Don Mattingly pulled the Puig again — and the Los Angeles Dodgers won anyway. Again.
Yasiel Puig was benched by his manager Wednesday afternoon, replaced in right field by Skip Schumaker in the fifth inning for reasons unspecified by Mattingly. With Puig grounded, the Dodgers beat the Chicago Cubs 4-0, with Schumaker getting on base twice and driving in a run.
The move was not made because of an injury, but instead was disciplinary in nature. The only word given by the Dodgers during the game, as relayed by Vin Scully on the Fox Sports TV broadcast, was that it was a "manager's decision." After the game, Mattingly wouldn't specify why Puig was pulled, preferring to keep the matter "in house." Informed speculation by local writers says the punishment is for Puig not hustling to his position in right field.
No matter, Mattingly uttered what already have become famous words about why Puig was benched:
Don Mattingly: "At that point in the game Skip gave us a better chance to win the game"
— Eric Stephen (@truebluela) August 28, 2013
He probably wasn't speaking literally, but it's fun to point out that the Dodgers are 53-23 in Puig's appearances and 53-50 when Schumaker plays. And let's not even get into the wins above replacement comparison. Puig sounds like he got the message — whatever it was — after meeting with Mattingly and GM Ned Colletti:
Puig said meeting with Mattingly was good "he explained what I have to do. Give 100% dont matter if your tired"
— Beto Duran (@DuranSports) August 28, 2013
Mattingly also punished Puig for disciplinary reasons Aug. 20 against the Marlins, though this actually was the first time Puig has been benched — if you believe Mattingly. He didn't start Puig against the Marlins after he was 35 minutes late for pregame activities at Miami. Puig entered that game in the fifth inning and hit a go-ahead home run in another Dodgers victory. He was fined for being tardy, but Mattingly said Puig didn't start because he was just getting a day off — or a half-day off — because he needed the rest. Mattingly repeated that Wednesday.
"Nobody probably believes that, because of the timing of it, but that was a day off he was getting no matter what time he was getting to the ballpark, " Mattingly said.
It doesn't matter what we believe, it only matters what Puig believes. He's the one Mattingly has to manipulate into playing his best.