Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers takes batting practice before playing the Miami Marlins at Marlins Park on August 20, 2013 in Miami, Florida.
One of the hardest things when writing daily about the Dodgers is to avoid jamming Yasiel Puig stories down your throat. While everyone may be buzzing on a single incident with Puig, most of the time it is a fleeting story that seems pointless by the next morning.
Of course, as I attempted to avoid several trivial Puig stories this week, he just had to go and make it a compelling storyline.
In the last two days, and three nights in Miami, Puig has basically been in a nosedive. Being in a city with such a large Cuban population like Miami, the spotlight has shined its brightest on him with the media putting him under intense scrutiny and criticizing his every move.
The Dodgers trip to Miami may have started out awesome for Puig, with a night out on the town accompanied by LeBron James on Sunday night, but he was upset when pictures of the night ended up on TMZ.
Then on Monday he riled up a group of reporters when he, apparently, yelled "F--- the media" in the locker room after he gave a 20-minute long pre-game press conference.
All of this came while a large group of reporters were calling for Don Mattingly to bench Puig so he can learn that his poor base running and over-throwing of the cut-off man is unacceptable.
In Monday's game he was emotional in an 0-5 performance, with two strikeouts against fellow Cuban rookie Jose Fernandez. He threw a tantrum while arguing balls and strikes and appeared close to getting ejected from the game. Don Mattingly pulled him into the dugout as he yelled from the steps, and Juan Uribe took him into the tunnels to cool off since he was running around the dugout yelling and waving demonstratively.
On Tuesday, he arrived late to the game, claiming he was stuck in traffic, and was fined. Then on top of that, Mattingly left him out of the starting lineups, claiming he was benched because of his recent performance.
While in Miami, Dodger "news" has revolved around Puig, but none of it felt to be of substance. Puig is going to go out with LeBron, and that is ok. His disdain for the media has been established, is it still something that needs to be discussed?
Struggling players get put on the bench all the time, and if not for the constant attention Puig receives he could have been benched for a game without it being a big deal. But on Tuesday it was the story of the day revolving around the Dodgers.
These are all the reports that I have been avoiding to comment on and write about. I figured he would sit out the game on Tuesday, come back Wednesday, and just continue to do the things that Yasiel Puig does.
Then in the sixth inning of Tuesday's 4-4 tie, he was brought in to play right field as part of a double switch. Still the situation felt like, "Nothing to see here, move along, guys."
I was so wrong. He led off the eighth inning, blasting the game-winning, solo home run on the first pitch to put the Dodgers up 5-4. He flipped his bat, sprinted around the bases, and sent fans, the media, and the team into a frenzy.
Only Puig can generate this much drama in a game in which he only saw one pitch. Try to bench him, and he still finds a way to win the game. It probably had the opposite effect on Puig -- instead of learning a lesson, he comes out feeling even more untouchable than before.
He took everything that happened off the field the past few days and showed us why none of it matters. He is an incredible baseball player. You can analyze his every move and critique his off-field behavior, but that is not going to stop him from destroying baseballs and crushing opponents.
So there you have it, Puig forced me to do it. It was impossible to not write about everything that has been muttered about the Cuban superstar since the team's arrival in Miami, because Tuesday's game-winning home run was much more than just another Puig homer.