Amid the news yesterday that Yasiel Puig was suffering from a pulled hamstring and would sit came the news that Puig would also be dialing it back on the bat flips and the post-homer celebrations. "I want to show American baseball that I'm not disrespecting the game. I don't do that because I lack respect. I do that because of the emotions that I have."
I have no doubt that the Dodgers can survive a couple of days without Puig. They already have far more outfielders than they have room for, with Joc Pederson, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, and Scott Van Slyke all on the roster and able to handle everyday duty. The impressive starts by Pederson, Adrian Gonzalez, Howie Kendrick, Jimmy Rollins, and Alex Guerrero also lessen the urgency of having Puig in the lineup every day at this point.
The Dodgers need Puig to be himself
What I do worry about, however, is that the Dodgers may not be able to survive a season if Yasiel Puig isn't able to be Yasiel Puig. Sure, I mean that from a physical perspective, but I also mean it from an emotional one. One of my favorite movies as a child was Disney's The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Until my brother got mad and dashed the VHS cassette against the tile floor, it was on weekly at my house.
In one of the stories, Rabbit decides to try to scare the bounce out of Tigger by ditching him deep in the Hundred-Acre Wood. "We'll find him again the next morning, and mark my words, he'll be a humble Tigger, a small and sad Tigger, and a ‘oh, Rabbit, am I glad to see you Tigger.' And it will take the bounce out of him!" Rabbit's plan fails, but in the next story Rabbit manages to get Tigger to promise to stop bouncing forever. Nobody is happy. Tigger mopes away and the joy is gone from the woods.
That's what I'm afraid of. I'm not a believer that a mystical chemistry is particularly important for a baseball team. But I do think baseball is a 162 game grind that becomes even more difficult if it isn't just a little fun. I mean that both for the players and for the fans. And fun is what Yasiel Puig injects into every game he bounces through with his incredible talent, with his effortless enthusiasm, and, yes, with his bat flips.
I'm not saying that it's cute when he shows up late or he misses the cutoff man. That's poor baseball. But if a player is able to elevate himself beyond his peers, it's not unreasonable to expect him to celebrate that. Baseball is supposed to be a joy, both to play and to watch. Yes, it is a billion-dollar industry, but it remains a game as well. It is supposed to be a distraction from the Very Serious Business of life.
Very quickly, Rabbit realizes the error of his ways. Tigger can't be Tigger without his bounce, just like Puig may not be Puig without his flourishes. Rabbit very quietly relents and whispers that, maybe, he actually prefers the old Tigger too. I have a feeling that Bill Platchke and the rest of the stodgy old media who have made ragging on Puig a cottage industry will feel the same way, if he actually does tone it down. They'll want the old Puig back too.
Dodgers news & notes:
Dodgers proceeding with caution with Hyun-jin Ryu rehab - True Blue LA
"The Dodgers are taking it slow with Hyun-jin Ryu, who is on the disabled list with an impingement in his left shoulder. He is about a week into his throwing program, and the club hopes for a return to the mound at some point in May."
Dodgers, O's Take New Approach In Ryan Webb Trade - MLB Trade Rumors
"Since the Dodgers have already outrighted Webb, then, the deal could quickly boil down to this: The Dodgers purchased a draft pick from the Orioles. They agreed to pay the salary of a player they didn’t need, and the Orioles gave them a pick in return. As the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin tweeted, 'Moneyball with big money: Dodgers buy draft pick for $2.75MM.'"
Alex Guerrero adding to Dodgers depth - True Blue LA
"...Guerrero, like Turner and Ethier, for now will wait for his chance to play regularly, but in the meantime can still help the team by contributing to what might be the best bench in the league."
Darwin Barney optioned to Triple-A, David Huff added to Dodgers roster - True Blue LA
"To make room for pitcher David Huff on the roster to make Tuesday night's start against the Mariners, the Dodgers optioned Darwin Barney to Triple-A Oklahoma City on Tuesday."
- One more thing to watch:
Dodgers don't need another 5th starter until 4/25. Don Mattingly wouldn't say whether team would make a roster move after tonight's game— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) April 15, 2015