The Puig Show returns to the field

SAN FRANCISCO -- Yasiel Puig looked happy.

As a pack of reporters waited to talk with him after the Los Angeles Dodgers' 2-1 win over the San Francisco Giants, he playfully bantered with teammate Juan Uribe and slowly slipped on a gold watch and his gold chain with gold crucifix.

He spritzed a heavy dose of cologne on his head and turned around, grinning, gesturing for reporters to bring it on.

Eventually, he even touched on how the stories that surfaced this week about his wild 2012 escape from Cuba -- complete with death threats from Mexican gangsters and usury by a Miami criminal who arranged his defection -- are weighing on him. They're not, he said.

"I feel normal," Puig said in Spanish. "I'm focusing on baseball and I'm giving my best for my team so things go well on the field with the preparation I've done. So, those things that are happening don't torment me."

Any other questions about Puig's flight to America were quickly shut down by a team employee serving as Puig's interpreter, who ended the interview session saying, "Enough, enough," in Spanish.

But there's a key element to keep in mind as we all begin to soak up and contextualize Puig's harrowing journey. The stories may have surfaced this week, but Puig has been living it for years, well before he ever pulled on a No. 66 Dodgers uniform and simultaneously electrified and polarized a fan base.

As the Dodgers have been saying all along, he hasn't changed. Our understanding of him has only deepened.

Puig seemed perfectly delighted to touch on the usual topics Thursday. He has been discussing those for a while now, namely his mental foibles and his monstrous talent, the latter usually swallowing up the former. The full glory of Puig was on display on a breezy, sunny day at AT&T Park, where he dropped a fly ball while doing his usual showboat catch and then made two spectacular running catches to help the Dodgers evade a sweep.

Asked why he catches routine fly balls out to the side away from his body, practically looking away in disdain, Puig smiled and answered, "Not everybody is the same. Sometimes, I'm different."

As maddening as it can be for old-school baseball people to watch Puig play so nonchalantly, it's also worth pointing out that the net result is soundly positive for the Dodgers. Somebody asked manager Don Mattingly -- who played with the inventor of the snatch catch, Rickey Henderson -- what he thought about Puig's muff. He said, "Um, I'm glad he got the guy at second."

Puig made up for this one by gathering the ball quickly and flinging it to second to force out Brandon Belt. It doesn't excuse Puig's showboating, but people have to realize that he's a very, very good defender overall and he's getting better. The stats bear that out, as does the naked eye. Puig is hitting cutoff men and he's shutting down teams' running games while making brilliant catches.

His hitting hasn't nearly matched his 2013 performance, but his fielding has been an underrated part of his game.

"I was thinking about it during the game," Mattingly said. "If you'd want one guy out there when you've got to make a play or throw somebody out, Yasiel's the guy because he's been incredible out there this year."