Originally written on ChadMoriyama.com  |  Last updated 10/20/14
What a terrible person. The national media built Yasiel Puig up into an overnight sensation, and as with most things that get hyped to high heaven in America, the next phase was tearing him down. Suffice to say, that phase is currently underway. Both the good and bad narratives are created for a reason: money. Excitement leads to constant page views and eyes glued to the television, and same goes for anger or hatred. As such, the duality of the media’s coverage of Puig is pretty standard. —– Of course, just because all we know the drill doesn’t mean we have to accept the status quo. Yesterday I tackled Miguel Montero‘s comical concern-trolling of Puig and the Dodgers, but now the story that’s blowing up is a June 10 article by Dan Bickley of USA TODAY. Allegedly, Puig disrespected former D-Backs “legend” (really?) Luis Gonzalez. Here’s what Bickley claimed happened: Consider the following: During batting practice before Monday’s game at Chase Field, Puig was approached by Luis Gonzalez. The former Diamondbacks star introduced himself, and began relating how his family also had roots in Cuba, just like Puig. Except Puig wouldn’t even look up or acknowledge his visitor. And for the record, Gonzalez was speaking Spanish, so nothing was lost in translation. Gonzalez confirmed the one-sided conversation, but declined to elaborate or comment further. But it’s not all bad. Dodgers coach Mark McGwire witnessed the awkward meeting, and allegedly jumped Puig pretty good. McGwire pointed out the man he was ignoring merely won a World Series with a hit off Mariano Rivera, and that Gonzalez’s number happened to be hanging inside Chase Field. Say what you want about McGwire – at least he knows the difference between competition and common courtesy. The problem? Well, for starters, Bickley wasn’t actually there. In his AZCentral.com report, the story is altered to show credit to “sources“. The problem with not actually being there is that the people who were actually there tend to know what really happened, and if you’re blowing smoke or going after a player on trumped up charges, you’re gonna get called on it. To that end, I’d say these tweets from David Vassegh of Fox Sports Los Angeles are as clear as possible. Reports of Puig blowing off Luis Gonzalez completely false I was standing 20 feet away and saw shake hands just had no clue who he was — David Vassegh (@THEREAL_DV) July 11, 2013 Big Mac didn't blow up at Puig he was just trying to tell Puig Luis got a GW hit in the World Series. Big Mac & Valentin told me FALSE! — David Vassegh (@THEREAL_DV) July 11, 2013 This Gonzo-Puig thing is ridiculous. I saw it. Big Mac and John Valentin were right there and don't think he got disrespected either. — David Vassegh (@THEREAL_DV) July 11, 2013 Then for his own part, Puig himself explained his side of the story (via Pedro Moura of the OC Register): (On the reported spurning of Gonzalez) “What happened in Arizona with the meeting with Luis Gonzalez, Mark McGwire was there and it wasn’t true. What transpired was different. I shook his hand and I said hello to Luis Gonzalez, just like the rest of my teammates did. Everything else that was said was different.” But what about Gonzalez himself, right? Well, for story so rich in details, it’s amusing how Gonzalez’s “confirmation” of the story is reduced to a one sentence blurb that completely lacks any details. But the lack of details from Bickley were for a reason though, mainly that Gonzalez isn’t really giving any. That remained true even when he tried to clarify the situation on the radio: “I was just trying to show professional courtesy that I would to any other player just standing around the cage,” Gonzalez told Arizona Sports 620′s Doug and Wolf Wednesday. “I was actually talking to (Dodgers hitting coach Mark) McGwire and (John) Valentin, the other assistant hitting coach, and I said ‘you know, let me go say hi to Puig.’ He was right by the cage.” The 2001 World Series hero proceeded to explain that he introduced himself as Luis Gonzalez. “I didn’t expect him to know who I was, and I could care less,” he admitted. Gonzalez then intimated what AZCentral Sports’ Dan Bickley wrote in a Wednesday column — Puig blew him off, and received a bit of a talking to from McGwire. “As far as the human factor is concerned, this guy’s been up in the major leagues for a month, and about four or five months ago nobody knew who this guy was and coming from a family from Cuba, where my parents have always taught me to appreciate everything you have,” Gonzalez continued. “This guy is making money now that he will have never even thought about where he was before in Cuba, so you have to learn to appreciate things. “And I think for all of us it was a valuable lesson.” Again, heavy on everything about Puig except what actually happened that pissed Gonzalez off so much. So on one hand, there is the alleged offender, his coach, and one reporter — all of whom were there — saying nothing significant happened. On the other hand, there’s the offended party and one reporter who wasn’t actually there saying that there was an issue, but neither will say what actually happened, much less agree on it. Given that evidence, it’s safe to say this narrative of Puig clearly being an asshole can be squashed at the local level, right? Nah, how about the exact opposite? The national media choose to blow it up by taking sides with the only part of this story that has yet to be substantiated by even the guy who was offended. Because THAT makes sense. Look, I don’t think Gonzalez is lying. I’m sure he felt offended at something or somebody, but there’s a gigantic leap in logic between Gonzalez being offended by Puig and the national media (except for Tim Brown of Yahoo! Sports) reporting and implying that this incident means Puig is a bad person/needs to mature/has makeup issues/needs to change the way he plays/has a terrible reputation/teammates hate him. And yet, the national media choose to take that gigantic leap in logic, and all because it fits both the narrative of Puig as a villain and the pattern of trying to tear down a player they just built up a few weeks ago. And why not, right? More often than not, that ebb and flow of hypocrisy seems to be their real job more than reporting the news is. ===== Anyway, speaking of driving narratives, one of the reasons I suspect Puig might be going through all this is because he hasn’t been open to/familiar with the media “game” in America. It’s been widely assumed forever now that reporters’ opinions are colored/influenced by certain veteran players (grit!) doing favors for media members (giving interviews, being nice, whatever), and that was surprisingly all but confirmed last night in a Twitter convo I had with Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports. @jonmorosi Not Puig related, but the inference is that the more they talk with the media, the more favorable treatment they get. — Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) July 12, 2013 @jonmorosi I just don't understand why that is. Everybody has a job to do, but by coloring your opinion of any player because they were… — Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) July 12, 2013 @jonmorosi …nice to a media member or not is probably one of my least favorite things ever. It's childish and unprofessional, IMO. — Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) July 12, 2013 @ChadMoriyama Correct. General comment. That is human nature. In sports, smart veteran players learn this and leverage media accordingly. — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 12, 2013 @ChadMoriyama This is a 2-way street. Execs/players/agents understand how to leverage media to their benefit and do. — Jon Morosi (@jonmorosi) July 12, 2013 @jonmorosi I realize that's the reality. I just don't think just because it's the status quo, we have to accept it. — Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) July 12, 2013 @jonmorosi Agree and I appreciate it. I just don't get the payola-esque exchange between media/players used by some media members. — Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) July 12, 2013 So that’s about as clear-cut an affirmation as it gets, I think. Probably as honest as we’re gonna get as well. As I said in the tweets, I realize that reporters are human and that there’s a “game” to be played with the media, but I just don’t think whether an individual plays the game well HAS to color the opinions that one puts out in articles. It’s like the biggest offense Puig committed in the eyes of the national media was that he didn’t want to do the whole dog-and-pony show for them when they descended upon him in Arizona. It’s sort of funny, really. Everybody is bashing Puig for asinine crap like bat flips and staring and not saying hi correctly or whatever else, but nobody even bothered bringing up the only thing he’s done so far that has been worthy of being bothered about (minor traffic violations, but still). Neither have any of them brought up his mistakes that actually matter, which are adjusting to breaking balls, hitting the cutoff man, and not running into stupid outs on the bases. That just goes to show me that the media cares more about the fact that Puig dislikes them than they do about anything substantial about his character. It’s all quite cynical and self-involved, really. Note: We do disagree on this point, but if you read the rest of the convo, it’s all civil, so if you were considering going off on Morosi, just realize that he did not have to engage me, nor did he have to be so forthcoming. Raging against him with ad hominem ******** is the reason the media don’t engage more often, so just leave it alone. ===== Now as far as Puig being a bad person/teammate/whatever, there’s an overwhelming amount of evidence to the contrary. To me, within the context of baseball, it just seems like Puig’s a player that only cares