Last night, Yaisel Puig entered his second at bat of the game stuck in an 0-11 slump with seven strikeouts, five of which came in his last five at bats, in a 1-0 game. The Dodgers’ best spark plug had been completely eliminated, which is a large part of the reason they found themselves in a two-games-to-nothing hole entering Game 3 of the NLCS.
With a man on base, Puig finally connected with a pitch he could reach and took it the other way deep into the right field corner. Puig instantly thought he got enough of it to carry it out of the park, throwing his hands up and admiring his blast. However, as quickly as he thought it was gone, he realized that the ball didn’t have the distance, and turned on the burners. The line drive hit off the lower right field wall and scooted away temporarily from Carlos Beltran, the Cardinals right fielder, allowing Puig to race into third base standing and unchallenged. Before getting to the bag, Puig pointed to the jubilant Dodgers crowd, clapping his hands and jumping up in excitement for giving the Dodgers a crucial insurance run and a 2-0 lead in a must-win game.
Naturally, this action has pissed everybody off.
Carlos Beltran is on the record saying that Puig “didn’t play that the right way”. The majority of baseball writers and insiders are either calling Puig’s actions immature, or exactly what will wake up the Cardinals again and cost the Dodgers the series. Either way it’s been painted, Yasiel Puig did something wrong.
BREAKING NEWS: YASIEL PUIG DID NOTHING WRONG, AND DID NOTHING ANY 22-YEAR OLD WOULDN’T HAVE ALSO DONE
Hard to believe, right? A 22-year old athlete getting extremely excited that he broke out of a slump to help his team in a big way on what is their most important game of the season? Outrageous!
Baseball is a walking contradiction in the sports world, and easily the biggest one at that. Writers are constantly worrying that the game is dying among the all-important 18-35 demographic, citing the sometimes agonizingly slow game speed as one of the biggest obstacles (some writers also push the 18-35 demo away from the game by either ignoring advanced metrics or discrediting them, which is a fundamental approach to the game not just embraced by 18-35 year olds, but accepted as what should be the norm. That’s a discussion for another day, though.). The excitement you find in a baseball game can be fleeting, but unexpected, which is part of the game’s charm and draw. You honestly never know when something big is about to start/happen, and it keeps bringing you back to the ballpark.
However, more and more often a writer will be as quick to lambaste a player for actually showing some excitement on the field as he or she is to complain about the game speed. What’s wrong with a 22-year old kid acting like a 22-year old kid on the baseball field? Why can’t a game be played like a game? Why must it be business first at all times?
Almost every American child has either played baseball or softball, and if they’ve been lucky enough, have been apart of a very special and exciting moment on the diamond. Did any of those kids get scolded for over-exuberance? Were any of us branded as doing something fundamentally wrong and so offensive it could follow you for the rest of your life? Of course not. And do you know why?
Because we were kids playing a game. A game which is also played by adults that are paid millions of dollars. Maybe, every once in a while, we should let these 18-35 year old athletes enjoy themselves as they do it?
And why are we always over Puig for having fun, but not others? Where was the outrage when Iman Shumpert of the New York Knicks screamed “PARTY TIME!” as he threw an alley-oop to Tim Hardaway Jr.? Or how about whenever Detroit Lions tight end Joseph Fauria scores a touchdown and makes all the girls go crazy? Where’s the outrage?
Nah. Those are all fine, because they’re a different game, right?
Wrong. It’s all a game. A game that we’re meant to enjoy and embrace.
One day we’ll get it. Maybe.