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We Still Believe, Yasiel Puig

The mercurial talent might not last with the Dodgers much longer, but at his apex, he was something Los Angeles could never forget

Getty Images
Getty Images

If this is really the end for Yasiel Puig in Los Angeles, at least he went out with some quality hashtags:

In response to Ken Rosenthal’s inaccurate report that Puig “stormed off” from Dodger Stadium on Monday after learning that his days with the Dodgers were numbered, the 25-year-old Cuban reminded us why he’d become a fan favorite in the first place. The hashtags, #puigyourfriend and #seeyousoon, were both classic Puig: magnetic and optimistic amid a shitstorm of negativity brewing around him.

Although Puig wasn’t traded ahead of yesterday’s deadline, the Dodgers’ acquisition of southpaw Rich Hill and right fielder Josh Reddick from the A’s all but confirmed Puig’s imminent demotion. Per’s Doug Padilla, the Dodgers told Puig to stay home on Monday, and “he is expected to report to his new assignment” in the minor leagues. The best-case scenario, of course, would involve Puig rejoining the Dodgers by September and nabbing a playoff roster spot (if L.A. advances to the postseason). That could give him the opportunity to broadcast his powerful bat and rocket arm in what would amount to an audition for potential offseason trade partners — assuming his situation with the Dodgers is unsalvageable. (Of course, if Puig clears waivers, he’d be eligible for a trade before the next deadline at month’s end. In any case, Clayton Kershaw usually gets what he wants.)

There are plenty of valid reasons to be down on Puig: He has a growing reputation as a clubhouse malcontent, he’s been plagued by hamstring injuries since last year, and, most of all, his production has declined since his brilliant debut campaign in 2013, when he led the Dodgers to the NLCS and finished second in NL Rookie of the Year voting behind José Fernandez. Puig’s OPS, WAR, and home run totals have plummeted over the past two seasons, and L.A. has managed to succeed despite his statistical recession. If you’re the Dodgers, or a believer in absolute pragmatism, why keep him in the majors if he’s holding the team back?

Well: At his apex, he was a player who was talented enough to force people to change the way they saw the game, and forced outsiders to take notice, due in large part to his superhuman athleticism and engaging personality. And you can’t do that, especially with a hallowed sport like baseball, without pissing a few people off. Talent doesn’t just disappear, and it’d be shortsighted to write Puig off completely. Remember his dazzling debut week?

He seemed to make unbelievable throws on a nightly basis:

And give him credit for embracing the ever-controversial bat flip, which was an early sign that he wasn’t just another by-the-book prospect. He was the face of the bat flip for his first two seasons; without Puig’s brazen self-confidence setting a new standard for the rest of the league, who knows if José Bautista would’ve executed the most perfect bat flip in history? Puig has always given precisely zero fucks, and it’s glorious:

Puig still shows flashes of his old form from time to time, and when he does, it’s tempting to think that he’s about to emerge from his lengthy slump. While those dreams will have to be put on hold for a while, I’ll never stop believing in Puig, if only because I don’t want to live in a world where he’s not allowed to be the most exciting baseball player on the planet. And I can’t wait to see how he finds a way to stay the most exciting baseball player on the planet as a minor leaguer in Oklahoma City. Here’s hoping he tears up the Dodgers’ farm system, setting records and raising hell in equal measure, and returns resembling the wide-eyed rookie we remember from 2013. #seeyousoon, Yasiel.