I get it. For nearly a century baseball was played a certain way. Players were incredibly respectful. You hit a massively important eighth inning homer to give your team the lead? Quietly jog around the bases and tip your cap to the fans. It makes sense. It's always impressive to watch someone be so good as something yet so humble.
But that's not how every culture plays baseball. The World Baseball Classic should be an alarming example of that. Mike Trout is a player who plays the "old school" way, never going too over the top with his emotions. I like watching him do that. But I also like watching players like Yasiel Puig, Javy Baez, Bryce Harper, Marcus Stroman, etc, and I can't stand when people get on their case for having fun while playing.
Puig is fun to watch play baseball. One minute he’ll be sliding into third base and waving his tongue like a crazy person. The next minute he’ll be dancing in the batter’s box when taking a pitch. The next minute he’ll be bat flipping a double. Or a foul ball. Or a single.
And then, he'll tweet about it:
Puig has always been fun, but what he's doing now feels different doesn't it? It's almost as if you can sense that he's grown.
And that's exactly what the above Bleacher Report blog tells us...that Puig has grown. Sure, he was fun as a rookie sensation in 2013, but that was more due him just being young and awesome at baseball. In only 104 games his rookie season he hit .319 with a .925 OPS, 19 homers, and 11 steals. Puig finished 15th in the MVP voting and 2nd in the Rookie of the Year race.
It's tough to tell exactly what happened over the next few years but suddenly Puig became...bad. Maybe it was the transition from Cuba to America, or dealing with such high expectations, or maybe he was just never as good as we thought. His OPS fell to .863 in 2014, .758 in 2015, and .740 in 2016. Suddenly all his antics weren't all that "fun" anymore. Puig was distancing himself from fans and teammates, arguing with coaches, and the Dodgers nearly traded him at the 2016 trade deadline.
The deal fell through, and Puig was sent to Triple-A. Quite a fall for someone who take the baseball world by storm as a rookie. I had written him off at this point and when I started watching Dodgers playoff games this year I was shocked to see the regular season numbers he had put up. 152 games played (career high), 28 homers, 74 RBIs, .833 OPS. He's not a star, but those are contributing numbers for a playoff team.
This was a guy who got sent down to Triple-A last year? Damn. He's been as hot as ever in the playoffs though. Through Game 4 of the NLCS he is 10-for-24 (.417) with a homer, a triple, two doubles, and six walks. Puig is good again, but more importantly he's fun to watch play the game, and he's clearly grown form last year's demotion. His "antics" now aren't harming anyone. They're just fun. I never thought I'd say this but baseball needs more Yasiel Puigs.