Farewell and Thank You to Our Wild Horse

(Sports Illustrated photo)

The Dodgers upset and disappointed quite a few fans recently when they traded Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, Kyle Farmer and Alex Wood to Cincinnati. Most Dodger fans love the Wild Horse, but many other fans across the league despise him. His teammates grew to love him, too, from all reports. This is particularly impressive when you consider how thoroughly disliked he was as recently as 2016. Back then, he annoyed the hell out of me and I wanted him gone. He was a lazy, spoiled prima donna. Or so I thought.

When Puig was sent down to Triple-A Oklahoma City, I was pleased. Maybe the next step would have been to show him the door. Except something wonderful and unexpected happened when Los Angeles brought him back. Outwardly, at least, he seemed to demonstrate he’d learned his lesson and knew he’d better shape up or he was gone. Most of us remained suspicious for a while, I think.

And then, a miracle happened. A seemingly racist, deeply hated pitcher for the San Francisco Giants picked a fight with Puig. And the team rallied around him. He was their teammate, and while they might want to pick fights with him, they sure as hell weren’t going to let some …. ugh … GIANT disrespect him. Hey, Bumgarner: Don’t look at ME!

That moment was the turning point. That incident sealed the deal and changed Puig’s life. By the way, Bum, thanks for that!  Puig became a better teammate, showing up on time and doing the work. Instead of goofing off, he made an effort. And the team embraced him with open arms.

He showed up to spring training lean, mean, and pure muscle. He was making plays he’d often  missed before. His mind wandered much less often when he was on base. Whereas before, it wasn’t unusual for him to be thrown out on base because his mind was anywhere but the ballpark. I think it was in 2015 when I saw the Dodgers play the Tigers in Comerica Park. I think Zack Greinke was pitching for the Boys in Blue, and David Price was on the mound for the Tigers. Donny Baseball was still manager. The Dodgers were struggling, and Puig made it to third base. And, because he wasn’t paying attention, was thrown out.  That was the old, irresponsible Puig. But not the new, amazing, beloved Puig.

Puig began to hit more home runs, steal more bases, and make incredible not-to-be-believed plays from right field. Throwing out runners at home plate. Unassisted. From Right Field.

Then the playful Puig emerged full force. He hugged his teammates. He kissed his hitting coach after hitting each homer. He licked his bat and waggled his tongue. He even hugged players on the other team. Puig brought a level of fun to the game I’ve never before seen. He was the essence of joie de vivre. He played baseball like it SHOULD be played. As far as I’m concerned, he became the ideal player, the model which all others should emulate.  There were still problems, of course, including bone-headed plays, outright mistakes, and probably missing some meetings and being late. But none of this mattered as much as the pure joy—there is no other word for it—he brought to baseball and to life.

He earned my respect that few others have. I put him right up there with Kersh, Hill, Turner, Utley, and even our own Tommy Lasorda.

Learning that the Dodgers traded our Puig to Cincinnati made me angry. I still don’t like it. When I told my daughter she said, “I’m done with the Dodgers! To Hell with them!” And she wasn’t the only one. Many, many people are still bothered by the trade, and I’m one of them.

However, Puig seems delighted. He wants to play every day. (If I were L.A.’s manager, he would have, handedness be damned.) But the Dodgers platoon, and they’ve had great success with it. Cincinnati and their fans seem excited and delighted with the additions to the Reds. I LOVED seeing that. The Dodgers (players and fans, at least) loved and appreciated the Wild Horse, but maybe not as much as they should have. After all, when most of the guys on your team are stars and future Hall of Famers, it’s easy to get overlooked.

And Turner Ward, his friend and hitting coach, is now with the Reds. I suspect this is extremely important. Watching Puig play for the last five or so years, I’ve come to the conclusion that he’s all about relationships. When he has good, honest, affectionate mentors and teammates, he goes all out. Without that, he’s disaffected, unmotivated, and a comparative disaster.  I get this. I’m very much the same. Most of us are, to some degree, I think, but it’s especially true of Puig.

So, I will miss our Puig. A lot. But I’m happy that he’ll probably thrive and maybe even be more content. So, I’m getting over it. But I hope he hits at least one damned dinger every time he plays us.

I’m still on Team Puig, though I bleed blue. Puig has earned (for me) the status of honorary blue for life.

