View Count: 240 |  Publish Date: April 05, 2014
Yasiel Puig's late-to-opening-day work ethic a non-starter for Dodgers

Vin Scully, marching to the middle of the field to throw out the ceremonial first pitch in all his red-roaring glory, was on time.
Yasiel Puig was not.
Sandy Koufax, sprinting out of the dugout to home plate to catch that pitch amid shrieks of surprise, was on time. Bill Plaschke Bio | E-mail | Recent columns Also Photos:Dodgers 2014 home opener Dodgers fans have their opening say, and its a mixed bag Dodgers a main part of the scene, but they cant be seen by many on TV Poor start dooms Dodgers in 8-4 loss to Giants On opening day, Dodgers management strikes out The fight over Dodgers between Time Warner Cable, DirecTV is par for the course
Yasiel Puig was not.
The best of Dodgers history and majesty showed up as scheduled Friday in what should have been a glorious 53rd home opener at Dodger Stadium.
If only their most exciting young player of the present had shown this game the same respect.
Puig was about 45 minutes late for batting practice, benched against the San Francisco Giants as the distracted Dodgers were thrashed, 8-4, and why are people still defending this kid?
Missing a cutoff man is one thing, missing the start of your workday is another. He didnt run into an out in the ninth inning, he walked into a clubhouse a full two hours after most of his more earnest teammates had already showed up. This wasnt some cricket field in Australia, it was Dodger Stadium during the teams most celebrated home game of the regular season.
When does youthful carelessness become arrogant insouciance? When does one kids growing pains become a throbbing ache that affects an entire clubhouse? And when will Puigs defenders realize these are not the old-school rantings of some stodgy sportswriter, but the fears of the entire Dodgers organization?
For one of the first times Friday, Manager Don Mattingly showed the depth of those fears in his willingness to sacrifice his lineup card for a lesson in accountability.
Its just a situation where he was late today and, at that point, I just couldnt play him, Mattingly said afterward.
This was the second time in Puigs 10-month major league career he has been benched at the start of a game for disciplinary reasons. Yet last season in Miami, Mattingly eventually inserted him as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning, Puigs homer won the game, and the lesson was lost. Puig was given no such forgiveness this time, as he never appeared close to being used as a pinch-hitter, even though Mattingly kindly claimed otherwise.
If we get enough guys on, I would have used Yasiel today, that wasnt even a question, said Mattingly. He felt bad he wasnt here, I truly believe that.
Puig stepped on to the field about 10:25 for batting practice that began with stretching at 9:40 a.m. Puig said he thought the pregame workout started later, implying he didnt receive the scheduling text the team sent to everyone.
Once here, Puig was subjected to a pregame lesson from Adrian Gonzalez, playful ribbing from Chone Figgins in the dugout, and later sharp questioning from media members who swarmed his locker while he quietly apologized to teammates and Dodgers fans.
Its my fault, its not anyone elses fault, said Puig in Spanish, his hands tucked behind his back and his head bowed. I didnt play because I was late.… I ask [Mattingly] and my teammates for forgiveness…. I also want to apologize to the fans.
Gonzalez, who purposely has a locker next to Puig in hopes that the kid can learn form his veteran presence, said theres only one way to tell whether Puig is truly sorry.
Its not about apologizing to us, its about getting here on time, said Gonzalez. Thats where you show you really meant it. You show up late again, it means you didnt mean it. Its not about what he says, its about what he does.
When asked whether he offered any specific advice, Gonzalez smiled and said, Yeah, get ... here on time.
Puigs sudden absence seemingly affected the play of the man who replaced him, with Matt Kemp in the middle of the trouble as the Giants took an 8-0 lead in the first two innings. Kemp was initially and angrily on the bench despite being activated from the disabled list. Suddenly thrust back into the lineup, Kemp botched a single from Mike Morse in the first inning, leading to one of the runs. He then missed the ball on a running, leaping attempted catch of a liner from Brandon Hicks in the second inning, leading to another run.
If youre not in the lineup, youre supposed to be mad, said Kemp of his initial attitude.
And then when he was suddenly pushed into the game, in a moment so emotional his mother later hugged him and cried?
Im sure it was a little bit of a distraction, said Mattingly
After Kemp missed the fly ball, fans began chanting, We want Puig ... we want Puig. But at this point, finally, the voices of those who want to educate Puig are louder than those who want to continue to enable him.
I support the managers decision, the manager tells a player to be there on time, its his discretion not to start him, whether its opening day or the playoffs or any other day, said Bobby Patton, one of the Dodgers co-owners who frequently flies here from his Fort Worth, Texas, home to watch his team play. Im sorry for the fans, Im sorry for myself, I came a long way to watch him myself ... but if thats what the manager thinks, thats what we need to do.
Puig should be back in the lineup Saturday afternoon against Giants left-hander Madison Bumgarner. Stretching is at 10:05 a.m. Its written right there on the greaseboard next to Yasiel Puigs locker.
Twitter: @billplaschke
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Time: 4:53  |  News Code: 394912  |  Site: L. A. Times
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