Yasiel Puig was involved in a disagreement on Tuesday night that had led to benches clearing. It had been a while. We were due.From his very first days in Major League Baseball, Puig has been a polarizing figure. Not for fans, mind you: Go to Dodger Stadium and you'll see
Yasiel Puig was involved in a disagreement on Tuesday night that had led to benches clearing. It had been a while. We were due.
From his very first days in Major League Baseball, Puig has been a polarizing figure. Not for fans, mind you: Go to Dodger Stadium and you'll see as many Puig jerseys as anyone's. But he always seems to be getting under the skin of opposing players. This has led to an ongoing public debate over the six years of Puig's career: Is he the problem, or is the baseball culture that rejects him a problem?
Let's see if we can figure it out. Today, starting with his first weeks in uniform and leading all the way up to Tuesday night's donnybrook, we introduce the Annotated History of Yasiel Puig Irritating Opponents. We'll look at every on-field incident involving Puig and try to determine why it happened, whose fault it was and whether it told us anything about Puig … or baseball itself. Note that we are talking on-field issues only. Scuffles on the team bus with Zack Greinke, bar room brawls or Tennessee speeding tickets do not count here.
I might be missing a few incidents: Email me at [email protected] if I have, and we'll add them to the file.
July 10, 2013: Puig offends Luis Gonzalez and bumps into Miguel Montero
The incident: Apparently, during batting practice before a game in Arizona, former D-backs great Luis Gonzalez approached Puig, who reportedly blew him off. This led to then-Dodgers hitting coach Mark McGwire dressing down Puig right there on the field. Two days later, Montero tagged out Puig at a play at the plate and glared at him, saying after the game, "If he's my teammate, I probably try to teach him how to behave in the big leagues. He's creating a bad reputation around the league … You have to respect to earn respect. If you don't respect anybody, you aren't going to earn respect."
Level of Puig's culpability (on a scale of 1-10): One. Puig had been in the league a month and was 10 years old when Gonzalez hit that ball off Mariano Rivera: He probably didn't even know who he was. As for Montero: Well, four years later, the Cubs would cut him hours after publicly criticizing Jonathan Lester's ability to hold runners on, while we're talking about respecting to earn respect. Puig had been on a harrowing boat escape from Cuba just a year before, and had been in the bigs for a month. Give him a break.
March 27, 2014: Puig Down Under
The incident: In the season-opening series in Australia, Puig made two baserunning blunders and then was pulled from the game by then-manager Don Mattingly after he struck out in the ninth inning. Before the game, Mattingly had said that Puig, "grabs something every time he takes a swing and misses," implying that Puig pretended like he was hurt to justify failures.
Level of Puig's culpability (on a scale of 1-10): Six. Puig's on-field mistakes were clearly exhausting his manager and his teammates, to the point that Mattingly had to end up calling a team meeting. It probably doesn't help when your manager publicly accuses you of faking injuries, though, and it's worth noting that a teammate defended him, saying, "Puig's a good kid. He just didn't come up through the system like we all did."
May 9, 2014: Puig vs. Bumgarner
Incident: Puig homered off Madison Bumgarner in the sixth inning of a game against the Giants, and he appeared to admire his homer far too much and flip his bat far too far, for Bumgarner's tastes. At the end of a (pretty slow, all told) home run trot, Bumgarner was waiting for Puig, and hollering at him.
Level of Puig's culpability (on a scale of 1-10):Three. People got a lot more upset about bat flips in 2014 than they do now. (This is progress.) This would be the beginning of the ongoing Puig-Giants feud.
September 20, 2016: Puig vs. Bumgarner II
Incident: After doubling earlier in the game, Puig grounded back to Bumgarner, who threw him out and then began barking at him as he walked toward the dugout. This led to benches clearing and a truly wonderful call from Vin Scully.
Level of Puig's culpability (on a scale of 1-10):One. This was entirely Bumgarner's fault, screaming, "Don't look at me," at Puig who, uh, didn't appear to actually be looking at him. The Dodgers all made fun of Bumgarner after the game, joking to reporters, "don't look at me," every time they asked a question.
June 13, 2017: The double bird
Incident: After hitting a home run in the second inning, Puig gave two middle fingers to Indians fans who had presumably been heckling him. He admitted he "stooped" to the fans' level and ended up suspended for a game.
Level of Puig's culpability (on a scale of 1-10): Nine. Everybody hates hecklers, but you can't flip them off. "Screw off, you fans" is not going to be an MLB motto anytime soon. (It is worth noting that Puig's teammates found the incident "hilarious." He earned this one.)
July 17, 2017: Puig as a "little baby"
Incident: Marlins pitcher Jose Urena threw too far inside for Puig's tastes -- Puig had hit two homers the day before -- and Puig glared at him, leading benches to clear. After the game, Urena called Puig "a little baby."
Level of Puig's culpability (on a scale of 1-10):Eight. The benches cleared here, but nothing really happened. All told, Puig probably overreacted a little bit, something even Dave Roberts agreed with.
August 14, 2018: More fun with the Giants
Incident: After fouling a 1-2 pitch back, Puig lightly tossed his bat in the air in frustration, which seemed to infuriate Giants catcher Nick Hundley. He said something to Puig -- neither player would say afterward what it was -- that made Puig so angry they started shoving each other, and then, once again, out came the players from the dugouts.
Level of Puig's culpability (on a scale of 1-10): Three. Puig wasn't bothering Hundley at all: He was just annoyed with himself for missing a pitch that he thought he should have hit. But the Giants always have their dander up when Puig's around -- Bumgarner had hollered at him again the night before -- so Hundley shouted something apparently unmentionable at Puig, for really no reason. That said: Puig did throw a punch, so a suspension is probably forthcoming. But he didn't start this one. With the Giants, he never has to.
We can argue all we want about Puig, what he's like off the field, whether he rubs other players the wrong way. But on the field … the problems are rarely his fault, and the scuffles are usually started by other people. (And usually the Giants.) People always want to start something with Puig. But on the field, that's on them, not him.
Will Leitch is a columnist for MLB.com.