Do well, Yasiel, and remember that you are beloved in Los Angeles. And thank you for the joy you brought to all of us.


28 thoughts on “Farewell and Thank You to Our Wild Horse

  1. I remember the first time I saw him play. The guy was electric. He was a burst of energy. He was also an enigma. I thought that most of it was because of the great cultural differences between Cuba and the US. He was not raised to play ball the way it is taught here and I think for quite a while that confused him. I think he chaffed at more or less having to conform to the rules. And that I will always believe was because of his immaturity. He was so young and given all that money and I think that also went to his head. He thought that his raw ability would always get him by. It took quite a while for him to realize that to be great, not just good, you have to work harder than anyone else. Injuries slowed him down for close to 2 years. Nagging hamstring, ankles, little things that just kept him from becoming the player he wanted to be. He got sent to the minors and I think that was a wake up call. Over the last couple of years, not one single Dodger has been as exciting as Puig. Oh Bellinger and Seager made us proud with their great rookie seasons. Muncy surprised the hell out of everyone last year, but none of those guys and not one other player on the Dodgers could elicit either the love or ire that Yasiel did. He was unpredictable. His cannon arm unleashed throws that boggled the mind. One of my first memory is a 9th inning throw from RF that caught the runner returning to 1st for a game ending double play. No other RF in recent memory has done that. He threw a runner out at 3rd by a good 2 feet after a catch near the wall. Also have not seen many of those. He ran the bases with his hair on fire. Sure, he made blunders. But they were blunders of a purely enthusiastic player trying to help his team win. Puig was the only Dodger to homer 3 times in a game this year, Last player to do that was Corey Seager. Yasiel was one of the few Dodgers to play well in the playoffs. He launched a 3 run homer that for a moment, until the pitching collapsed again, gave the Dodgers the lead in a series game they should have won. He was platooned because he was not hitting LHP well. My theory is he should have been playing every damn day simply because he was the best they had in RF, and you should play your best every day. I think Bellinger suffered from being platooned also. He hit lefty’s well his rookie year. Got off to a bad start, and all of a sudden it was too the bench vs LHP. I will truly miss the Wild Horse. I will miss Matt Kemp too. I will miss Matt because he made Friedman keep him with his great play. He too at the end of the season was platooned. Why? Because he went into a little tailspin after the break. He never played regularly the rest of the season even though he was the teams best hitter with RISP. I wish both of them success with the Reds. Yasiel will be very happy with a team that plays in a bandbox like that 81 games a year. I predict he will exceed 30 homers for the first time in his career. I also expect Matt to be a solid contributor to the Red offense. They will play a lot against the Dodgers. We are LH heavy pitching wise so they will be in there.

    1. In a sport that seems to get a little more boring each year, I too shall miss the Wild Horse who was never boring. I hope that we begin to see more players express the joy that baseball brings them. It’s a game guys, and you’re being paid a huge amount of money to play it. That, in itself, should bring a smile to your face every time you’re lucky enough to step on the field.

      1. That joy he brings and inspires in others is the single most important element in the game. The most important. Imagine how much happier we would all be if we learned to experience life with such joy? That matters. Big time.

    2. I was ashamed of myself when I realized how completely I had over looked the circumstances and problems he had to cope with. First, the dangerous and terrifying defection, and subsequent death threats by smugglers who wanted moer money. This young man was thrust into a foreign, very different culture ,and went from barely scraping by to being a millionaire, thrust into the spotlight, his every action scrutinized as if he were under a microscope. His “fans” included both those who elevated him to near-deity status as well as those who demonized him.

      Now consider the intense pressure athletes live under, having to work with Donnie Baseball (I’m not a fan), all the while lacking any benign mentorship or important relationships. I doubt I would have performed as well as he did.
      Until he came back from AAA, i saw him as nothing more than a spoiled, immature brat. And -here’s the kicker – I’m a psychologist!!

      I learned from that. Puig’s experiences made me just a little bit better person. As far as I’m concerned, Puig should be a Dodger for life and own the right field.

