Comparisons between Alexander Guerrero and Yasiel Puig are as inevitable as they are natural based on their backstory and present situations. Both are exceptional baseball talents that defected from Cuba to the United States to pursue their dream of playing at the highest level. Both are also signed to the Los Angeles Dodgers, where they'll play together for at least the next four seasons.
However, as Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times explains, that's precisely the spot where their similarities end. While both figure to help the Dodgers win baseball games for many years to come, there really is no comparison because they are nothing alike on the field or off it.
Talking about his escape from Cuba and his major league dreams while on the team's community-service caravan, Guerrero came across as soft-spoken and respectful, in contrast to Puig's loud and brash.
They play differently, too, according to Guerrero. Even in Cuba, he said, no one plays with the same level of aggressiveness as Puig.
Guerrero, 27, came to the U.S. at a different point in his life than Puig, who defected in 2012 when he was just 21-years-old. Guerrero has a family of his own — a wife and two young kids waiting in Cuba for an opportunity to join him in Los Angeles. He has responsibilities beyond taking care of himself, and as a result he's developed a maturity that has so far escaped Puig. He describes himself as an even keeled guy, to which many many agree, whereas Puig possesses a reckless enthusiasm that brings an element of risk to everything he does.
Guerrero's personality and mindset are a good fit for the Dodgers, especially under the circumstances they're bringing him into. A shortstop his entire career, Guerrero enters spring training not only adjusting to a new country (without his family) and a new league, but a new position as well. The Dodgers are asking him to play his second base, which is a far more difficult transition than it would appear.
All put together, it's series of transitions and stresses that would overwhelm many, but Guerrero, who spoke to the media for the first time during the Dodgers' community-service caravan on Friday, is confident he can handle it.
"I think so," Guerrero said about starting Opening Day in Australia. "Ultimately, it's a team decision. On my side, I'm working as hard as I can."
The Dodgers also have reclamation project Chone Figgins, along with younger options like Miguel Rojas, Justin Sellers and Dee Gordon, who could hold down second base while Guerrero gets more comfortable. But they would obviously prefer Guerrero taking the job and running with it.
That would be the best way for Guerrero to make an immediate impact, but perhaps his biggest impact will come if he establishes himself not only as a player, but as something of a role model for Puig. A guy he can relate to and gravitate to based on their past experiences. A guy who can relay the same messages Puig's been receiving from teammates and Dodgers coaches, and have it mean something, or at least enough to grab his attention.
That's not to say the Dodgers would ask or expect Guerrero to play that role, that he'd be comfortable doing so, or that they would want Puig to change completely. His aggressive style on the field, while risky, brings excitement to the game and at times give the Dodgers advantages. But just the possibility they could have a positive influence around to rein Puig in has to be intriguing.
Time will tell if anything along those lines develops. Puig is guy who seems to be pretty set in his ways, so it would definitely be easier said than done.
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