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Yasiel Puig Needs To Slow Down For His Own Good

Yasiel Puig’s rise to L.A. stardom has been littered with self-imposed obstacles.

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig
Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig

Oct 18, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig before game six of the National League Championship Series baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Lost in the translation of just how great non-English speaking L.A. Dodgers’ star outfielder Yasiel Puig can truly be is the increasing reality it almost seems just as likely he’ll end up as a footnote in a tale of woe, one chronicling someone it all came far too simply for.

For the second time in just the last eight months, the 23-year-old, five-tool, Cuban refugee inked to a $42 million deal was ticketed last week for driving more than 40 mph over the legal limit. With that, it seems the engine that fuels the Dodgers’ attack each day becomes a little more reckless, a little more mindless at the wheel, as evidenced by the fact his latest NASCAR impersonation came with his mother, father and sister all in the vehicle with him.

Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig

Oct 18, 2013; St. Louis, MO, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers right fielder Yasiel Puig reacts after striking out against the St. Louis Cardinals during the second inning in game six of the National League Championship Series baseball game at Busch Stadium. Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

“By driving in this manner, Mr. Puig showed wilful and a total disregard for the safety of his mother and the other two passengers and any vehicles on the roadway,” Florida officers who took Puig in custody on reckless driving charges highlighted in their report, noting if there had been a crash “his mother and the two passengers would not have survived.”

In the face of such sobering revelations, Yasiel Puig’s off the field wow-factor becomes every bit as compelling as it is on the diamond. But the stakes are much higher than just wins and losses.

“He plays hard, he eats hard, he drives hard, he does everything hard,” Tim Bravo, a high school teacher who was employed by the Dodgers last summer to serve as a companion and mentor to the phenom who still refers to him as Teacher, recently told the L.A. Times.

Bravo left the Dodgers organization after the All-Star break last season amid a rumored contract dispute, and every best chance of ever channeling all Yasiel Puig’s counter-exuberance seemed to leave Cali with him.

Puig struggled so mightily with controlling his on-the-field emotions during his first NCLS playoff series against St. Louis, not only did he hit just .227, but committed three fielding blunders in the team’s Game 6 series losing ouster alone.

Noted L.A. Times columnist Bill Plaschke recently referred to Puig as “an accident waiting to happen,” adding “the richest team in baseball can no longer buy the safety, security, or even the simple undivided attention of its most popular player.”

As Puig continues to careen toward calamity, indeed the Dodgers’ lack of forceful or even meaningful action has been almost just as mind-boggling.

As The Time recounts “they lecture him, but he doesn’t listen. They benched him once, but he came off the bench to hit a tiebreaking home run. They can’t trade him; he’s their most exciting player and the potential new face of their franchise. And they won’t monitor him…?”

“I worry about him all the time,” Bravo recently told The Times. “Sometimes, he needs to be redirected. Sometimes, somebody really needs to be form with him. Every day this winter when I wake up, I check the computer to make sure nothing is happening with Yasiel.  He’s still so young, I’m still so concerned for him.”

But none of that translates in Dodgers’ world, where GM Ned Colletti recently told reporters at some point, “everyone is responsible for their own actions. He’s not some 16-year-old kid, we can’t have someone on his arm all the time. It’s up to him to figure it out like we all have to figure it out.”

True that. But a little help never hurt anybody.

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