Yasiel Puig has made baseball fun again for the Dodgers. Yes, the 22-year-old Cuban defector had a record-setting week after finally being called up this week to the Show. But he has infused life into a team that had been reeling, lost, and at times hopelessly wayward.
Puig not only became the second player since 1900 to hit four home runs in his first five games but he also tied the Major League record of 10 RBIs in his first five games. He has tremendous power and an arm reminiscent of Raul “el canon” Mondesi’s when he roamed right field at Chavez Ravine for the Dodgers. He hits for average and can run. Matt Kemp compared him to Bo Jackson in Spring Training (like they said about Jackson, the ball just comes off of his bat differently).
Puig knows baseball, for sure, but he has made the game fun again for the Dodgers and has even energized legendary announcer Vin Scully, whom Puig actually left speechless this week. All Puig did was get two hits in his debut and throw out a runner with a frozen rope from the warning track to end the game, promptly homer twice in his next game, hit a grand slam agains the Braves to put the Dodgers ahead on Thursday, and hit a game-tying home run on Friday night that enabled the Dodgers to win in 10 innings.
Of course, winning makes the game more fun, and as Nike may attest, solves many problems, but it’s the way Puig plays the game that may have given the Dodgers the adrenaline boost and chemistry that money can never buy.
Burdened by a ginormous payroll that makes anything less than a World Series ring an astronomical failure, the Los Angeles Dodgers have been reeling this season, unable to overcome nagging injuries to their superstars and trying to crawl out of the NL West cellar.
The Dodgers gambled on the Cuban defector, and though fans who watched him in Spring Training noticed that he just seemed like he was better than even all of the Major Leaguers on the field, the conventional baseball people still had some doubts.
As the Los Angeles Times noted, “the consensus in baseball was that the Dodgers grossly overpaid when they signed Puig to a seven-year, $42-million contract last June. Skeptics noted there was little known about him and not much of a track record against tough competition.”
Breitbart Sports, though, wrote this before the season started about the Dodgers and Puig:
“Yasiel Puig lit up Spring Training, hitting over .500, but he will start the season in Double-A. His potential seems limitless, and should someone in L.A.’s star-studded outfield get hurt, Puig may immediately be called up to show what he can do on the biggest stage.”
And Puig has certainly showed this week what he can do. He seems appreciative to be playing in a country where he is free. More importantly, he feels unshackled after feeling like he was playing against inferior competition in the Minor Leagues, which probably bored him. Unique talents like Puig shine under the bright klieg lights–they do not like feeling like they are withering and atrophying away by playing with people that do not make them better players.
Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, the best there ever was, is, and will be at calling games, was left “speechless” after Puig’s grand slam on Thursday. Scully, echoing the late Jack Buck’s call of Kirk Gibson’s home run in 1988 (for the record, Scully’s call–“high fly ball into right field … she is … gone … In a year that has been so improbable, the impossible has happened”–was better than Buck’s) said he could not believe what he had just seen.
“I have learned over the years there comes a rare and precious moment when there is absolutely nothing better than silence … to sum up the situation,” Scully said on Thursday. “And that was the moment. Holy mackerel.”