I’m a St. Louis Cardinalsfan. You probably know that. You’re probably sick of me talking and writing about it.
Monday night, the Cardinals were put off by the demonstrative display by Los Angeles Dodgers right
fielder Yasiel Puig after he crushed a line drive to right field. He flipped his bat at the plate, stood to admire the shot, then realized it wasn’t going to leave Dodger Stadium.
So he turned on the after burners – and for a guy who is 6-foot-3 and 245 pounds this guy has wicked after burners – to make it a triple.
I’m old school in some ways, but I also recognize Major League Baseball needs a player like Puig. And it needs him in the postseason, creating controversy and showing off his talents.
I desperately want the Cardinals to win this National League Championship Series. With all of my heart. And I can work up a good amount of hatred for Puig if I need to. He’s an easy player to dislike, especially if he’s playing for the other side.
But I sure wish the Cardinals had him. Not only is he Can’t Miss Television, he looks like a Can’t Miss Superstar. I do have a few reservations and one is that Puig’s emotions burn so intensely that they might cause him to crash and burn at some point.
Then again, Puig is only 22. He’ll mature as he gets older, most of us do. Most.
Then again, how mature do I want Puig to become?
He’s good for business and baseball needs all the business it can get. Swamped by the popularity of football fantasy leagues and football gambling – not to mention the actual football being played on the field – even baseball’s postseason gets swept up.
Puig is perfect for prime time.
Nobody can watch this guy play and not form an opinion. You either love him or you can’t stand him and there’s no middle ground. That seems to be just the way Puig wants it.
I hate the guy, but I also understand how important he is to the game.
Puig is electricity personified. I can’t think of the last time baseball had a guy so big and so fast. Bo Jackson, maybe? But Jackson wasn’t 6-3, 245.
Puig is like a Labrador puppy, wild and crazy and full of misfit energy. He cannot be tamed. And I wonder whether he should be.
Baseball is a great sport, my favorite sport. I appreciate the game’s history and its unwritten rules and laws. Puig smashes many of them into a million pieces and I’m trying to decide how I feel about it.
It’s never OK to show up a pitcher, which is exactly what Puig did to the Cardinals’ Adam Wainwright by tossing his bat and grandstanding. In a regular-season game, that’ll definitely get you a baseball to the rib cage on your next at-bat. But Puig got away with it because the game was so tight.
Puig gives every at-bat a theatrical feel. He looks askance at umpires, smiles when fooled on a curve ball as if to say I’ll get the next one, and treats a strike out like the end of the world. By the way, there were 99 ends to Puig’s world during the regular season, during which he batted .319 with 19 homers and 42 RBIs in only 104 games.
Puig batted .436 in 26 June games after being called up from the minor leagues. In September and October, though, Puig has batted only .214. He still burns hot, but has been cold at the plate for weeks.
So his two-hit game against the Cardinals on Monday night was a breakthrough. And, the Dodgers hope, a sign of things to come.
He for sure opened the eyes of the Cardinals, who have been asleep offensively for a few games now. That they lead the Dodgers, 2-1, in this series is a minor miracle. Credit their pitchers.
Puig is probably doing himself no favors by drawing so much attention to himself. That will just make opposing pitchers work that much harder to get him out. Baseball is a tough enough game without creating your own obstacles.
Then again, I can’t imagine Puig even being cognizant of how much more difficult he is making the game. He’s a thoroughbred of rawness who plays a Play Station version of the game. He misses cutoff men and catches fly balls with a lackadaisical approach.
But when he turns it on, as he did rounding the bases for his triple Monday night, he’s something to behold. He causes me to wonder just how good he could be.
Ultimately, Puig can be as good as his ability and mentality carry him.
The ability is there in abundance. The mentality? Let’s just say it’s not as obvious.