As I was watching the NLCS game last night, I found myself enjoying the misadventures of Yasiel Puig in that game.
And then I started wondering why I was enjoying the misadventures of Yasiel Puig. I’ve got nothing against the guy. He was a tremendous asset to my fantasy team. I frankly haven’t seen much of him playing, not enough to have been turned off by any “excessive displays of exuberance”.
Sure, part of it has to do with my general dislike of the Dodgers. But I enjoyed Puig’s errors a little bit more than I enjoyed Mark Ellis bobbling the ball with the bases loaded. So what’s up with that?
While pondering this, I had a thought regarding another part of the game, and it gave me a little insight into the situation.
During the 5th inning, the Dodgers intentionally walked Pete Kozma to bring the pitcher up to bat. My wife was in the kitchen, and I yelled over to her about what the Dodgers were doing, because she hates the intentional walk as a strategy and thoroughly enjoys it when it backfires. In this case, it did backfire (more or less), and Mrs. Shlabotnik reveled in the strategy’s failure.
So this morning that got me thinking… When we watch sports, we always like to put ourselves into that situation; what would I do if I were at bat, on the mound, playing right field or managing the game? Mrs. S would never issue an IBB, and every time it fails as a strategy, it vindicates her position.
Similarly, I have certain thoughts on how I would play the game if I had the tiniest shred of athletic ability… what pitch I would throw, whether or not I’d sacrifice, how I’d approach an at-bat with the game on the line.
We all judge the decisions made by a player, because when that decision goes against what we would do and it doesn’t work out, in our minds that proves us “right” and gives our self-esteem a tiny boost.
As I’ve been watching the playoffs, there have been a number of situations that fall into the category of “That’s not what I would’ve done, and see what happened?” After a while, I realized that more than a couple of these plays involved Yasiel Puig, and after enough of these had passed, I subconsciously started treating his style of play as “If he played the game the way I would play the game, none of this would have happened”.
Is it fair? Hell, no.
Do I hate Puig? Hell, no.
Does he approach the game the way I would? Hell, no… and I think that’s why I enjoyed his errors and his strikeouts more than the other players, because every time he failed, in my mind I succeeded.
I don’t know how much of this applies to other people’s attitude towards Puig, but I do think that there are a lot of times when “He doesn’t play the game right” simply means “He doesn’t play the game the way I do”, and that’s fine… it’s just a matter of understanding the subtext behind it.