      1. The only true mentor he had was Juan Uribe. And Uribe was traded leaving a void. Adrian Gonzalez tried to counsel him. But I am not sure that he was as close to Yasiel as Uribe was. So basically he was on his own. I always wondered why the Dodgers did not use Manny Mota to council him more. Mota has a lot of respect in the Latin baseball community. I will always cherish the thrill I got watching Puig do his thing. Oh like all fans I got exasperated sometimes. But when he would turn around and do something amazing, and I was a Wild Horse fan all over again. It is my belief that Friedman will regret this trade somewhere down the line.

    3. Outstanding post! I wouldn’t be surprised if Puig hits 40 homers playing in that Reds stadium. He would have hit 30 the last two years if in the lineup every day. The Dodgers should have extended him 3-5 years rather than trading him.

    4. I loved to watch Puig play. After 50 plus years being a Dodger fan, I am now a Reds fan. Dodgers lost that Brooklyn shot of glitter. I wish Puig (and Kemp) the best and hope they scald the Dodgers every chance they get!

  2. The strange thing about Puig was the fact he apparently peaked at age 23. In his first two years here he had 9.8 WAR. In his last 4 he’s accumulated 8.8.

    And apparently the deal for Cincinnati wasn’t good enough as the Dodgers just sent $7m to complete it. That will pay Wood’s salary for the year. We take Bailey and his $28m and send them Puig, Kemp, Farmer, get 2 prospects, neither of which are A prospects AND we send Cincinnati a projected 150 innings of 3.5 plus $7 million. Something doesn’t add up here. What am I missing?

    1. I think 2 years with injury problems impacted that WAR a lot. You are right, something does not add up, especially if Ol Andy fails to replace at least some of that production. What people forget, is that Puig is only 28 years old. I think he has finally matured enough to get more out of that talent he has. But now he will be doing it in another uniform. Playing at the Great American ballpark and back with his hitting coach, I think he will play everyday as long as he is healthy and his production is going to jump. 30 homers plus should be very achievable.

      1. I agree he is an every day player and he will play more than the 125 he did last year. But he played in 152 the year before, 570 PA’s. If he does that in Cincinnati he will put up at least the 3.7 he did for us in ‘17. It is a contract year for him. I would not be surprised to see him equal or better 3.7 in that ballpark. If we don’t do something to replace that production……. those two minor leaguers sure as hell won’t do it. Then I read this morning we are actually going to pay them enough to cover Wood? I kinda went off. I get the trading of contracts to create some space …. for the big move….. I don’t understand sending them money along with all that production. To be honest I thought those two prospects were players Cleveland or Miami might be interested in. I expected a flip right away. The longer this goes on the more I am wondering wtf is going in here. Do something Andrew.

      2. When I first read about the trade I thought the money was coming the Dodgers way. They took in 25 million that belonged to Bailey and immediately released him. They sent close to 35 million to the Reds. I fail to see where they gained 18 million in space under the CBT. But that’s what everyone said. And they said it was clearing room so that they could sign at the least Harper. Now, here we are close to a month after the trade. and they have made no major additions. We all know they never even talked to Machado, although after the trade, retaining his RH bat made more sense than signing Harper. They have pretty much quit talking to Cleveland about either Bauer or Kluber. The JT Realmuto talks have reached a standstill. Tigers want way too much for Castellanos, and all we read is nothing. Right now the starting outfield would be Verdugo in right, Bellinger in CF, and a platoon in LF including Taylor, Kike and Joc. Barnes would be the starting catcher, and the infield would be Muncy, a platoon of Kike and Taylor and maybe Muncy, Seager at SS and Turner at 3rd. The good thing is that you have 6 starters capable of 20 plus homers. So there is some power. Most of it is left handed. You do not know how Barnes or Verdugo are going to be in an everyday role. I doubt very seriously that Andrew Toles gets more than a cursory shot in any spot. He has to prove he is totally healthy. I do not see any players in AAA except maybe Smith who will get a real shot at making an impact. Rios could be that guy, but he plays only 3rd and 1st, 2 positions they are pretty deep at. Freese is going to play against pretty much all opposition lefty’s. And he is going to spell JT on days when Roberts thinks he needs a breather. I worry more about the health of the rotation, and the bullpen performing a lot better than it did last year. I feel they need to procure at least one more solid reliever. But that’s just me. Andrew had better do something pretty soon or he will find the cupboard bare.

