“The fall of Yasiel Puig: surviving requires adjusting”

In less than three years, Yasiel Puig has gone from the phenom of the Los Angeles Dodgers — to a cast-off.  This week, he was placed on waivers (meaning the team was offering him to anybody else).  Another team DID express interest, after which the Dodgers promptly took Puig back.

But the news isn’t good.  Puig came into the Major Leagues in mid-season in 2013, immediately achieving stardom.  He was crushing the ball and making fantastic plays in the field all during the remainder of the year.  Puig wound up hitting 19 home runs, driving in 42 and batting .319 — for only half of a season.

The next year, however, playing his first FULL season the outfielder barely held even with his previous HALF-season.  In 2014, he hit only 16 home runs, compared to 19 for only half of  2013.  He DID show an increase in runs batted in (69 vs. 42) — but again the 69 took an entire year to accumulate.  Sixty-nine runs batted in for a 162-game schedule for a slugger is sub-par.

The NEXT season (THIS season, 2015), Puig flagged so much that he was dropped to No. 7 in the batting order.  As of this week, he had only 9 home runs, 34 RBI’s and was batting a weak .245 when he was released by the Dodgers (if only temporarily).

What happened?  How did he fall so quickly?

Puig is 6-foot-2 and weighs 255 pounds.  He is the size of an NFL linebacker.  But ESPN analyst Tim Kurkjian has remarked, “Baseball is NOT an ATHLETIC sport; it is a SKILL sport.”

That is, you can be as big as Puig and still flop in baseball.  It is NOT an ATHLETIC sport.  You can be as diminutive as Boston’s second baseman Dustin Pedroia — and succeed.  He has skills.  Pedroia is only 5-foot-7, weighing 175 pounds.  He is a 7 inches shorter than Puig and 80 pounds lighter.  But Pedroia has skills that Puig lacks.

Since Pedroia came into the Major Leagues for his first full season in 2007, he has had averages  of .317, .326, .296, .288, .307, .290, .301, .278, and — this season — .287.  Those are superior averages for a middle infielder.  As well, Pedroia barely stands as high as Puig’s shoulders, but has hit as many as 21 home runs in a season. (Again, Puig’s highest total has been 19.)

What is the difference between their fortunes rising vs. falling?

In the Major Leagues, there are scouts.  There are videos.  They watch the way you bat.  Pitchers get the information.  They adjust the way they’ve been pitching to somebody.

The hitter no longer gets the pitches he once got.  The pitchers have adjusted to him.  Now — can he adjust to them?

Puig hasn’t.  As huge and athletic as he IS, he hasn’t shown the skills to adjust.

Pedroia has.  As diminutive as HE is, he HAS shown the ability to adjust.  No matter what pitches he has been seeing, he has been hitting the ball consistently.  Twice, he had seasons where his average of .300 dipped down to .280 — only to be brought back up above .300 in ensuing seasons.  The man can adjust!

Adjusting isn’t just necessary for survival in baseball.  Adjusting means survival in ANY area of life.  How many thriving, downtown commercial districts of small towns suddenly collapsed when malls opened nearby?  How many esteemed churches with thousands of members — but whose buildings are located in tight, downtown quarters — began a fast decline once churches opened in the suburbs with much easier accessibility?

Adjusting is necessary for survival.

Some do it beautifully.  The company in St. Louis that built “The Spirit of St. Louis” which Lindbergh flew across the Atlantic in 1927 — the same company built the antennae for the Apollo space crafts that flew to the Moon!

We are seeing the factor now in political campaigns.  On the Democratic side, people are increasingly dissatisfied with routine, cliché positions and solutions — such that even the novelty of becoming the first female President isn’t helping Hillary Clinton.  On the Republican side, we are seeing the same phenomenon:  pro-life, hawkish, harsh towards immigration, anti-Obamacare…blah, blah, blah.  The polling numbers for these candidates are barely getting into double figures.

But look at the two candidates who are booming in popularity.  Bernie Sanders is attracting attention because he is getting to the root of problems.  Again and again, he strikes a nerve by posing:  “What is wrong with this picture?”  Americans can’t make ends meet even with a full-time job vs.  millionaire CEO’s who benefit from government handouts and pay no taxes.  Sen. Sanders is exhorting the nation to get to the root of problems.

With a fraction of Hillary Clinton’s campaign treasure, Sanders is drawing crowds ten times larger than her events.

On the Republican side, Donald Trump is attracting attention NOT because he has intelligent, well-pondered solutions like Sanders but because he is talking the way no politician talks.  Rough and rude as he is, Trump sounds refreshing compared to what voters are used to hearing.

These two candidates are complete opposites.  Yet they have adjusted to the temper of the times.

People are fed up.  Bernie Sanders is showing them that we can no longer “polish the polish instead of the furniture” (to bring up an old TV commercial).  Deeper actions are needed.  Hillary Clinton has not adjusted.  Her party credentials and novelty as a female candidate are not enough.  She is losing momentum.

Donald Trump insults, makes erroneous remarks, seems self-absorbed, gets criticized by news outlets and fellow candidates — yet keeps gaining in the polls.

The others are certainly envious.  Enough to adjust?




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