The tale of Puig and the Disappointed Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers are “very disappointed” in Yasiel Puig and so am I.

            Now, before I get into my whole deal here, let me preface this by saying that I am amazed by how talented Puig is. When he burst into the Majors last season, he took the baseball world by storm, and rightly so: though polarizing, Puig is an undeniable wealth of talent. The kid is amazing. I also really admire the charitable work he does off the field for kids, volunteering his time to coach them and visit them in the hospital. It is obvious that he really does care about these children and I think that is wonderful.

            However, I still do not care for him. As a resident of Arizona, I have taken special interest in crossing my fingers that he will strike out every time he is at bat (which, frankly, was not far-fetched most of the time).  But I do not dislike him because of his insanely mad skills. In fact, I have the utmost respect for his mad skills. I just don’t care for his attitude, which is a lot more important to me than overall talent.

            When Puig was arrested for the second time this past week for reckless driving, I was not all that surprised. My Dad and I have been saying for about six months now that this kid is out of control. Keep in mind that he is acting like a 23-year-old boy, but that is not what makes him out of control. Pretty much every 23-year-old I have ever met has made a lot of stupid choices. It’s kind of a right of passage when you are in your early twenties. What makes him out of control is my mind is his aggression and his seeming lack of caring about how people see him.

            During the 2013 season, we all got to witness firsthand how Puig could either win a game for LA or make a stupid move that results in a loss. He aggression is dangerous for the Dodgers, even though that aggression helped them get as far as they went in 2013. Watching the benches-clearing brawl between the Dodgers and the Diamondbacks back in June proved my point. Not only was he an aggressor, but also he was more out of control than anyone in the fight.  The way he stares down umpires after not agreeing with a called strike. The way he grossly over-throws from the outfield. The way his cockiness rubs too many people the wrong way. I think it’s great that he plays with so much zest, but his zest quickly turns into something potentially dangerous for the Dodgers.

            After the second arrest, the Dodgers issued a statement saying that they were disappointed in his choices and that they would work with him to further develop his growth on and off the field.  They have their work cut of them. Some days, I wonder if Puig even cares. He doesn’t have to, but my deal is this: he is a pro athlete and there are so many kids who look up to him. As a public figure, he has an unfair amount of pressure put on him to be a good role model and I understand that sometimes, you can’t live up to that. However, he is making conscious decisions that adversely affect how people view him. His choices are just that: choices. They are not a series of accidents or actions with complete lack of forethought. After all, he chose to drive 110mph in a 70mph zone.

            I personally would love to see him continue to do well in the Majors. He brings something to the table that I haven’t seen in a loooooooooong time. However, he needs to be brought down a few notches. He needs to look at himself in the mirror and remember that he has people and children looking up to him as a role model. I mean, can he look into the eyes of a ten-year-old fan and try to explain the mug shot this kid just saw? I don’t expect Puig to make any significant changes overnight, but I think it is something he needs to look at more closely. He needs to reassure that little kid who wears his name on a t-shirt that he won’t get thrown in a jail. Heck, he needs to convince this twenty-something author of that, too. 

RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

http://ftw.usatoday.com/2013/12/baseball-hall-of-fame-steroids-bonds-clemens-piazza-bagwell/

I don’t know about you, but I am not 100% sold on letting people who have been strongly linked to steroids or have actually used steroids into the Hall of Fame. BUT, you have to make a case for some of the best ballplayers of my generation. I mean, if you can have wife-beaters, drunks, and all-around terrible people in the Hall, who says PED users are any worse? While I’m still not convinced, this is an interesting article that makes some good points. 

A Nationals Enquirer

Here’s the deal: I think the Washington Nationals may very well be the best team in the NL East and probably one of the best teams in the entire National League. The Nats have made some great off-season moves and I gotta say, I am quite impressed.

First of all, hiring Matt Williams as the manager was a great move. I grew up in Arizona, so I watched him as a ballplayer and third base coach for over ten years. The man clearly knows baseball, and not only that, but he knows how to play the game the right way. He always played with class and made sure the players he coached did the same. He’s probably going to be aggressive, but I think that will be a good thing. And let’s not forget that he has one of the best pitching staffs in the majors. I think Williams will do a great job as manager.

Second of all, they have a dope rotation. Trading for Doug Fister was a very smart move and I can safely say I would not want to face anyone on their pitching staff. They have a few guys on reserve for the fifth spot, but in all honesty, I would not worry too much about that right now.

The Nats don’t have a whole lot of holes to fill, with the exception of an everyday second baseman and probably a solid back-up catcher. Of the two men battling for second base, Anthony Rendon and Danny Espinosa, I would bet on Rendon, if only because Espinosa had a dreadful year last year. The back-up catcher is so up in the air at this point that it is probably not going to get cleared up until later in the offseason, at least in my opinion.

In order to be successful, the Nats also need Bryce Harper to stay healthy. He will go into Spring Training around 99.99% healthy and I sure hope he can stay that way! He plays hard and really goes after it, which is one of the reasons he is such a bright, young star, but he really needs to be careful! Bryce, if you’re reading this (probably not), PLEASE pay attention to where the warning track is. It’s there for a reason.

