This could be remembered as a blip, an expected milestone in the growth of an immature player or the beginning of the end. But the Dodgers' exasperation with rookie sensation Yasiel Puig hit a new high low when the 22-year-old outfielder — a Cuban immigrant whose parents live in Miami — was the last player to arrive at the stadium for a game with the Marlins. He was called right into a closed-door meeting with manager Don Mattingly. Afterward, the manager told the media Puig was fined for being late. He also was held out of the lineup, but Mattingly said that was more about Puig struggling lately at the plate. Mattingly had hinted after last night's game that Puig might benefit from watching some games and calming down. He has been swinging wildly, making mental blunders on the field, and bristling at umpires when, as a rookie, he really has no standing for that. Mattingly went out on the field last night and tried to soothe things with an umpire who Puig had tried to show up.
From Ken Gurnick at MLB.com:
Puig was lucky he wasn't ejected. He gave home-plate umpire John Hirschbeck a dirty look after striking out and Hirschbeck snapped, finger-pointing at Puig, who threw a tantrum in the dugout and had to be hustled out of view by Uribe. The issue was a called strike two that Puig thought was outside.
"I thought it was a ball and he called a strike," said Puig. "He said it was there, and that is that."
Mattingly spoke to Hirschbeck the next inning, as he did after a less obvious scene in Philadelphia over the weekend. His words were cautious when asked if he felt umpires were testing the rookie.
"It's hard to say. They will only put up with so much," Mattingly said. "For me, he doesn't say anything [to Hirschbeck]. It's delicate. He's emotional. You're not going to take that out of him. For him, everything's emotional. He didn't say anything. He walked away."
ESPN LA blogger Mark Saxon has been observing the Dodgers' delicate situation with Puig. His latest post:
Do they risk tampering with his brilliant start if they ask him to tone it down?
The question is similar to the one about what to do about his lapses in fundamentals. Are they simply things you have to accept -- the bad with the good -- or if they correct them now, could they make him an even better player? Several Dodgers have admitted that the message simply isn't getting through.
Mattingly clearly is walking a fine -- and probably uncomfortable -- line. During Monday night’s 6-2 loss to the Miami Marlins, Mattingly had to walk out and make peace with an umpire after Puig inexplicably erupted at John Hirschbeck after a three-pitch strikeout in the fifth inning. Only one of those pitches was a called strike, the last was Puig swinging wildly at 97 mph fastballs.
Mattingly said he had to assuage an umpire in Philadelphia just a day or two earlier. Monday’s dispute started with Puig glaring at Hirschbeck and ended with his teammates having to hustle him out of the dugout before he was ejected. Puig has already alienated opponents with his flamboyant style. Of course, you could argue, who cares? It's a little bit riskier to get on the wrong side of umpires.
* Postgame report: Puig came off the bench in a double switch and on his first swing of the night he....wait for it....hit the go-ahead home run. Dodgers won 6-4.