Did LA win battle, lose war with Puig?
Tuesday began with Dodgers manager Don Mattingly hoping to teach Yasiel Puig, his young, brash, aggressive phenom, a lesson about being a professional.
Judging by the way it ended, Mattingly either got his message across in record time, or may have a serious problem on his hands.
After Puig showed up late to Marlins Park in Miami, the Dodgers skipper had a closed-door meeting with Puig, from which the rookie emerged benched and fined. But in the sixth inning, in need of an outfielder and a bat in the No. 9 hole, Mattingly called on Puig in a double-switch.
Two innings later, with the score tied at 4-4, Puig did this:
And when he returned the dugout, he was treated like this:
And the Dodgers walked off the field 6-4 winners over the Marlins.
So did Puig get the message, or does he now think he is above reproach with his own manager?
One guy who knows something about the team thinks it may be the latter:
Benching Yasiel Puig is a good first step for Dodgers http://t.co/TY1CaEHzvy— Bill Plaschke (@BillPlaschke) August 21, 2013
Wrote Plaschke: "Puig's antics are the sort that will cost a team in a close game in October. For every playoff game that Puig wins with his bold arm or crazy legs, he could cost them two. But, as Tuesday proved, the Dodgers are unwilling to use an August night in Miami to address that possibility. With one swing Puig won a game, but, in playing him, the Dodgers risked losing much more."
We knew early on that Puig arrived late to the field. But Mattingly claimed that was not the reason for the benching:
Mattingly said Puig was not starting Tuesday because he's been struggling at the plate. Not because of late arrival.— Ken Gurnick (@kengurnick) August 20, 2013
Indeed, cornered by reporters before the game, Mattingly added he thought the new lineup would give the Dodgers "the best chance to win":
Puig's reason for being late apparently was that he left his family's Miami-area home too late and was stuck in traffic. He also was called to a meeting with Mattingly, apparently to discuss a rash of recent mistakes on the field:
Mattingly said his meeting w/Puig was to let him know he isn't in lineup and talked about the baseball mistakes and why he was late today.— David Vassegh (@THEREAL_DV) August 20, 2013
The late arrival also led to a fine. How much? Mattingly had a hilarious reported response:
Puig was fined for late arrival today. Mattingly: "More than a dollar. Less than 10,000". Told Mattingly he got caught in traffic. #Dodgers— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) August 20, 2013
For every good Puig headline lately, there seem to have been just as many negative. He created a stir Monday when he apparently cursed out reporters. On Sunday, our own Jon Morosi suggested the very on-field problems that Mattingly seems to be responding to should earn Puig a spot on the bench.
Some reports said Mattingly simply had been waiting for a good time to give the guy a break:
Mattingly's been wanting to give Puig a day off for a while. Was hoping to avoid the appearance this was in response to any one thing.— Ramona Shelburne (@ramonashelburne) August 20, 2013
Puig entered the game hitless in his previous 11 at-bats and 6 for 35 (.171) over his past nine games, dropping his average to .351. His aggression on the basepaths and in the field — while a big part of what has made him so fun to watch — has led to some errors that Mattingly surely could do without.
But after the game, the focus shifted to Puig the power-hitting hero. Adrian Gonzalez didn't lead his postgame thoughts with the rookie, but he wasn't exactly calling for him to change his ways, either:
The company that makes his bats sure was stoked:
And look what the drama did to this cat:
Yasiel Puig.. We bench him.. Then he hits the go ahead homer.— Captain Morgan (@Morgan_CutEm32) August 21, 2013