On Puig’s need for speed


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Item: Yasiel Puig arrested for driving 110 mph in a 70-mph zone.
This is the second time in eight months Puig has been arrested for offenses at near 100 mph; in April he was stopped for doing 97 in a 50-mph zone. That makes 87 mph over the speed limit in two offenses. At that rate Puig’s OSL (over the speed limit) will soon match his OPS.

Puig plays in a reckless manner, but it’s far more charming on the field. One letter writer to the Los Angeles Times said Dodgers coaches were happy because at least Puig didn’t run through any signs. At those speeds, he probably couldn’t see them.

It’s one thing to joke about Puig’s excesses — they are funny, and the potential for humor is as limitless as Puig’s for stardom. It’s easy to guess at Puig’s fascination — he’s 23 and less than two years off the island of Cuba. And it’s highly possible the Mercedes Puig was driving was built to be driven that fast — or somewhere close to 110. But on the Autobahn, not I-75 in Florida.

From Bill Plaschke’s column in the Los Angeles Times: “He plays hard, he eats hard, he drives hard, he does everything hard,” said Tim Bravo of Puig.

Bravo was hired by the Dodgers to be Puig’s teacher and “mentor,” according to Plaschke. Bravo told Plaschke: “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.”

Imagine how Dodgers GM Ned Colletti is sleeping, if at all.

Maybe, before hiring a teacher for Puig, the Dodgers should have hired a chauffeur.

Item: Paul Blair dies at age 69 and Mike Hegan dies at age 71

Paul Blair won his first Gold Glove in 1967, skipped a year, then won seven more in a row from 1969-75. He was the centerfielder on the Orioles during the greatest decade in their history: they won two World Series, lost two, and finished first six 10 times from 1966-75.

It’s less known that Blair won as many World Series with the Yankees in three years there (1977-79) as a platoon piece for Mickey Rivers and pinch-hitter.

His postseason record was erratic. His homer off Claude Osteen won Game 3 of the ’66 Series for 21-year-old Wally Bunker, 1-0, but he had only two hits in the Birds’ five-game wipeout in the ’69 Series. After a 1-for-13 ALCS in 1970, he went 9-for-19 in the Series vs. the Reds. By 1971, he was displaced in great part by Merv Rettenmund in manager Earl Weaver’s never-ending quest for the three-run homer. Rettenmund hit one in Game 1 but finished the Series 5-for-27 with no more extra-base hits and the Orioles lost to the Pirates in seven.

Blair received MVP votes in four seasons, but was never higher than 11th. It’s possible his combination of talents would be better received today. In 1969, Blair batter .285, hit 26 home runs, stole 20 bases, won a Gold Glove and played for a pennant winner; he finished 11th in the voting, even though his 7.1 WAR was greater than six of the players who finished ahead of him, including winner Harmon Killebrew (49 homers) and runner-up and teammate Boog Powell (37 homers). Apparently, voters digged the longball, too.

In 1967, Blair batted .293, walked 50 times, slugged .446, led the AL with 12 triples, won a Gold Glove and finished 16th in the MVP voting; his 6.8 WAR was better than 13 of the players who finished above him.

Blair’s career 37.8 WAR included five seasons which were greater than 5.0 — the four years he received MVP votes (’67, ’69, ’73 and ’74) and one he should have (1970). He had one year on the Hall of Fame ballot, received eight votes and fell off.

He wasn’t a Hall of Famer, but neither is Dale Murphy, an incrementally better player with back-to-back MVPs, and he stayed on the ballot 15 years without gaining more than 23.2% of the vote.

Hegan was best known for two things: being one of the Seattle Pilots in Jim Bouton’s 1969 book Ball Four, and being a longtime Indians broadcaster — though Mike never played for the team, his father Jim was the catcher for 14 years, including the 1954 pennant-winners.

Hegan wasn’t one of the most memorable Pilots, but he was one of the best. He batted .292 with 62 walks and a .427 on-base percentage and an .888 OPS; he made the All-Star team for the only time in his career.

Hegan’s contributions to the book are twofold. First, it’s Hegan, who when Bouton describes as “hitting like fury,” tells Bouton it wasn’t his father who helped him as a player growing up as much as his mother. Which gives Bouton the idea of making Hegan’s mother the hitting coach. “We don’t have a hitting instructor here,” Bouton wrote. “So I’ve been thinking that maybe Mike Hegan’s mom, since she has such a good record…ah, I don’t think Eddie O’Brien would go for it.”

O’Brien was the team’s bullpen coach and one of Bouton’s nemesis and was nicknamed “Mr. Small Stuff.”

Hegan’s second great contribution was in filling out a questionnaire for the PR staff. To a questions about what was the most difficult thing about playing professional baseball, Hegan answered: “Explaining to your wife why she needs a penicillin shot for your kidney infection.”

A first baseman-outfielder, Hegan played 12 years in the majors but never had a season as good as 1969 again. Of his 8.4 career WAR, 3.2 was accumlated in 1969. He had two stints with the Yankees and two with the Milwaukee Brewers. He played in two World Series as a pinch-hitter and defensive replacement, winning with the A’s in 1972 and losing with the Yankees in 1964

Item: Kevin Youkilis signs to play next year in Japan.
No surprise that Youkilis is going to play next year in Asia, given his inability to stay healthy in the States.
But, given his religion, if he went to Asia to play, I always assumed it would be China.
For the food.

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One Response to On Puig’s need for speed

  1. Mort says:

    I hear he eats Sushi.

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