Yasiel Puig facing crossroadsBy Matt Verderame
When Yasiel Puig came to the Los Angeles Dodgers back in 2013, he was a sensation.
Dodgers broadcaster Vin Scully famously uttered the words “Viva Puig” during a telecast in that amazing rookie season. It seemed the words, which translate to Live Puig, would be true. Puig would never be out of style in lso Angeles.
Now, there is a good chance, at only 25 yaers old, that Puig’s career in Tinseltown is over.
On Tuesday, the Dodgers demoted Puig to AAA after acquiring right fielder Josh Reddick from the Oakland A’s for a trio of prospects (Los Angeles also got starting pitcher Rich Hill in the deal). Reddick is hitting .296 and is a superb defender, and is yet to cause any antics off the field. Puig, a constant distraction for his actions anywhere and everywhere, is hitting .260 with seven home runs in 81 games.
For Los Angeles and general manager Farhan Zaidi, the decision of who to demote was simple. Per ESPN:
“The production from right field hasn’t been at the same level it has been in past years so that was a spot we were looking at in particular,” Zaidi said Tuesday in Colorado. “Once we were able to complete the trade with Reddick, we evaluated different options. We’re obviously still evaluating Yasiel’s health and whether he was a potential option to DL so we were talking through that. But ultimately we decided that move just made most sense with the roster we have and the way we plan to deploy our players and the lineups going forward.”
If this is indeed the end of Puig’s time in Los Angeles, it is a shame. There are few athletes with the rare gifts of this young man. He has power, speed, grace and charisma. He should be one of the stars of the game. Instead, he is slowly turning into a story of what might have been.
Los Angeles would be doing the right thing for both its club and for Puig by trading him away. Send him to another team where he can get a fresh start with both the organization and the fans. Give Puig another chance to prove himself and if he fails this time, well, there is no turning back.
In 2013 and 2014, Puig combined for a 10.4 Wins Above Replacement, showcasing skills as an elite player in the game. All of those exceptional talents remain, but the good will that he has eroded in Dodgertown does not. In the sports sense of the word, it is a tragedy, because the match of town and personality were potentially special.
Yet, for Puig, it was toxic. The limelight ate him up. Perhaps he would be better off in his next stop going to a smaller city where one beat writer will be at his locker instead of five. Sometimes, the solitude and dwindling expectations can help a player get his game – and life – back on track.