BOSTON – As Yasiel Puig prepared to meet the media on the eve of the World Series, front and center was an ESPN Deportes reporter who, just two nights earlier, was drenched by a bucket of water Puig deposited over his head.
“Mi her-ma-no!" Puig playfully addressed him. “Esta bien?”
“Seco,” he replied tersely.
Indeed, the reporter was dry, a far cry from Saturday night in Milwaukee, yet another evening that epitomized Puig life.
His three-run home run was the crushing blow in the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 5-1 victory in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series. Puig celebrated with a series of wild gesticulations around the bases – crotch-chopping, as the kids call it – and he was irrepressible, at times too much so, during the clubhouse celebration that followed.
The towel-waving, the gestures, the tongue-wagging – all are quite accepted by Puig’s teammates and even mentioned as rallying points and endorsed in commercial form by Major League Baseball.
Six years into a highly scrutinized career, Puig and the Dodgers have seemingly learned to meet each other halfway.
That doesn’t mean Puig can’t be a little extra sometimes.
“Sometimes I do my stuff, like kid or crazy stuff and sometimes people don’t like it,” he said Monday. “But that’s the way I play, that’s the way I feel good, and that’s when I play better.
“But yes, every day, every moment, every opportunity I’m growing up a little bit, and playing baseball the way the people want to. I focus and do the best I can on the baseball field.”
Since Puig, 27, joined the Dodgers in 2013, they’ve known nothing but playoffs – six consecutive division titles and now back-to-back World Series appearances. He’s now the longest-tenured Dodger position player – and while his stock is always volatile, it's pretty high right now.
Two years ago, he was optioned to the minor leagues, then played sporadically in the 2016 playoffs. He enters this World Series as one of their top postseason performers, with 10 hits in 30 at-bats and a .429 on-base percentage.
The Dodgers are so deep that only a handful of players are truly indispensable. They also know few possess Puig’s skill set.
“There are times it can be frustrating with Puig,” says president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman, “but his talent is as good as it gets. What he can do on a baseball field in every facet is something that not many people can do.”
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