Yasiel Puig has had his name dragged through the mud this offseason.
Following a down season where the outfielder only hit 11 home runs and batted .255 in 79 games, negative stories slowly circulated with Puig’s name coming up in trade rumors. In mid-November, there was the rumor created by Andy Van Slyke (father of current Dodger Scott Van Slyke) that staff ace Clayton Kershaw wanted the 25-year-old Cuban dealt. Later in the month, TMZ reported that Puig got physical with a bar manager and his own sister at a bar.
Just last week, a former Dodgers player told Bleacher Report that Puig alienated the entire clubhouse and was a terrible teammate.
“He is the worst person I’ve ever seen in this game,” a former Dodgers player said. “Ever.”
Puig’s days with the Dodgers seemed over, leading to immediate speculation that he might be part of the three-way trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox involving Todd Frazier. But Puig was not one of the players that the Dodgers included in the deal.
But Puig’s rough winter might be easing up. On Friday, Jon Heyman of CBS Sports reported that TMZ’s story may not have been as bad as initially indicated.
“Word from someone briefed on the encounter is that Puig originally tried to play peacemaker between his sister and her boyfriend, but was asked to leave after getting a bit loud. There may have been some disagreement about how quickly he was leaving, and bar workers are said to have physically escorted him out.
Apparently, he got hit in the eye during the escorting process, then after he broke free from their grip or they let him go, he apparently retaliated with a shot to one of the rougher bar workers.”
That’s still not good, but not as bad as Puig’s involvement was previously made out to be.
That comes after news that the outfielder returned to Cuba this week after a five-year absence, accompanying Kershaw and other Dodgers teammates on a goodwill trip intended to connect the U.S. and Cuba baseball communities.
I’m not trying to excuse Puig’s alleged actions, but perhaps we need to stop looking for excuses to vilify him without concrete evidence. He’s still a Dodger, and until a player publicly calls him out directly or he’s traded, the speculation he’s a locker room cancer probably should stop.