The legend of The Cuban Missile is already one of MLB folklore. In just 104 regular season games, 22-year-old Yasiel Puig became a baseball god and invigorated a culture by jumping from Double-A Chattanooga to the middle of a Dodgers mess, and posting Frank Robinson-type numbers in the process.
The rookie sensation finished his debut month of June with 44 hits, second to “Yankee Clipper” Joe DiMaggio's 48 hits in his first month of his career in May 1936.
When Puig first got called up in June, TSL was all over it. We knew he had the goods, but wasn’t sure if this was a PR ploy or a real deal maneuver:
“The move to call up Puig and throw the 22-year-old into the MLB fire says a lot. The Dodger’s season is becoming a hit-and-miss soap opera of wretched luck, futile play and unfortunate circumstances…”
“Fans have clamored for Puig all season long (his power has been compared to Bryce Harper.) However, he’s still very raw and it’s a move that reeks of desperation. Let’s hope he’s ready to carry that burden.”
Puig did more than just handle MLB pitching. He’s largely credited with sparking the turnaround of a dormant and decimated Dodgers squad, saving manager Don Mattingly’s job, propelling them to an NL West title and the NLCS dogfight they are in now.
TSL’s NL Preview also raised questions about how Puig would respond “once the league caught up to him.”
We knew a decline would come, because no one can hit .436 forever, and Puig was:
“…burnt out down the stretch, hitting .189 over his last 17 games. The Dodgers are hoping he can perform at a level somewhere in between his auspicious start and rough ending.”
Like most of his Dodgers teammates, Puig got fat off Atlanta Braves pitching, mashing .471 in the NLDS and hinting at a monster postseason. Then, Puig and co. hit a wall called The St. Louis Cardinals in this NLCS, and he’s a dismal 0-10 with six strikeouts against the Cards in this series. It’s been the same story for LA since Puig’s knight-in-shining-cleats arrival in the early days of summer. As he goes, so go the Dodgers.
No matter how much the LA media wants to blame Donny Baseball’s managerial maneuvers, the Dodgers are trailing 0-2 because their lifeline is playing dead at the plate.
All of the fuss about reigning in the wild cowboy and criticisms of his spirited play seem pointless now. LA wishes he was still the firecracker that was trucking the game’s best arms with a raw, natural grace. His kind of risk-taking is what the Dodgers need right now.
This series isn’t over with five games left, but if the Dodgers lose Game 3 today, history tells us it’s a wrap. With Hanley Ramirez and Andre Ethier out again with injuries, and Adam Wainwright -- the Timbaland of playoff pitchers because he never loses when they ask him to produce -- toting the rubber in Game 3, LA needs Puig to at least return to the pea-launching, base stealing, hustle-heavy infusion of energy he’s capable of being.