In the first week of Yasiel Puig’s career, he took the baseball world by storm. And then he created a shitstorm in the Dodgers‘ clubhouse.
From Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports on June 30, 2015:
While some issues, like his habitual tardiness for games, have abated this year, according to sources, Puig’s work ethic in batting practice and the weight room continue to bother some teammates. Much of the hostility stems from a general sense of entitlement shown by the 24-year-old. During spring training this year, as Knight writes and multiple sources confirmed to Yahoo Sports, Puig argued with teammates over who should be allowed on a plane ride that typically includes wives and girlfriends. The subject of someone from Puig’s entourage joining the traveling crew came up, and sources told Yahoo Sports that Puig argued with pitcher Zack Greinke and nearly came to blows with infielder Justin Turner over the matter.
Greinke, the National League ERA leader and one of the game’s best pitchers, was at the center of another memorable Puig moment related in Knight’s book. In 2014, during the Dodgers’ annual trip to Chicago, the team bus stopped downtown to allow rookies undergoing hazing to walk into a pizza place and emerge with food for the veterans. Some Dodgers players, not wanting to wait, skipped off the bus. When the bus was ready to leave, Puig was outside, looking for his luggage inside of the bay underneath the bus. After Puig ignored multiple requests to close the luggage bay, Greinke hopped off the bus, grabbed the suitcase in front of Puig and chucked it onto Michigan Avenue. Puig stepped toward Greinke and was restrained by reliever J.P. Howell. Word of the incident spread quickly, those there giddily recounting it to those who got off the bus, and highlighted the chasm between Puig and his teammates.
This is the same guy that the Dodgers are telling inquiring teams is not available “at least not now.” This is also the same guy that an unnamed Dodgers player told Passan last summer that trading him “would be addition by subtraction.”
In his first two seasons with the Dodgers, you could make the argument that Puig was worth the headache, hitting .305 with an .888 OPS over the first 252 games of his career. Then we get to 2015, and a combination of injuries, poor performance (.255 with a .758 OPS in 79 games), and being at the forefront of clubhouse turmoil makes you reconsider if he’s worth the headache at all.
Earlier this week, new Dodgers manager Dave Roberts offered Puig the opportunity to start the 2016 season with a clean slate.
Manager Dave Roberts pulled Puig aside for their first in-person meeting and promised him a clean slate in 2016. Kershaw vouched for the stability of his relationship with Puig, while the man himself suggested he and Kershaw needed to sit down during spring training “just to make sure that we’re all on the same page.”
“For me, it’s more of ‘let’s wipe the slate clean and let’s start anew,'” Roberts said. “There’s the same core of players, but there’s a completely different coaching staff. And we just want him to be himself. So let’s start fresh.”
You can always count on a guy like Dave Roberts to be a levelheaded thinker and give a guy a second chance, whether he deserves it or not. Beyond that, it just makes sense for the Dodgers to hang on to Puig in the first place, given that his trade value is in the gutter at the moment, thanks to all of the aforementioned reasons why 2015 was such a forgettable year for him.