NEW YORK – After the Dodgers’ win over the Mets on Friday night, Yasiel Puig headed out on the town – of Secaucus, N.J.
The Dodgers outfielder made the 45-minute trip from Citi Field to make a live appearance at the MLB Network Studios. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said he missed the show but wasn’t surprised to hear Puig was an entertaining guest.
“He’s a big hit everywhere. I think that’s great,” Roberts said. “Obviously, there’s a lot worse things that a player can be doing in New York City.”
Roberts was joking. But it is notable that those other kinds of headlines no longer seem to follow Puig. Instead, the focus has been on his Gold Glove-caliber play in right field, his steady production while accepting his status as the No. 8 hitter in the Dodgers’ lineup most days and his formation of a charity, the Wild Horse Foundation, to work with underprivileged kids and families.
Has the wild horse finally been tamed?
“He’s changed dramatically, I’m not going to lie to you,” Dodgers closer Kenley Jansen said.
“He’s maturing,” Dodgers veteran Chase Utley said. “I think he’s seeing the bigger picture.”
Roberts said he sees the same thing. Puig is “continuing to grow” since the shock of his demotion to Triple-A a year ago at this time. Puig now understands “that the most important thing is helping the Dodgers win baseball games and it’s not about him.”
Anyone who has been around the Dodgers since Puig burst into the big leagues four years ago knows that was not always the case.
“I think when you come over here and you make a splash then naturally most people have a sense of things seem to be about themselves, a little self-promotion and doing certain things that kind of get the focus on you,” Roberts said. “But I think he’s understanding as he’s gotten older and been around more that there are right ways to do things and things that aren’t the right way to do things.”
Environment plays no small part in that, according to Jansen. The clubhouse culture Puig was introduced into four years ago was much different than the one that exists in the Dodgers’ locker room now.
“It was like 24 islands then,” said Jansen, one of only two players on the Dodgers’ current active roster who was around then (Hyun-Jin Ryu is the other). “He saw how everyone acted and figured, ‘Well, I’m going to act that way too.’ How can you blame him?”
Jansen might be wrong in minimizing Puig’s…