the end, this goes back to the great “unwritten rules” of baseball. You’re supposed to do things a certain way, dammit, like they did back when I was a kid, and I can’t tell you what those things are, you’re just supposed to know, dagnabbit. “Playing with arrogance,” or whatever he’s being accused of, is ultimately irrelevant, at least in the face of those who have “been there before” and have reached the exact amount of service time, whatever that is, that they can mete out baseball justice.

Because he’s reaching Bieber / Kardashian levels of overexposure.

This one, I’ll grant, is probably completely accurate. Unless you’re a 14-year-old girl, you probably hate Justin Bieber; unless you’re the kind of person who spends months at a time following celebrity court cases, you probably hate Kim Kardashian. Of course you do, really, because they’re everywhere. It’s inevitable that after non-stop wall-to-wall saturation, people are going to have enough and start to push back. (Although if this is part of it, it certainly seems to have happened at a lightning-fast pace.) While Puig is at least talented in a way that Kardashian absolutely is not, even I’ve been sick of hearing about him eight million times a day — at no time moreso than this week, when the “Final Vote” begging for votes became so obnoxious that it was unavoidable.

Because our great country can be really, really stupid sometimes.

I’d like to think this isn’t something that needs to be mentioned, but sadly, it does. When you read the comments on some of these stories… well, let’s just say the word “foreigner” or terms like it comes up more than a few times, as though being from somewhere else and playing a different style of ball makes Puig any less deserving of being paid for his talents. Let’s just say that you hear players like Nick Punto & Skip Schumaker being called “gritty” or “gamers” who “play the game the right way,” but no one uses descriptions like that for Hanley Ramirez or Carl Crawford, do they?

It’s an ugly truth, but it still exists. Hell, just look at this Deadspin story from yesterday about the awful treatment being suffered by a rookie lineman for the New York Jets just because he happens to be a Palestinian Muslim. We don’t have any evidence of Puig being treated poorly because his heritage or his color, and I do believe we’ve come far enough that no one is going to be shouting epithets at him like they did to Jackie Robinson. But all too often, even subconsciously and often unintentionally, “playing the game the right way” means “the American way,” not the wild, over-the-top way that has Puig running at 140% all the time, swinging at everything, and making stupid outs on the bases.

By the way, without delving too deep into politics here, I would just absolutely love to know how many Dodger fans are cheering on Puig’s nightly feats and buying his jerseys before going home and angrily declaring that “America is for Americans” in their daily lives without even realizing the irony there. I’ll say this — I don’t think it’s entirely a coincidence that this all seemed to swirl in Arizona. Frankly, if you’re surprised that a young Cuban player who was a floating refugee barely more than a year ago plays slightly differently than the typical American player, then you should open your eyes.

Because he doesn’t like to talk to the media.

Much has been made of the fact that Puig doesn’t like to talk to the media, and it’s here that I wonder who’s more upset about that. Not that he shouldn’t treat media members with respect, because he should, but I imagine that the media member who can’t get a good quote out of him cares a whole lot more than the average fan. Does John Q. Public from Long Beach care that Ken Gurnick (sorry, Ken!) couldn’t get some face time? I imagine the answer to that is “probably not”.

Unfortunately, and something that he’ll need to learn, is that the media goes a long way towards shaping your image. That’s how you get the Arizona reporter going with a poorly-sourced and probably untrue Gonzalez story. That’s how you end up with Bill Plaschke, in a what is otherwise a positive look at Puig, saying that he pulled a “rather villainous move” — his words! — by calling off Ethier on a ball in the gap the other night. (As though Puig colliding with Ethier while going full speed and failing to call him off hasn’t already cost Ethier playing time this season.)

That might be the reason that Pedro Gomez is reporting with a straight face that Puig tried to use his interpreter to pick up girls. I can’t say for sure, but I’m trying to figure out any other reason how that’s either relevant or in any way negative. BREAKING NEWS: 22-year-old athlete likes women and wants to meet some, and may have asked for help speaking their language. Won’t somebody please think of the children?

Because he might actually just be everything bad that everyone says he is.

I’m a Dodger fan, and so I’m probably biased on this. Fine. I imagine if Puig was a Giant or a Cub or a National, we’d probably all be bagging on him here a lot more than we are. I also know that hitting .397 for six weeks washes away a lot of sins, but the funny thing is… we predicted a lot of this. Not the unbelievable on-field splash he ended up making, but the concerns about maturity issues.