about: 1) His team. Via Moura again: (On coming in 2nd in Final Vote) “I’m happy with it. It’s not what I expected for the team and for the city, but you just have to keep on playing. I don’t have my head down at all.” (On criticisms from Montero, others) “Everyone’s entitled to their opinion. That’s just the way it is. I’m going to play my game the way I play my game. If you don’t like it, you don’t have to. We’re more reserved. We don’t talk about the style that Montero and Parra play. We worry about ourselves…As long as my teammates see me well, then that’s all I worry about. I know I’m new to this game, but I do know that the media says things that are sometimes not the truth. It’s just the way it is.” Most importantly, his teammates and manager seem to love him, as Mark Ellis and Don Mattingly are clear about here, via Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles: “He just gets attacked for no reason. He’s a great kid,” second baseman Mark Ellis told ESPNLosAngeles.com. “All he’s done is come in here and make our team better. So what if he rubs the opponents the wrong way? I don’t care. He’s on my team. I couldn’t care less if somebody from our division rival doesn’t like what he does. “Then, to have people run with it like they do and make things up about him — that players in our clubhouse are jealous of him — is a joke.” “He has a different flair. Not everybody is an average guy out there,” Ellis said. “Nobody would watch baseball if everybody was like me. You need guys like him that are entertaining.” Dodgers manager Don Mattingly said Puig’s perceived arrogance was not “a baseball problem,” and insisted Puig is popular in the Dodgers’ clubhouse. “These guys would fight for him, and I think you’re seeing that,” Mattingly said. Heck, even Kirk Gibson defended Puig the context of his on-the-field game. Speaking unaware of Montero’s comments, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson took a contrasting stance on Puig, who entered Wednesday’s series finale in Arizona hitting .407 on the year. “I’ve got no problem with him, he’s just playing,” Gibson said. “Some people say he doesn’t know any better. Why would he know any better? How much baseball has he played? He hasn’t been here that long and he hasn’t been in the country very long. He’s not Mickey Mantle yet, he’s kicking everybody’s [butt] and some people are jealous of that. The only thing I think about is how I get him out.” 2) The fans. One thing i can say about Puig, when I saw him play in bakersfield, he signed every autograph and posed for every picture. #VotePuig — adrian (@rawsignage) July 11, 2013 @ChadMoriyama fwiw he stayed way longer than anyone else to sign autographs before the game. pic.twitter.com/xndiecnKHJ — Molly Knight (@molly_knight) July 11, 2013 Yesterday too. RT @molly_knight: @ChadMoriyama he stayed way longer than anyone else to sign autographs before game. pic.twitter.com/AdwmbeLYMk — Eric Enders (@nrmnbates) July 11, 2013 This is how #Dodgers rookie sensation Y Puig spent his time 3 minutes b4 1st pitch. At fence, signing autographs. pic.twitter.com/yDM6xQ6xGm — Cindy Brunson (@CindyBrunsonAZ) July 11, 2013 Note: Loads more testimonials like that from fans. If anything, Puig’s unwillingness to talk to the media would affect the local Los Angeles reporters and Dodger beat writers the most, right? So one would think their opinion of him would be especially terrible. Yet basically everybody in the region either openly fawns over him or defends him. Put it this way, if he’s a tremendous asshole in the clubhouse, I’ve yet to hear about it (and word tends to get around). For those comparing Yasiel Puig to Barry Bonds, as someone who covered both I can say that the clubhouse interactions are far, far different — Mark Saxon (@markasaxon) July 12, 2013 Note: Same here. Only saved one example, but Yasiel Puig love has been going around since Spring Training. Weird, right? Almost as if he’s not this complete asshole that the national media wants him to be. Of course, that’s not to say that he likes the media charades much, but as fans, do we care? Seriously, do you care? I don’t. Via Moura one more time: (On if he finds playing easier than talking to the media) “Playing for me is easier than any other thing.” (On the media) “I know I’m new to this game, but I know about the media that says things that are sometimes not true.” (On why he has made a habit of going on late-night tweeting sprees) “Because on Twitter, I write it myself, nobody else is writing it.” Dismissive for sure, but in fairness to Puig’s take on the press, it’s not like his introduction to the American media’s tendencies have exactly proven his hypothesis wrong. And on that note, I’ll end this with Pedro Gomez of ESPN demonizing Puig because he tried to get a phone number from a woman through his interpreter. Grab your pearls everybody, a 22-year-old multi-millionaire elite athlete wants to get laid.
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