Yasiel Puig‘s bat flip in Game 3 of the NLCS, and his celebration when he was standing on third base with a stand up triple, has led to discussions of where he was trying to show up the St. Louis Cardinals and whether he fully understands how to play the game. I do not think he was trying to show anyone up, I think it was his natural reaction to getting a big hit in a big situation. He has gone from defecting from Cuba to playing in the NLCS in less than a year and a half. Caribbean baseball has its own flair, while in the United States it tends to be less of a party. Neither style of play is correct, both reflect the players and fans who attend the games. So forgive Puig if he has not mastered the intricacies of American baseball culture in the last 16 months.
The discussion which should be had is that Puig’s bat flip and lack of hustle out of the box could have cost himself an extra base and the Dodgers a potential run. Yes, Puig got to third base standing up, but what if it is not Carlos Beltran in right field. What if it is Vladimir Guerrero out there and the ball does not bounce as far away from him. The bat flip and watching the ball could put Puig somewhere in between second and third when the ball gets to David Freese. That could be the third out of the inning. I understand people do not like to deal with what ifs, but Puig has to learn when he can celebrate and when he has to put on the speed.
The three team battle this season for the National League Central crown was decided in part because of who was able to take the extra base and who ran into outs. The Dodgers won the NL West by 11 games, but it will not be so easy every year. Understanding when to celebrate and have fun, and when to put your head down and run can alter whether you are remembered as a legend or as a goat. Yasiel Puig has all the talent in the world to play baseball, he just he to learn when to party and when to work.