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MILWAUKEE – Yasiel Puig shot across the sky. Again.
Then he stormed across the sky.
Then he crotch-chopped across the sky.
He bat-flipped, and screamed, and back-pedaled, and bowed to the crowd, and wagged his tongue.
All while shooting across the sky. Again.
A spectacle that could only be him. Open the roof, he needs more sky.
It’s a funny thing about Yasiel Puig. He seems to believe the world, at times, at its most rational, has a duty to revolve around him. Sometimes, not always, it’s the big world. Mostly, though, it’s this little world, the one in blue, where the men can be boys for a few hours at a time. Together. So he can be him. They can be them. It fits, or comes close enough to fitting they will overlook the occasional gap.
Maybe that says more about them, their generosity, than it does him. Maybe he’s simply worn them down. He can be a lot.
On his way to the World Series, hours before they’d all jump on an airplane to Boston, shortly after he’d hit the home run that made the back end of the National League Championship Series’ Game 7 a scrimmage, he shouted, “No questions today! No questions! See you in Boston!”
And he was gone, sloshing through the golden puddles of life.
See, thing is, the world – the big one, the little one – cooperates, too. It cannot stop watching. It cannot help but to gasp at the curveball he plucked from the hand of Jeremy Jeffress, a damned good curveball, and rode over the center-field fence. Forever away. How, in the biggest game the Los Angeles Dodgers had played in 11 days short of a year, he’d also singled. He’d also doubled. How, over seven games, he’d accumulated more total bases than any of them. How he’d hit .333. How he’d all but finished the Milwaukee Brewers with that single swing, down a strike, coiled and waiting for more.
Hours after the first snow of the season dusted downtown here and a hard, cold wind bowed trees and unmoored party tents set between beer trucks, the Dodgers finished off the Brewers. Because of the rookie, Walker Buehler, who carried the first 4 2/3 innings. Because of the veteran, Ryan Madson, who helped them all get to the other side of Josh Hader. Because Cody Bellinger, the series MVP, homered, and Manny Machado bunted for a single and juggled his manhood at the crowd, and Chris Taylor made an impossible catch look very close to impossible but not impossible, and Kenley Jansen took them four outs nearer, and Clayton Kershaw took it the rest of the way and raised his arms.
And then Puig made 360 feet sing. Beg for mercy. Blush. Call the cops. Cross itself. Slap its own forehead. Everything but look away. Nobody looks away.
“There’s times,” baseball operations president Andrew Friedman said, “it can be frustrating with Puig. But his talent is as good as it gets.”
Outside, it was football season.
Inside, they braced for agony, promised themselves ecstasy. Had another beer to cover the in-between parts.
A playoff game is one thing, a Game 7 another, and so people clung to normal, to routine, to kill the time and put off the inevitable. Brewers players arrived in their own cars or in the back of somebody else’s, hoisted scooters from the trunks and rode those the rest of the way to the clubhouse. It seems to be a thing here. The nice gentleman who sings “God Bless America” many nights at Miller Park, finishing the final notes with a pithy salute, padded along a hallway in his work attire. In a bag he carried his singing attire. The batting cage across from the Brewers clubhouse throbbed with the usual kind of music on Saturday afternoon, T.I. and Justin Timberlake. Dodgers players arrived on a bus, their families – wives, children, girlfriends, buddies – a few hours behind. They’d packed for Milwaukee and Boston, pretended this was all normal, what they’d all expected, two games here, two games a little farther east, what October looks like. Game 1 of the World Series is Tuesday.
Wait’ll it gets a load of this guy Puig. Again.
“Of course he’s a little annoying when you’re not part of this team,” Madson said of Puig, as Madson only just arrived in August. “I’ve grown to love him. I have to laugh. Thing is, he’s doing it for the love of wanting to win.”
Granted, he added, “When players take it the wrong way, it’s understandable.”
Brian Dozier, who became a Dodger at the end of July, appeared momentarily uncomfortable, then grinned.
“Uh, well,” he began, “Yasiel is a unique individual. One thing I really love about him, he makes things very exciting.”
“I mean that in the best way possible,” he said. “He brings laughter to us. Coming over here, being his teammate, you definitely laugh more than people would think.”
David Freese came to the Dodgers on the eve of September. He, like the rest, smiled at the thought of Puig, running wild, doing Puig things, shouting over the thumping stereo, hitting home runs, chasing eyeballs, dumping 20 gallons of water over an esteemed national columnist, celebrating a massive win and plotting vengeance for petty slights in the same trip across the room.
“You can speculate all you want about Puig,” Freese said, “but he’s just full of life. Everything about him is real. Some people might say too real. But have to love it. You have to admire guys who are just proud to be themselves.”
The Dodgers are many different things. Sometimes, depending on the matchup, they are many different things on consecutive pitches. They have somehow survived the National League, survived themselves, survived a revolving world, to reach this place. They were, seven months ago, believed to be baseball’s best team this side of the American League. They are that, turns out.
Now the storylines will freshen. Magic Johnson’s team is going to Boston. Dave Roberts is returning to Boston. Maybe they can beat the 108-win Red Sox, who cut down the defending World Series champion Houston Astros with a flick of their wrists. Maybe they won’t be good enough, again.
Whatever it will be, please remind yourself, look up. You never know what might be shooting across the sky … chopping its crotch. Again.
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