Here's one thing Yasiel Puig knows that some people might chide him for: His job, at least part of it, is to be an entertainer. He plays for the Los Angeles Dodgers, the biggest-spending team with the most popular tickets in baseball these days. He has to put on a show.
He has other jobs too. Like getting hits, scoring runs, making plays in right field and strictly following all of baseball's unwritten rules. OK, maybe not that last one. After his much-ballyhooed rookie season, Puig starts 2014 with a love-him-or-hate-him image.
He was criticized by traditionalists for being too aggressive and not hitting the cut-off man and celebrating too much. If you believe the talk this spring, Puig is, at the very least, trying to appease them a little bit. And so are the Dodgers, who are hoping to refine their 23-year-old Cuban dynamo in spring training, now that they know exactly what they're working with.
Puig told Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times that he'll dial it back some a bit in 2014, and the Dodgers coaching staff seems happy about this:
Puig also acknowledges he has to be more restrained on the field, admitting he has to be smarter on the bases and learn when to hit the cutoff man rather than throw directly to the plate from right field. With the Dodgers holding their first full-squad workout Friday, the 23-year-old Cuban outfielder and his coaches restarted the process of adding a degree of caution to his risk-taking mentality.
"To me, in order to be a bona fide superstar, you have to learn to slow the game down," hitting coach Mark McGwire said.
Manager Don Mattingly is hopeful this camp will provide Puig with that opportunity ... The Dodgers couldn't offer Puig that kind of instruction last year. He was new to the country, new to the Dodgers and determined to make his presence known to the world.
"He was just full speed," Mattingly said. "He was all forward."
It's silly not to expect any type of maturation for year 2 of Puig. He's extremely talented, and plays the game with an energy that took MLB by storm upon his arrival last June. He's still young and, by American standards, quite inexperienced at the professional level. He's going to get better, more refined.
The Dodgers shouldn't want to tame Puig too much, though, because that wild energy of his is what invigorated their team and pushed them into the playoffs. Puig plays the game like a big kid still, and distilling that would probably only frustrate him and the fans.
It sounds like Puig doesn't want that. He just wants to play smarter. Again, from the L.A. Times:
While Puig says he wants to cut down on his mistakes, he doesn't intend to change his general approach toward the game. If he sees a chance to stretch a single into a double, he says, he will.
"If the outfielder moves slowly to the ball, I'm going to try to take another base," he said. "The more bases we take, the more runs we can score."
Say what you will about Yasiel Puig, but it's hard to argue with that logic.
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