Widgets Magazine

Park: Never change, Yasiel Puig

My roommate lives and dies by the fact that he is from Los Angeles. According to him, there is no better place on Earth and he cannot understand why people would choose to live anywhere else.

I vehemently disagree with that opinion for a list of reasons that could take up this entire newspaper if I chose to flesh them out, but as a fan of an NL West team, nothing about the city draws my ire quite like the Los Angeles Dodgers. The very idea of living in a city, in which people cheer for a team that essentially amounts to the West Coast’s very own rich, spoiled cousin that nobody else in the family likes, makes me cringe.

That being said, one storyline has emerged within the confines of Chavez Ravine that has caught my eye and drawn my full attention over the last season. You hear about him in some context every day, whether it is him making another laser throw to gun down a runner, or making some hilarious mishap that will grace the airtime of SportsCenter multiple times before the next morning. If you are a baseball fan, you simply cannot be ambivalent about him—you either love him or hate him.

You guessed it: I am talking about Yasiel Puig.

We are just two weeks away from celebrating the one-year anniversary of the Wild Horse first galloping into the Major League Baseball rodeo, and number 66 remains every bit as polarizing, exhilarating, dynamic and immature of a figure as he was a season ago when he first drew the collective eyes of America to the right-field grass in Dodger Stadium.

Last July, my colleague (and notorious Dodger fan) Winston Shi wrote a columnabout how it was Puig’s imperfections that made him such a polarizing figure. And indeed, while the workmanlike Paul Goldschmidt and the consistent Miguel Cabrera put up bigger numbers in the long run, there was seemingly no more talked about baseball player on the planet than Puig. As a matter of fact, a simple Google Trends search shows that, on average, Puig has been searched for at twice the clip of Cabrera, Bryce Harper and Mike Trout over the last year.

In turn, it has become abundantly clear that Puig has deserved all that attention, as he has followed up on a breakout 2013 campaign with a stellar start to the 2014 season, as Puig is currently second in the National League with 37 RBIs. However, while his contributions on the field are noteworthy enough on their own, it is his unbridled enthusiasm with which he approaches the game every day that makes people so strongly opinionated about him.

I, for one, cannot fathom why people hate him for that. In sports, it is quite common for people to hate success—I am guilty of this at times as well—but it is difficult for me to hate what Puig does for his team, arrogance and aggression be darned. I think it is important to have a figure like Puig that can spark that energy and fire at any given moment, especially for a team that is struggling to meet expectations early in this season like the Dodgers.

This hate arises from the expectation that baseball players need to be subdued and mindful of the “etiquette” of the game. Players are not happy with players who watch their home runs for too long. If you so much as flip your bat wrong, you will get jawed at. But why? Celebrating big hits is commonplace in football, and when I am watching soccer, the goal celebrations are honestly some of the most exciting things to see. Baseball is an emotional game and individual players have an enormous impact on the success of their team on every pitch—and as a fan, I love seeing Puig on the field because he does not repress that, letting his enthusiasm for the game shine through.

Love him or hate him, Yasiel Puig is here to stay, and in many people’s minds, he needs to transform himself from a raw talent filled with emotion into a more “refined” and “mature” ballplayer. However, I do not want that to happen. I want to see Puig mistakenly think that there are two outs in an inning when there are actually three and fire a rocket to third base after a fly ball. I want to see him messing around like a kid with Adrian Gonzalez and Juan Uribe. I want to see him flip his bat and jaw at pitchers. I want to see Yasiel Puig, and I do not want that electric personality to go anywhere.

Never change, Yasiel. Never change.

Child genius Do-Hyoung Park, like Peter Pan, does not want Yaisel Puig to grow up. To assure him that Yasiel will be just fine, contact Do-Hyoung at dpark027@stanford.edu.

About Do-Hyoung Park

Do-Hyoung Park '16 honestly isn't quite sure what he does for The Stanford Daily anymore, apart from the fact that he still writes a lot about football, gets cranky at the sports editors and scares away the new freshmen. He also writes for (or has written for) The Bootleg, Sports Illustrated and MLB.com and has been a four-time Managing Editor at The Daily. After graduating in June with degrees in Chemical Engineering and Computer Science, he's begrudgingly staying on for his master's in Chemical Engineering as well. Please feel free to bother him at dhpark 'at' stanford.edu.