COMMENTARY | Los Angeles Dodgers' manager Don Mattingly said on June 16 that not only would phenom Yasiel Puig remain with the team when the outfield is fully healthy, but also that there would be enough at-bats for all four outfielders.
From Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times: "There are enough ABs to go around for (Matt) Kemp, (Carl) Crawford, (Andre) Ethier and Puig, according to Mattingly."
I'm not so sure. Of course, Mattingly has to say what he said. But expecting all four guys to be happy is a misguided view.
Puig has to play everyday if he's going to remain in the majors. Period. There's no scenario in which it makes sense for Puig to sit (short of an injury). There is, however, a scenario in which Ethier sits and gives way to Puig. It's called playing a team's best players.
Despite a recent hot streak, Ethier is still atrocious against left-handed pitchers for his career, but also this season (.221/.256/.325). He'd be the first guy to sit down against a southpaw. He also plays right field, which is where Puig plays. Unfortunately, Mattingly also said when Puig plays for Crawford, he'd play left field, leaving Ethier's inferior arm in right field. Not the best formula for winning.
Crawford is the superior player to Ethier, so he shouldn't sit much when all four guys are healthy. Crawford is hitting well against lefties this season (.311/.380/.511), so it'd be foolish to sit him. He's also the team's leadoff hitter, which means sitting Crawford creates more than one deficiency. Kemp, once he's back healthy, won't be sitting much.
Ethier is the odd man out. Puig is going to force the Dodgers' hand because there's no way this four-outfielder rotation is going to last more than a week or two. Crawford is probably still a few weeks from returning, so it gives Ethier time to get hot, re-establish his trade value and for general manager Ned Colletti to find a taker for about half of Ethier's contract.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Puig is the only player since 1900 to record 20 hits and four home runs in his first 12 games. I'm not one for made-up, specific statistics, but that's quite a distinction.
Puig is doing things that haven't been done in more than 100 years. Ethier cannot make that claim. No one on the Dodgers can make that claim, which further shows why the Dodgers should keep Puig around.
It's about putting the best players out there to win -- something the Dodgers have trouble doing on a more than regular basis. An outfield of Crawford-Kemp-Puig trumps an outfield with Ethier in it. It isn't Ethier's fault; it's just the nature of the game.
If the Dodgers intend to keep Puig in the majors, they'll need to make significant transaction. There should be no shortage of suitors for Ethier's services, especially since the Dodgers would have to eat $40 million to get anything of value in return.
Dustin Nosler has followed the Dodgers from Northern California all his life. He's the founder of Feelin' Kinda Blue, a Dodger blog. He also co-hosts "Dugout Blues," a weekly Dodger podcast. Find him on Twitter @FeelinKindaBlue.
- Sports & Recreation
- Yasiel Puig
- Los Angeles Dodgers
- Don Mattingly