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Vying for the Attention of Yasiel Puig

April 20th, 2014 · No Comments · Baseball, Dodgers

Perhaps you read the stories, or the news reports based on the stories.

Yasiel Puig has other things on his mind than playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

Which might explain his repeated episodes of poor decision-making in the outfield and on the base paths and off the field.

Or not.

But Puig, according to similar stories last week in L.A. Magazine and ESPN The Magazine, is a man only two years removed from …

1) A harrowing defection via speed boat from communist Cuba;

2) Being snatched from the custody of his original lancheros (people smugglers) by a competing group, leaving the original hard men mighty displeased (and perhaps leading to the death of one person involved);

3) May still be at risk from unhappy human-traffickers, and;

4) May be sued for allegedly helping the Cuban government by “informing” on countrymen (who may not be guilty of any crime) so as to prove his devotion to the creaky regime and enhance his own chances of defecting.

Missing the cut-off man, now and then, seems a bit more understandable.

As noted in both stories, Puig’s story is so fantastic as to defy manufacture. The journey through the crocodile-infested mangroves, the night spent bobbing in the Gulf of Mexico in a cigarette boat out of gas, the weeks spent essentially imprisoned in a Mexico motel; his escape with another crew; the apparent bribes paid in Mexico to expedite his paperwork and get him across the border and into the U.S., where the Dodgers promptly gave him a $42 million contract.

The stories each outline the dangerous and at times farcical “business” of bringing out of Cuba some of the regime’s most prized assets — members of its national baseball team.

Puig, as any Dodgers fan can tell you, is famous for brain cramps, for not seeming to care, for his erratic fielding, for opponent-aggravating show-boating … but also for moments of transcendent talent. He certainly helps sell tickets.

I have followed him closely since his big-league debut, almost a year ago, because I had him on my fantasy baseball team for his rookie season, and charted his ups and downs. I had bought into the hype of last spring; I drafted him while he was still in the minor leagues.

He is enormously gifted. But he does lame things on and of the field. He speeds. He shows up late. His base-running is awful.

The Dodgers at times are driven crazy by his attitude and habits and unreliability.

I have come to the conclusion that he is going to be “one of those guys” who get to the majors and somehow contrive to waste their talent after being seduced by money and fame. (Pedro Guerrero comes to mind.)

But a case could be made, and the two stories (linked, above) certainly suggest that Puig may be thinking, between pitches, about murder and lawsuits and near-death experiences.

Notions that might distract any of us.


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