Yasiel Puig has had a historic first month of baseball. He’s been hitting close to .400 since he first stepped on the diamond for the Dodgers, peppering in long home runs, incredible base-running and quality defense all the while. During the run, he’s picked up a lot of fans.
And twice as many haters.
“He’s creating a bad reputation around the league, and it’s unfortunate because the talent that he has is to be one of the greatest players in the big leagues. Right now, I’m not going to say he’s the best because he hasn’t proved anything yet. Does he have talent? Of course. Does he have the tools? Of course. He’s got so much talent, it’d be really bad if he wasted it doing the stupid things that he’s doing. You have to respect to earn respect. If you don’t respect anybody, you aren’t going to earn respect.”
Without a doubt, the small, month-long sample size has a lot to do with Puig’s predicament. The fact that ESPN continues to shove him into the forefront of every SportsCenter doesn’t help, either. Damn big market biases.
But there’s more to dissect in that quote. Baseball will always be a sport built on respect and tradition. And if a player like Puig – who makes everything look so incredibly easy – continues to make terrible PR decisions, these bad vibes towards him aren’t going to change, especially when you consider how difficult it really is to make an MLB roster.
The road to the sport’s highest level is a tall, grueling mountain that can take players years to scale (2012 NL Cy Young winner R.A. Dicky spent 14 year toiling away in the minors). Yasiel Puig is an unproven phenomenon, somebody whose June 3rd start date came less than a year after the Dodgers signed him out of Cuba.
Puig made the Dodgers in a third of the time that an average Major Leaguer has to toil through the long bus rides, obscure cities and general uncertainty. Showing a little humility would probably pay some dividends.