Los Angeles Dodgers Need Yasiel Puig to Step Up
The Puig of Old
A Dodgers team riddled by injuries sat at 23-32 on June 2nd, 2013 – good enough for last place in the National League West. For a stored franchise that had finally broken free of the Frank McCourt era shackles the year prior, this position was less than ideal. The new ownership regime knew that they needed to do something to mend this situation, and that something needed to happen now. The answer? A 22-year old Cuban kid known as Yasiel Puig.
Puig broke onto the scene and immediately captured the hearts of Dodgers fans everywhere. In his first game with the team, he fired a cannon out of his right arm from the right field warning track to double up the runner on first base and end the game. The energy and enthusiasm he brought to the dugout and the field was second to none – he was just the spark-plug that the Dodgers needed to get them out of their slump. The “Wild Horse” (as Vin Scully aptly nicknamed him) had finally been unleashed.
The Dodgers went on to win the division that year on the heels of Yasiel Puig’s dynamic performance. He ended the season with a .319 batting average, a .925 OPS, nineteen home runs, and forty-two RBI in 104 games. The future looked bright for Puig and the Dodgers.
Flash forward three years to June 21st, 2016. The Dodgers sit 5.5 games back of the division leading San Francisco Giants. Puig, now 25, has been reinstated from the disabled list. He is batting .237 with five home runs and twenty RBI in fifty-three games played, a disappointing stat line for a talent many thought could someday produce an MVP. Since his rookie campaign, Puig has seen his numbers taper off in every offensive category. Pitchers have figured out how to pitch him, but he has not made the necessary adjustments to combat that fact.
Defensively, he still continues to make plays like this:
There is still plenty of time in the season for Puig to turn things around. And the Dodgers need him to do just that. They need him to return to his 2013 form, even if that means overthrowing the cutoff man, or getting thrown out stretching a routine single into a double. They need to see the passion and enthusiasm they know he can play with come back into his game. They need him to get his swagger back.
His off-the-field issues seem to be a thing of the past. He shows up to the stadium and travel days on time (sometimes even early, for that matter), and hasn’t been pulled over for reckless driving. He appears to get along with his teammates, and management has positive things to say about him. But the “it” factor that once brought a team out from the grave seems to be missing. The only person that can bring that quality back is Puig himself, and he needs to do it sooner rather than later.
It can no longer continue to be the “tale of two Puigs”; the Dodgers need Puig to be Puig again.