Yasiel Puig is running into problems with the Los Angeles Dodgers yet again.
The star outfielder arrived late to the ballpark Monday and was benched by manager Dave Roberts. Puig was not in the lineup Sunday, either, after a baserunning blunder the previous day.
Roberts stopped short of saying Puig got punished Sunday, but made it clear the 26-year-old Cuban slugger was being disciplined Monday before the NL West champions hosted San Diego.
“Yasiel has been great all year, but to be frank, there was a situation where he was supposed to be on the field today and he was late,” Roberts said. “Where we’re at right now, it has to be clear to everyone in the clubhouse that the only purpose is to prepare for the postseason, to finish the season strong and for it to be about all of us. I think, and I know, no one player can be bigger than the team. The priority has got to be for all of us. For me right now, that was a decision that he made, not me.”
Following a 9-3 victory over the Padres, Roberts said Puig will be back in the lineup Tuesday night.
“Yasiel and I and his teammates and everybody are all on the same page,” Roberts explained. “It’s one of those things where we all have to be accountable to one another. We’re all aligned and our focus is winning baseball games and a championship for the Dodgers.”
Los Angeles has the best record in the majors at 100-57. When the playoffs start next week, the Dodgers will be trying to reach the World Series for the first time since their 1988 championship. But they hit the skids in September, and now one of their regulars is back to his old habits.
“(My) level of concern (is) very minimal,” Roberts said about the recent issues with Puig. “When you can lose your best player like we did last year and parts of this year in Clayton Kershaw and continue to move forward . again, no one player is bigger than the whole and the sum. The onus is on him. I want him in there. I expect him in there. . When you show up late for work, there has got to be consequences. That’s just the way life works and the way life should work.”
Since Puig’s electrifying debut in the summer of 2013, he has been equal parts fascinating and frustrating. He dazzles with his arm in right field and power at the plate, but he’s fizzled at times with attitude and effort problems, along with tardiness, speeding while driving and other distractions.
Last year, he was banished to the minor leagues for a month. He worked his way back onto the team and the playoff roster in October.
This season, Puig was seemingly a model citizen for the most part. His only known discretion was an obscene gesture toward Cleveland fans in June. He was batting .259 with 26 homers, 70 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .339 on-base percentage.
It was unclear what time Puig was expected at the ballpark Monday, but he was on a Dodger Stadium elevator in street clothes just before 3:20 p.m. Many of his teammates were already on the field in uniform.
Roberts made it clear Puig was not above the rules.
“That’s the way it always should be,” Roberts said. “At this point and time, the last thing all we need to be concerning ourselves with is somebody whose sole focus isn’t on the ballclub. I think this is a decision that I made that I feel is in the best interest of the ballclub.”
In 2014, Puig arrived late on opening day and was scratched from the lineup by then-Dodgers manager Don Mattingly.
More recently, Puig was caught stealing to end Saturday’s 2-1 loss to San Francisco. He didn’t have the green light to go and, to make matters worse, didn’t slide.
Without specifying on Sunday, Roberts alluded to other problems with Puig this season and said it was important he can “trust” all the players in the lineup.
“It’s very disappointing, but he’s made tremendous strides and he’s had a tremendous season,” Roberts said. “I never like talking about a particular player, especially in this context, especially this time of year. I think this is something that, again, it’s unfortunate. All year long he’s been great. He and I have talked many times about accountability. I think this is one of those situations where he has to be accountable.”
AP | Jill Painter López