Chances are pretty good that there isn’t a media source out there that hasn’t already posted a story about Dodger manager Don Mattingly pulling superstar rookie sensation Yasiel Puig out of Wednesday afternoon’s game against the Chicago Cubs. If they haven’t, they will – especially the national media who almost seem to get euphoric satisfaction out of bashing Puig.
If that’s what you are looking for, I can assure you that you won’t find any of that here.
Although I was not in the press box for Wednesday’s series finale against the Cubs, I was at the game and saw Puig go into second base standing up on a double play. I saw him flip a third out fly ball into the Right Field Pavilion directly from his glove without transferring the ball into his throwing hand which, by the way, could have been ruled a home run but it rightfully was not. It did, however, show a bit of laziness and perhaps even a little disrespect to the fans and maybe even Cubs left fielder Brian Bogusevic. I also saw Puig walk (not run) out to his position between innings, something that I saw him do the night before with Andre Ethier standing out in centerfield with his arms folded across his chest waiting for Puig to show up so they could take some warm-up tosses (Ethier appeared a bit upset about this).
When you put all of this together along with Puig’s off-center catches to his left, it was only a matter of time before Mattingly, considered to be a ‘player’s manager,’ had to do something about it.
…and he did.
Mattingly removed Puig from the game in the top of the 5th inning. He didn’t do it in the middle of an inning; he didn’t chew Puig out in the dugout; he didn’t make a scene about it; and most importantly, he did not embarrass Puig in front of his teammates or the prying eyes of the media and fans. But I can assure you that there wasn’t anyone at Dodger Stadium or anyone watching the game on TV who didn’t think that a royal butt-chewing would be coming after the game.
…and it did.
Instead of showing up in the media room for his daily post-game interview the normal five to ten minutes after the final out is recorded, Mattingly took approximately a half hour to finally enter the room to address a very anxious media. Mattingly had spent nearly all of that time in his office in a closed-door meeting with Puig and Dodger general manager Ned Colletti.
As expected, at least by me, Mattingly did not disclose what was discussed in that meeting and to be quite honest, doing so would have been inappropriate. There was absolutely no need for Mattingly to disclose what was said because it was one hundred percent an in-house thing that the media nor their readers or viewers needed to know. Doing so would have violated Puig’s trust in his manager and would have been disrespectful to him.
“I like keeping it in in-house. I don’t think there is any reason to discuss reasons why, this or that, or whatever,” Mattingly told reporters during the (eventual) post-game interview. “It was a simple decision really. I felt like at that point in the game, Skip (Schumaker) gave us a better chance to win. Yasiel gives us the best chance to win on a daily basis but today I just felt like Skip gave us the best chance to win the rest of the game,” he added.
If this sounds like smoke and mirrors, it is; and it is perfectly justified. Like it or not we don’t need to know what was said behind closed doors.
Surprisingly, Puig himself spoke with the media after the closed-door meeting – something that he has made clear that he absolutely hates doing.
“I felt the meeting went well,” Puig said through an interpreter. “We talked about what I’m doing and what every player needs to do to prepare for every pitch. If I’m back in the lineup Friday, I will give 100 percent. If not, I will prepare myself to play when I’m needed.”
I can honestly say that whenever I was called into my boss’s office (or the principal’s office) for a butt-chewing (usually well deserved), the words “the meeting went well” never crossed my lips or even my mind. I also didn’t do much of the talking either, if you get my drift.
The unfortunate part about the timing of all of this Puig stuff is that it stole the headlines from where they rightfully belonged – to Ricky Nolasco, who was absolutely brilliant in the Dodgers’ 4-0 shutout of the Cubs. Nolasco pitched eight scoreless innings allowing only 3 hits, one walk while striking out a season-high (and career-tying) 11 batters.
“It definitely feels good to do that at this time for this team,” said Nolasco. “I know what’s at stake pitching here and chasing a ring. It definitely is a different feeling when you’re going out there pitching for this team right now with this lineup going and how dangerous we are. I’m making better pitches. Mentally I’m more focused.”
When asked about the Puig incident Nolasco took the high road and supported his teammate.
“He’s young, he’s going to have to learn,” said the 30-year-old Corona native and Rialto resident. “It’s not going to be a distraction. There are a lot of veterans on the team and we know there’s going to be some growing pains. As long as he learns from them that’s the most important part. He’s going to help this team. Time more than anything and we don’t even have to think about that. He’ll learn from it, he’s fine, he knows what he did. He’ll come back on Friday and start playing.”
Now, let’s put this thing behind us and win a World Championship.