Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Yasiel Puig is not a child

If you haven't read Andrew Sharp's piece on Grantland about LeBron love/hate, I highly recommend it (thanks to Seansie for pointing it out to me). We have covered some themes that come up in that post, most notably (I like to think) in my post about Richard Sherman following the NFC Championship Game this year. When idiots are idiots, people who write on snarky blogs (heh) sometimes take the battle against these idiots to the extreme. And oftentimes, that extreme defense is as bad as or worse than the idiots' initial opinions. This is becoming true of Deadspin's coverage of Yasiel Puig.

Deadspin is a blog that I read every day, and my favorite Internet writer -- Large Father Drew Magary -- writes his best stuff on said blog. I like Deadspin a lot for the most part. Their schtick gets annoying occasionally, and some writers are definitely better than others, but it's one of the beacons of light in the horrible darkness that is sports writing on the Internet.

Throughout Yasiel Puig's short career, idiot mainstream sports writers have said mean things about him. And to their credit, Deadspin has been there to combat all of these stupid articles claiming that Puig will unravel the Dodgers by not stretching, or needs to grow up, or that his mistakes are killing the Dodgers. Puig is really a sensational player who is very young and continues to make some costly mistakes (though this year he's gotten a LOT better at minimizing these mistakes). Overall, he's a remarkably valuable and great player. Kudos to Deadspin for criticizing the haters, right?

Well, to a point. After defending Puig to the Bill Plaschkes of the world, they started posting articles about Puig's arrest for reckless driving that said he was driving at an "awesome" speed. Irony to be sure, poking fun at the haters and jokingly implying that anything Puig does is awesome. They also write this article proclaiming that Puig is "everything great about baseball," which is a reasonable opinion for a certain point of view, and that's fine. That article talks about how Puig is an undisciplined player, but how he can pull it off because he's so talented. That's a very reasonable opinion about Puig, and one that I agree with. The love affair with Puig was REAL.

Then they came out with this article. This man, who went through hell to come to this country (a story that, again, to its credit, Deadspin played up), who is 23 years old, and who is making millions of dollars playing Major League Baseball, was called "a six-year-old" by Deadspin. He posted an Instagram photo of himself with action figures and said that he was having a "nice day." That's a bit odd, isn't it? To me, Puig is clearly employing the use of "humor" and "irony" which, contrary to popular belief, black people are capable of employing. Then, when Puig was filmed playing in the snow, Deadspin referred to him as a "man-child." For the second time, Deadspin referred to this 23-year-old man as a "six-year-old" for doing things that a child would do. They even took the opportunity today to describe Puig's posing with the Stanley Cup as a meeting of two "best friends," as a child might call a toy or inanimate object a "friend." To me, it looks like a guy who had the opportunity to take a picture with his arm around the Stanley Cup took a picture with his arm around the Stanley Cup.

What is the implication here? Is it that Puig sincerely enjoys playing with dolls? Is it that Puig doesn't understand that calling action figures your "friends" is a childlike thing to say? Is it that Puig's uninhibited and "undisciplined" style of play bleeds into his personal life in this particular way, making him into an endearing, innocent, naive child -- one with two arrests for driving in uninhibited and undisciplined ways? I think we're talking about a man who does these things knowing that they're the activities of children, and he acts this way to a humorous and ironic effect. You know, because he's an adult with a brain that thinks thoughts.

People said the same things about Manny Ramirez's antics back in his playing days. And, to be fair, people did describe Brett Favre as "childlike" because of his style of play and demeanor as well. But calling a grown man "childlike" is a hard compliment to pull off.

Yasiel Puig is a dynamic player, and it's amazing how good he is in just his second season at age 23. He also happens to be very fun to watch, and he makes unbelievable plays in the field, on the base paths, and at the plate. Sometimes he makes mistakes that hurt his team, and sometimes he does things that make him seem like a subpar teammate. He's getting better at both of those things. His contributions on the field outweigh any mistakes he makes about a thousandfold, and he is, overall, a truly excellent player with a very promising future.

See? A reasonable analysis of Yasiel Puig without saying he's going to blow up his team OR calling him a six-year-old. I really like Yasiel Puig. Please stop calling him a child.

P.S. Deadspin posted this article about Puig when he signed with the Dodgers. I'm sure they would actually stand by it now, but it's just funny at this point, having seen how deep the Puig love has gotten. Heh.

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