I'm Not Crazy About Yasiel Puig's Antics Either, But Phil Mushnick's Column is Painful


New York Post media crank Phil Mushnick put Yasiel Puig in his crosshairs and took repeated shots. All missed the mark and the result is a column just begging to be blasted like a hanging slider.

Mushnick sets out to explain “Why baseball doesn’t need more Yasiel Puigs, it needs less”, perhaps even “fewer.” Let’s dive headfirst, shall we?

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless.

At the outset, I need to state that I am also not the biggest fan of Puig’s antics, that I don’t find them as endearing and charming as others. At times they border on the wrong side of sportsmanship and can be detrimental to his team. They do not reflect the way I grew up playing the game and find them, at times, to be annoying.

And you know what? That’s how you write the column Mushnick is attempting. Puig’s Antics Are Obnoxious, the take, is an easier sell because it only relies on the writer’s personal opinion. But Mushnick doesn’t do this, instead opting to build a fact-based argument with few provable facts.

LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 14: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after hitting a
LOS ANGELES, CA – OCTOBER 14: Yasiel Puig #66 of the Los Angeles Dodgers celebrates after hitting a /

First, Puig is, in fact, playing winning baseball. He is the starting rightfielder for the pennant-winning Los Angeles Dodgers. He has not made a habit of hurting his team by not running hard in the playoffs. He has not played “dumb” baseball.

Despite his conspicuous talent, Puig last season was remanded to the minors to get the point across that baseball, despite modern, no-upside compromises, remains a team game. It didn’t take.

In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires. Yet, some are good with that, or at least pretend to be in the shallow hope of being heard or read as avant-garde.

When a current take is based on evidence from last year, that’s a good sign there’s not much of a foundation in recent reality. Yes, Puig was sent to the minors last year. Yes, he has struggled with maturity issues. But what does that have to do with what he’s doing for the Dodgers now?

Wednesday’s topic on Colin Cowherd’s FS1 show was, “Does Baseball need more personalities like Yasiel Puig?”

More? How many games does “personality” win? Why not ask, “Does baseball need more players who can’t be bothered to run to first, even in the biggest games?” Or, “Does MLB need more players who’d rather show off for TV cameras than play winning baseball?”

OK. The answer to the last question is a clear “yes” and the reason is simple. Major League Baseball is a bottom-line business and compelling, high-level talent puts butts in the seats and televisions on the right carriers. MLB couldn’t care less if a dynamic and ticket-selling player helps his team win. They care about the buzz, the new fans coming to the game, and the additional dollars in the coffer.

More importantly, though, is pointing out how insanely distanced from reality Mushnick’s claim that Puig doesn’t help win games for the Dodgers (who, unlike MLB as a whole, care about that type of thing).

Puig has a .413/.514/.628 slash line in the 2017 playoffs! He’s not only helping the Dodgers win, he’s leading the way. How could anyone not get this? It feels like either willful ignorance or starting with a headline and hustling backwards to put words under it.

Think things can’t get worse? They do.

Why would anyone who knows good from bad, right from wrong, even throw out such a question? Inspired by immodest adult fools, Little Leaguers now pose at home, bat-flipping, risking something for nothing.

To suggest that playing baseball with flair is in someway immoral is gross. It’s impossible to look at this line outside the knowledge that the “right” and “wrong” way to play is coded language. Latin players have long been castigated for continuing the brand of ball they grew up playing. The old guard has looked down its noses at it, judging from a seat of perceived moral superiority.

As I previously stated, Puig’s style — perhaps the most exaggerated version — is not uniform with my preferred style. But that is a preference. The so-called American and duller version is not better, it’s just different. Baseball is a beautiful game because it is a melting pot of perspectives and takes on the game, not in spite of it.

That’s why I defended Ian Kinsler’s comments during the World Baseball Classic.

“I hope kids watching the W.B.C. can watch the way we play the game and appreciate the way we play the game as opposed to the way Puerto Rico plays or the Dominican plays,” Kinsler said at the time. “That’s not taking anything away from them. That just wasn’t the way we were raised. They were raised differently and to show emotion and passion when you play. We do show emotion; we do show passion. But we just do it in a different way.”

Kinsler wasn’t judging, or suggesting his style was better. All he was doing is noting there’s a difference. This is not what Mushnick is doing, and he can’t cover his small-mindedness with any pertinent or relevant facts.

The world doesn’t need more terrible Yasier Puig columns, it needs fewer.