No one seemed to care as the season circled the toilet in early June, but I shouldn’t need to dig through the archives to link you to our concerns about what Puig would do when he came up. I’m pretty sure I predicted he’d be in the center of a brawl — he was — or that he’d potentially injure himself or others in the outfield — he has — and that even if fans didn’t care about bat flips, the pitchers who would aim fastballs at his teeth or the umpires who wouldn’t give him borderline calls sure would. That’s all exactly what happened, and when we said he might not have been ready, a lot of it had nothing to do with his stat line.

That being the case, I have no doubt that a lot of what’s been said is true, that maybe he is self-centered, or refuses to listen to those looking out for his best interests, or brings much of this on himself by the way he carries himself or the interactions he has with media. Maybe, maybe not; I can’t say we know. But even if he is, his crimes are… what exactly? Being better than 99% of other players so far? Offending some crusty old ballplayer? Getting emotional in a brawl after nearly getting his nose taken off by a pitch?

I’m hopeful that the Puig business is going to calm down, and I’m happy that he’s not in the All-Star game so we can all take a breather from this for a few days. Puig’s responsible for some share of this storm, no doubt, but not in any way commensurate to the level we’ve seen. (…he says, waiting for Puig to actually do something unforgivably terrible and render all of this moot.)

After all this, Puig came out of the game early last night thanks to a sore hip that’s bothered him ever since he slammed into the wall in Colorado — playing through pain, friends! — and is now day-to-day, though aren’t we all. Perhaps that’s not a bad thing. He could use a break, and so could we.

1404 comments
Jwhite081285
Jwhite081285

You did just about everything but give this guy a bj...look I agree to extent. However I've played this game of baseball for years myself that I love and if I ever had the chance to go pro I would have cried. The fact is if I had the chance to get into the batters box at Yankee stadium or Fenway park and hit a towering shit over the right field wall I'd have the biggest brightest smile on my face...however I would throw the bat and show the pitcher up like I've been playing in the bigs for 10 years and have earned the right to do so. If its your rookie season you have the right to be hazed, enjoy this game at the highest level and take in as much info as you can from the vets. Don't be an asshole and get into fights with your teammates who are only trying to help you learn the ways of how things are done here. And guess what you don't like the media...well it's only LA for fuck sakes!! What did you expect! Treat your peers and your coaches with respect because when your average drops below .300 and people see that your human its your attitude that will keep you in the spotlight for better or for worse. Most players make a big splash, Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado etc. But it's those who respect the game and the players that came before them that matter most like they do that really make me want to watch them. Bottom line is go out and play hard, yes you need to talk to the media it's part of the life of a professional athlete. Puig is fun to watch but I see the on field antics. Harper and Trout play just as hard, Harper even runs hard after hitting a homerun even though he's well respected already in his young career. Tossing the bat and acting like a dick when you haven't even played a full season yet just makes you look like a jerkoff. Now don't get me wrong..he's a God to these Dodger fans now..but wait til his average drops below .300 and if they don't win the last game of the season it doesn't mean shit. If anyone feels the way I do that's awesome, and for those who thought he should have won an espy and been given an all star game appearance after 2 months of a short mlb career then that's your opinion I guess. Puig is a good player, but for as good as he acts he better continue to hit .400 well into next season for me to be sold and say he deserves to act like a prick. Ask A-rod...who is facing a lifetime ban at the moment for substance abuse...arrogance will get you many things, but it won't get you into the hall of fame.

BlueMarvin
BlueMarvin

Selecting a pitcher from the box score in the MLB at-bat app provides me with their stats... their BATTING stats.  Um, thanks, helpful.  :|

BlueMarvin
BlueMarvin

So... has anyone noticed the Dodgers schedule in July after the break is a LOT, LOT tougher than AZs?  BUT... our August schedule is easier?  Meaning, we may have to wait until August to take our rightful place.  We get there before August and AZ really, really messed up.... or we were really, really good.

Weston Taylor
Weston Taylor

I just looked on stubhub for tickets to the game tonight, and nothing. I has a sad

LakerDodger24 (Kirby Pls)
LakerDodger24 (Kirby Pls)

I'm currently in the process of selling most of my bullshit in anticipation of moving. My house is so empty, it's kind of creepy right now. #MovingDay2013

Noel D
Noel D

I wonder if any photo-shop wizards are working on GIF with Puig or Uribe & the bulls at Pamplona...