I had the chance to see the Nationals play last year and it was a fun game to watch. Well, sad for me because my team lost, but boy do those Nationals play some good baseball. I was impressed with how hard they tried and how they took advantage of every opportunity. Last season, they were the preseason favorite to win the NL East and it was kind of disappointing to see them not live up to the hype. They are a solid team with talent to spare. I would be very surprised if they did not win the NL East.

Of course, we will have to see how the other teams fare, but I would put some money on the Nats. Not a lot of money, but that’s only because I am in college. The Nats will be bomb, so long as Bryce Harper stops running into walls and they don’t get plagued with injuries.

So, you know, try really hard to not run into walls.  And take your vitamins. Drink your milk. Do whatever to stay healthy.

Here’s an article about the Nats and a brief look at some of their postseason moves:

http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/mlb/washington-nationals-enter-2014-with-new-skipper-matt-williams?content_id=66204572&partnerId=as_mlb_20131227_16331454&vkey=news_mlb&ymd=20131226

RECOMMENDED ARTICLE

http://msn.foxsports.com/mlb/story/tampa-bay-rays-trade-market-david-price-prospects-or-proven-talent-121913

With trade talks still going on in regards to David Price, the picture is starting to look messier and messier for the Rays. If they trade him, would they still be as good? Given how challenging the AL East division is, they can’t take any chances. Could they get better players or prospects? Should they wait until next year? It’s all up in the air and it looks to me like this won’t be settling down anytime soon…

Big Moves, Big Bucks, and the Big Elephant in the Room

Slowly but surely, we are seeing the New York Yankees going back to their big-spending roots, and as a fan, I wouldn’t want it any other way. Signing catcher Brian McCann was the best first step they could have made. Signing outfielder Jacoby Ellsbury was another good step, despite the already-crowded outfield. Even signing the big-hitting outfielder Carlos Beltran was a smart move, considering how badly they needed a big bat in the lineup.

But they need more. Our starting rotation is, well, not as great as it could be. CC Sabathia is still a fine pitcher, but he is in decline and his power numbers are nowhere near where they used to be. Ivan Nova has the potential to be a lights-out pitcher, but he is inconsistent in his starts. You do not know if you are getting a shutout game from him or a messy start. Lastly, we have Hiroki Kuroda who is a great pitcher, but his stumble during the latter half of last season is a bit concerning. And don’t even get me started on our bullpen. There are a few young pitchers in the minors who could be helpful, but they need more.

Who they need is Masahiro Tanaka.

The lights-out pitcher from Japan would be a great asset to the team, hoping of course that he would provide the high-caliber pitching he is known for. He could give the rotation the dominance they as a group have the potential to acquire. But this hype could be all for nothing if he is not posted.

And then, of course, there is the elephant in the room: the hard-hitting, polarizing, and always-embattled elephant, Alex Rodriguez. He is why the Yankees are in a bit of a limbo. You see, the Yankees are hellbent on not going over the $189 million luxury tax threshold (although I remain unconvinced that they will make that happen) and A-Rod’s salary is eating $25 million of it, not to mention he has some pretty sweet incentives on the table, too. It is hard for the Yankees to make any more moves unless they know if his suspension will be upheld. I personally do not think he will have to serve all 211 games, but it will be probably be near 75-100 games. Needless to say, I think the Yankees need to prepare to pay at least some of his salary.

A-Rod’s possible suspension is also hindering their need to sign infielders. After the fallout of an offer made to Omar Infante, it’s hard to see where the Yankees stand. If A-Rod is there for some of the season and stays healthy, they don’t need to go out and get a full-time third baseman. If he is gone for the whole season, that changes things because they will need a full-time player, who will want to be making a full-time salary. Would it be better if A-Rod is not in the line-up? Hard to say. It’ll be better financially if the Yankees want to stay under $189 million, but it is difficult to tell is his replacement would be a better hitter or fielder.

The other issue is Robinson Cano’s somewhat surprising departure. His bat and fielding kept the Yankees alive last season longer than expected. The Yankees, having learned from the whole A-Rod debacle, were not willing to offer ten-years on a player over 30, which makes sense. Could they have upped the financial ante? Totally, but they made it clear they were not going to wait around for Cano to make his choice. Signing Ellsbury so quickly might have pushed Cano away, but all that says to me is that he was looking for financial motive, not a lasting legacy. Now, the Yankees need a second-baseman to fill his spot, and that will not come easy or cheap.

The Yankees will have a good chunk of their players coming back from injury, such as Mark Teixeira and Derek Jeter, which will help a lot. They are slowly but surely filling in the holes in their line-up, but have a long way to go. Staying under the $189 million cap will be nearly impossible if A-Rod is suspended for the whole season and completely impossible to stay under the cap if he is not. Frankly, it was a hard to goal to begin with, but they need players more than they need to stay under the tax threshold. So, Yankees, get your checkbooks ready because you have some work to do.