<
>

Does Yasiel Puig's exuberance make him a target?

LOS ANGELES -- Baseball is played within a vague medieval hierarchy.

If you are a rookie, you are to behave as if you were paint coated on a wall. You can be seen, but you shouldn't be heard. And, above all, you shouldn't make a spectacle of yourself.

Yasiel Puig comes from another baseball culture, a freer, Cuban style, and he refuses to play by the blue-collar code of this country's game. In the minor leagues, he was famous for his bat flips, even in batting practice. Already, he has developed a dugout dance with Luis Cruz or Hanley Ramirez after he hits home runs.

I happened to spend some time in the Arizona clubhouse the past couple of days talking to pitchers for some stories I'm working on and I noticed at least one of them had taken keen notice of Puig's dugout jubilation. He pointedly compared it to the way Bryce Harper plays -- hard and aggressively, but without showmanship.

If Ian Kennedy intended to knock Puig down before he hit him in the nose and, eventually, sparked an ugly brawl in the Dodgers' 5-3 win Tuesday night, it probably had more to do with Puig's displays than the fact Cody Ross had been nicked by Zack Greinke earlier.

In fact, the Dodgers have been concerned about Puig's showmanship since spring training. Then again, Don Mattingly fretted over whether Ramirez's "I-See-You" stunt would draw unwanted pitches up and in.

"We knew at some point somebody was going to try to knock [Puig] down," Dodgers catcher Tim Federowicz said. "They say it wasn't intentional. You hit a guy in the face, we take it personally."

The Dodgers, rightly, rallied to the side of their teammate. And, presuming Puig doesn't cross the line and mock an opponent, try to gain an unfair advantage by stealing signs or do something unnecessarily malicious on the field, the opposing teams just need to get over it.

By the looks of these first nine games, he's not going anywhere.