Weston Taylor
Weston Taylor

Just got cancelled off of work tonight! Yay! I get to watch the game! lol

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

I was going to tweet this to the Dodgers twitter account but I have a feeling that they won't like this too much.

MorelosLLB
MorelosLLB

Great summary.  I hate to say it but i felt a current of racism on the final vote.  I am not tossing anything on Freeman (who has stats very similar to Adrian BTW) but there was a definite backlash here and a guy who tried to enter the country on rickety boats on multiple occasions, who is black, who doesn't speak the language, and who had quick success is going to suffer from backlash even in today's society.  The whole Arizona whining I understand, they got swept.  Montero is bitchy in general.  I could totally understand him not recognizing Luis Gonzalez along with the fact that he doesn't like talking to the media.  I am a little glad he didn't make the ASG so that things can calm down. 

ralplavner
ralplavner

I came to USA just 1 year and half ago. I beg excuses for my ripped english.

BlueMarvin
BlueMarvin

Ah I see how, have to select elsewhere.

JackedNate
JackedNate

@BlueMarvin All the teams that are facing us are thinking the same thing. About the tough

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@BlueMarvin LA is actually in the middle of their toughest stretch. 24 of 35 games are on the road. Not easy. So far, LA is playing their best baseball at the right time

Purple Drank
Purple Drank

@John M it's comfortable. plus it's long sleeved to make sure drank stays warm during the cold SF summers

PagansOedipalComplex
PagansOedipalComplex

@MorelosLLB i can't see racism being a huge part in this, I think it was more of his attitude of rubbing people the wrong way... I see the argument but I just think it's a little too much

Weston Taylor
Weston Taylor

@MorelosLLB He didn't make it because the pool of players to vote for was specifically picked to split the vote. He didn't make it because of racism; this isn't 1950. 

MorelosLLB
MorelosLLB

@PagansOedipalComplex @MorelosLLB  Sorry.  I do.  The language used to toss aside his play is dismissive.  Is it a coincidence that a player representing a team from the old south, white guy, was the recipient of so many votes?  It isn't a coincidence in this day of discrimination against immigrants. I think "rubbing people the wrong way" is old code.

BlueMarvin
BlueMarvin

@PagansOedipalComplex @MorelosLLB Well I think Mike's argument is that he's rubbing people the wrong way because they insist that he behave like a white baseball player and fail to give consideration to his own reality, which is NOT that of an American white baseball player.

Pitching and Defense
Pitching and Defense

@Weston Taylor @MorelosLLB I agree racism wasn't the biggest factor, but it has to be at least a part of everyone hating him. Racism definitely didn't go away and you can still see it in recent news stories; example after Katrina white people "Save goods from store" and a picture of black people doing the same thing (everything is still wrecked and underwater) and the headline is "People stealing from stores in wreckage".

MorelosLLB
MorelosLLB

@Weston Taylor @Pitching and Defense @MorelosLLB  Yes, but there is an extra element here.  He is black, Hispanic, doesn't speak the language and plays with flair.  There is an extra element here that no one wants to talk about.  Harper really isn't hated and when he was in the final vote last year this wasn't a big deal.

Weston Taylor
Weston Taylor

@Pitching and Defense @Weston Taylor @MorelosLLB I don't know, I think it's just part of being a fan. People hated LeBron for his self-indulging decision, and people hated Bonds and Clemens for being jerks, but what do all of these players have in common? They're all really, really good. What we see as exciting and awesome, people on the other side see being a jerk. With the ICU and the flair, I can't say I blame them. 

Weston Taylor
Weston Taylor

@Pitching and Defense @Weston Taylor @MorelosLLB That's not true. A lot of people hate Bryce Harper too. If Puig was on the other team, I'd hate him too. Not only because he's so fucking good, but also because he plays with a flair. Flair + talent + wins = fans of the opposite team hating you. 

MorelosLLB
MorelosLLB

@Weston Taylor @MorelosLLB Maybe I am sensitive to this but I see a great kid with talent playing in a different way.  It is infectious.  And all of a sudden there seems to be an effort to paint him in a certain way.  Toss in an "easy" option.  Sorry, I am a skeptic.