It has been suggested that Yasiel Puig's rage during Tuesday's brawl with the Arizona Diamondbacks is another sign of his immaturity and, in baseball terminology, questionable "makeup."
Could be, but if that's the case, why did Major League Baseball suspend Arizona Diamondbacks pitcher Ian Kennedy 10 games and Puig none? The guy who doles out these sentences nowadays, MLB senior VP Joe Garagiola Jr., clearly gave Puig a pass because he'd just had a 92 mph fastball graze off his nose.
I've never had a 92 mph fastball anywhere near my nose, but I imagine whether it grazes or not, it leaves a major bruise in the fear portion of the brain. Most psychologists will tell you that anger and fear really aren't all that far apart.
The Dodgers got off relatively lightly with neither Puig nor ace Clayton Kershaw getting suspended. Puig was fined, but -- given his $42 million contract -- he can probably reach into his locker stall for the cash it will cost him.
I happen to think Puig was perfectly within his rights to fly off the handle Tuesday night. But that's not to suggest there aren't reasons to fret that he is a ticking time bomb in the Dodgers clubhouse.
After his past two games, Puig has refused to speak with reporters. It kind of sounds like no big deal. He hasn't had much to say anyway and the questions would have undoubtedly been repetitive.
But it's a bit troubling that, at age 22, with less than two weeks of service time, he thinks he can dictate the terms of his employment. I watched as a veteran team publicist -- one who used to work with Fernando Valenzuela when he was in far more demand than this young player is -- calmly tried to persuade Puig, through his translator, to change his mind. No dice.
Of his previous transgressions -- the minor league punishments, his arrest for reckless driving, the year the Cuban government made him sit out an entire season for an undisclosed infraction -- none of them alone appears to have been serious enough to tell us he doesn't deserve a chance to grow up on his own terms.
But if Puig carries himself like he's bigger than the game, even if he's still hitting close to .500 in a week or two, it won't take long for him to alienate the rest of the league. Incidents like Tuesday's will be just the beginning. Eventually, he will alienate his own teammates if he hasn't already.
In April, Dodgers reliever Paco Rodriguez, a fellow Cuban who got to know Puig in spring training, had this to say:
Here, you’ve got to be professional, know how to carry yourself and how to act around the older guys. You have to give them their space. He’s kind of wild, all over the place, but you have to understand that’s more of the culture of baseball in Cuba. Once he tones it down a little, you can tell he’s going to be a great player.
People will say it's up to Don Mattingly to get Puig to tone things down. I don't think so. Mattingly and hitting coach Mark McGwire can try to reach him, but it's going to take an older player Puig respects to get through to him. It doesn't even necessarily have to be a teammate. Maybe after the season, Yoenis Cespedes could take him out to dinner and explain the culture of major league baseball.
I doubt it will be a pleasant conversation, but it might be the most important baseball talk he ever has.