Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Yasiel Puig: Let The Wild Horse Roam

My Tuesday was a bit overwhelming attending a funeral for a close mentor. So I didn't get to check out much sports news til around 4 p.m. and sure enough, I saw four words ring out. "YASIEL PUIG GETS BENCHED."

Naturally, I rolled my eyes but I wanted to see what folks were raising a ruckus over. Turns out Puig was late to the stadium and was punished. No big deal. You're late for work, you face consequences.

Of course, people made a big deal about him being out the night before. But had he been on time, nobody would say anything. So it's no surprised that Puig - who's never been a fan of the media - cussed the media out and wanted to only talk baseball.

As Will Leitch mentioned this year, sports fans (and some media) have a problem with accepting youthful mistakes. People think folks should mature as fast as they did, not realizing it's harder when cameras amplify your every move. We expect too much of teenagers and 20-somethings with prodigious talent to act like adults instead of realizing adulthood is a process not based on age or talent.

I've covered teenagers since 2006 and I've met kids with great poise, kids who were cocky, kids who were uncomfortable in front of the media. They grew up in college because that's where you're supposed to do your growing. Not everyone will be a Robert Woods or Robert Griffin III in terms of maturity and that's okay. Several friends of mine in college were wild freshmen/sophomores and they've matured into great professionals over the last 10 years

Bryce Harper came into MLB known for his talent and wild personality. He had an attitude since high school but you notice how that's become less of a story lately? Because he's being managed by a guy in Davey Johnson who knows how to handle and develop young talent.

Don Mattingly should be praised for how's handled Puig. It's not easy but he knows exactly how to treat his young star without babying him or being too firm. Benching him was a smart move - Puig had been a terrible slump the last few games - and it paid off with him hitting the go-ahead home run in the 8th.

Just let Puig be. He doesn't need to be reigned in (an idea that plays on racial/ethnic stereotypes of darker-skinned players needing to be checked more than White counterparts). He's being molded as he goes along by great leadership in the clubhouse and he'll learn to adjust to the game as well. I'd rather have him make those mistakes while still being a positive contributor to a playoff team.

Take the bad with the good and let him grow/adjust without nitpicking every single thing. He's called the Wild Horse for a reason so it's going to be a fun rollercoaster as he learns how to harness his gifts. Just like every young, gifted player before him and after him.

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