So, in the last week, I’ve been forced to come to the realization that Roy Hobbs from The Natural is actually a 22-year old Cuban guy who is built like a Mack Truck and runs like a Ferrari.
America, meet Yasiel Puig, your next next honest-to-oh-my-fucking-goodness baseball phenom. The guy has been in the major leagues for one week, and so far he’s only managed to belt 4 home runs, drive in 10 runs, make two monstrous outfield assists, dive into first base to beat out an infield hit, and drew an intentional walk in his 4th game in the bigs.
It isn’t so much that he did these things, it’s how he did them. The home runs were such rockets that not only did they shatter the usually impenetrable night air of that fly-ball mausoleum known as Dodger Stadium, they got Puig a free pass to first base one day after he had his first 0-for-4 day at the plate. He got his first intentional walk before he ever got hit by a pitch; before he got a regular walk. Think about that; they didn’t bother to hit this guy, they didn’t bother to pitch around him…they just put up four fingers and sent Puig down the first base line for free in his 18th major league at-bat. There’s guys who don’t even get hits in their first 18 at-bats.
It’s not just this kid’s bat. This guy hosed out two runners on throws that mean every third-base coach in the National League could now literally be replaced with a stop sign.
I’ve been watching baseball for forty years, and I’ve never seen anything like it. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve seen plenty of phenoms; I’ve seen them with varying outcomes. I’ve seen a guy nobody ever heard of become a guy named Albert Pujols. I’ve watched guys that were nothing but a non-stop hype show got from Rookie of the Year to out of the league two years later. Raise your hand if you remember Joe Charbonneau…
But I’m not the only old guy who can’t believe what he is seeing.
Vin Scully has been the voice of the Dodgers since 1951 and hes’ never seen anything like it. The Dodger offense was all but dead last Thursday against the Braves when Puig slammed a “grannie” to win the ball game in the eighth inning. Sunday, Scully went on an extended dialog about Puig as a five-tool player, and how he has never seen a player show off all five tools in one game. Scully has said just about all he can; I’m literally waiting for him to just throw his hands up in the air and exclaim “What the Fuck?!”
Right now, there’s a lot of people who want to put a Superman “S” on Puig’s chest. There are others who want replace Chuck Norris’ name in all those jokes with Puig’s. But Puig shares even more with the “Man of Steel” and “Walker, Texas Ass-Kicker.” None of them have yet to rescue the Dodgers from the NL West cellar.
As much as a phenom as Puig has been, Dodgers fans still get to live through eight other under-performing bats surrounding him. If you are a Dodger fan, tell me how may times you’ve watched the likes of Mark Ellis strike out flailing at a pitch at his eyes with Puig on deck with runners on base in the late innings.
So, while Puig has given Dodger fans something to watch for rather than counting the days until Matt Kemp gets off the disabled list, there’s still a big question nobody in Dodgerland is ready to ask yet.
Just which way is this kid headed?
For all the signs of super-stardom he’s shown in the last week, he’s also show signs for concern in the past. This is a guy who bats .500 in the minors, and gets benched for not running out ground balls. This is a guy who has been known to act out on the field when he disagrees with a sign. Ultimately, the Dodgers dispatched Manny Mota, who has long served as a mentor for the Dodgers’ young Latin American players, to meet with Puig.
Right now, what it all comes down to is Yasiel Puig is one hell of a story. Right now, whichever way this story goes only the future knows. Right now, what is for certain is that as dismal as the Dodgers’ season has been up this point , at least Yasiel Puig is a ray of hope to cut through what has been a season of Dodger blues.