In case you were, you know, living under a rock Wednesday afternoon, or working or something, the big news was that Yasiel Puig got benched after the fourth inning of a game against the Cubs. Benched for the second time in a couple of weeks. What happened this time? SB Nation's Eric Stephen was at Dodger Stadium, and after the game he got the skinny:
Puig said through an interpreter that he was not preparing well for each pitch on defense and that he understood manager Don Mattingly's decision.
Mattingly, however, declined to divulge many details for his decision to remove Puig, who was 0-for-1 with a walk on Wednesday.
"I like keeping it in in house. I don't think there is any reason to discuss reasons why, this, that or whatever," Mattingly said. "It was a simple decision really. I felt like at that point in the game, Skip gave us a better chance to win."
Puig is batting .346/.406/.557 with 13 home runs in 76 games on the season. Schumaker is hitting .272/.345/.347 and has 14 home runs in his last four years.
"Yasiel gives us the best chance to win on a daily basis but today I just felt like Skip gave us the best chance to win the rest of the game," Mattingly clarified.
During the game, there was some speculation that Puig got yanked because he didn't slide into second base in the first inning, or because he looked nonchalant while making a couple of catches in right field. Mattingly specifically dismissed both reasons, though. Which leaves us with Puig's comment about "not preparing well for each pitch on defense."
Anybody who's spend any time around the game knows what that means, at least literally. It means that he wasn't paying attention, or wasn't standing with his knees bent and ready to run when the pitch was thrown. Or maybe that he wasn't shifting his position as instructed by the coaching staff. Could mean a lot of things, actually. But it seems unlikely that Mattingly is just making stuff up. Except for the part about Schumaker giving the Dodgers a better chance to win, which does seem unlikely.
A great deal has been written about Puig's ... uh, different approach to the game, including this (to reference just one reputable source). A fair number of the pundits thought a good benching might be in order, and maybe one was; this falls under the heading of MANAGER'S DISCRETION, and I certainly wouldn't fault Mattingly for this incident. Especially when he's publicly circumspect, and even says something like this:
I love these guys. I love all my players. I see the good in all of them. I talk to him like I would talk to my kids. I try to be honest with him, tell him what I think. I have to represent the whole ball club with some decisions that I make.
Earlier in the season when the Dodgers were losing, it seemed like Mattingly couldn't say anything right. Now they're winning, and it seems like Mattingly can't say anything wrong.
Winning is funny that way, don't you think?