      3. On its own it’s a curious move. I still think it was cleaning house for some new, more better furniture. That may be naive, wishful thinking. And, it could be weeks before we know.

        I’m not crazy about this time of year. It’s basketball season, and I’m not big on basketball. College football is over (ef Alabama Clemson) and the NFL takes weeks to wrap up with a lot of nothing between games. It’s also. cold outside. Just waiting for Spring Training. Rams play in two weeks. Lakers without their leader. Dodgers in a holding pattern. I say again – bears have the right idea.

  3. Vin Scully,Peter O’malley lasorda,Kershaw and all the other true Dodger’s would not have let him go.
    guggenheim group, you suck!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  4. Well I think everyone should officially quit dreaming of J.T. Realmuto because Miami has lost their minds. Rosenthal reports they aren’t budging on wanting a young star MLB player PLUS!!!!! prospects. If that’s us it means Bellinger and Ruiz or Verdugo and if it was Atlanta they want Ozzie Albies plus one of their top pitching prospects. This for a .270 20HR hitter. This is why Miami is a joke and will always be a joke. I hate it for Realmuto because nobody is going to even think about doing a deal like that. Time for everyone to get on the Austin Barnes train. I for one have full confidence in him.

    1. Kenny R. is pretty much on top of things so I’m assuming that as I write this the Marlins aren’t budging. I still say that Realmuto will not be with the Marlins on opening day. They’re all just playing chicken right now and although no one is going to give up the prospects the Marlins are asking for today, they’ll come down a bit at some point and someone will bite. In the meanwhile Andrew should get his second catcher because the odds that Realmuto will come here are definitely less than 50-50. If they can get someone for a couple mil and have to jettison him because we get JTR, well that’s just the cost of doing business.

    1. Mr. Friedman is scouring the world to improve our team. Solbach is German, played in Australia and actually had some pretty good stats there. If you can get hitters out in the ABL, absolutely no reason you can’t get them out in the NL? Right? Right? Someone…………………anyone. I can’t believe we were able to get Solbach and Quackenbush in the same off-season.

      1. The way things are looking right now that might be all they get……retreads…..an Ol Andy specialty. Robertson to the Phils, Ottovino in pretty serious talks with the Yanks. FA galore left out there, just not that many good ones. Only name guy I see the Dodgers mentioned with is Zack Britton.

  5. Robertson to the Phils 2 years/23 mil with a team option for a third year. I would have gladly offered him that deal to pitch here, but word has it that he wanted to stay on the east coast.

      1. Not really a missed opportunity. Jeff was right. Robertson wanted to stay in the East. He had no desire to come west.

  6. The Phillies are acting like players.

    Miami will not blow this opportunity. If they don’t get what they want now, they can wait til July. I don’t think they’ll wait. Too many things could go wrong.

  7. Someone said earlier that in a sport that gets more boring every year. In my mind he could have said on a team that gets more boring. The Dodgers traded away their most exciting player. That is the truth. No matter how anyone felt about Puig, he generated excitement. Not always the good kind. The one thing I will remember the most about his last year as a Dodger is the interaction with Ward and the pure look of joy he had when he did something good for his team and his coach. The kisses that Ward always tried to avoid, the bat licking, and breaking when he struck out and felt he should not have. The Dodgers lack personality. It will be some time before we see that kind of electricity at Dodger Stadium again.

      1. We need someone like Manny in the lineup, but we won’t get him this year. By someone I mean offensive production, not defense or personality. There aren’t many like Manny

        Who’s the general with the Sam Elliot ‘stache Bear? Is that McClellan? And why putting pictures of Yankees up here? You should maybe consider a pic of General Lasorda.

    1. That is Joshua Chamberlain there Scoop. Medal of Honor earned at Gettysburg for his defense of Little Round Top. Dodgers sign some guy named Orlando. Of from the Royals system to a minor league deal. And Rich, that may be so, but I did not read any and have not read any negative story’s about Puig from his team mates in quite a while. The guy was maturing and making an effort to be a better team mate.

      1. McClellan was the Andrew Friedman of his day. Great organizer and a lousy fighter. Never won the big one. So, he was replaced by Hooker, then Meade, then some guy named Grant. He was a drunk, but he sure could fight. We could sure use someone like Tommy right about now.

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