What happened in 2016: Yasiel Puig‘s fourth season with the Dodgers was another turbulent year that included a controversial month-long demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Puig began the season with a supposed fresh start and improved attitude thanks to the positive endorsement bestowed upon him by his new manager Dave Roberts during spring training after MLB decided not to punish Puig for an off-season bar scuffle and alleged domestic abuse incident with his sister.
The refocused Puig showed up to Spring Training early hoping to bounce back after an injury-riddled and offensively disappointing 2015. He worked with Roberts and Maury Wills on base running, an area of Puig’s game Roberts desired to hone. I wrote about Puig’s improvement on the base paths early in the season. Unfortunately, Puig only attempted to steal seven bases in 2016 partly due to recurring hamstring issues that caused him to miss time in June. He did end up swiping five bags in those seven tries, giving him a career-best stolen base success rate of 71.4 percent in 2016.
Puig even revamped his social media presence, and his infamous #PuigNotLate tweet would go on to be emblazoned on his shirt thereafter creating a self-deprecating dialogue with his fans and teammates.
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) April 18, 2016
The often criticized outfielder also embraced Bryce Harper‘s “Make Baseball Fun Again” movement, even though he had abandoned his signature bat flips.
No matter what Puig accomplishes in his career, I don’t think a single thing could eclipse this. pic.twitter.com/gfprNHqvwr
— Chad Moriyama (@ChadMoriyama) May 14, 2016
Puig’s Twitter game stayed hot early on along with his performance during the beginning of the season. His response to a mean tweet from Jared Goff in 2013 started the #PuigYourFriend movement championed by our own Sarah Wexler.
— Yasiel Puig (@YasielPuig) April 29, 2016
It was fun while it lasted.
Puig’s struggled offensively after coming in hot, and in turn his social media game also cooled off. The constant flow of criticism toward the polarizing Puig spurred me to write about the constant media condemnation that often incited extreme hate from those who almost relished the moments when Puig failed. Obviously Puig was not playing well and reverting back to some of his old ways, but this was also a time when a majority of the Dodger lineup was also struggling at the plate.
On August 1 the Puig situation came to a dramatic turning point. After a false report of Puig storming off when told he was going to be traded or demoted, he ended up spending a month in Triple-A Oklahoma City after the Dodgers failed to find a trading partner. Even though Puig had a history of incidents including late arrivals, speeding recklessly and getting into luggage chucking arguments with teammates, it was disappointing that the situation was mishandled by the front office and misreported by the media.
Puig had put up decreasingly declining offensive numbers each year since he made his infamous debut in 2013. His offensive struggles along with his inability to learn from his past mistakes and the understandable frustration of the coaching staff in dealing with his additional time-consuming needs, his demotion was warranted in hindsight.
It sadly looked as though Puig may have played in a Dodger uniform for the final time as newly acquired Josh Reddick took over his starting right field job. His time in OKC looked to be merely a waiting game until he could be traded.
That never happened.
Then there was the party bus incident when Puig and his minor-league teammates were seen on Snapchat in a shared video enjoying a night off dancing shirtless while drinking and paying tribute to Harambe as many may do in Des Moines after work. After a round of apologies and the we are disappointed statement by Andrew Friedman, Puig began a month-long slugging crusade with OKC.
After crushing the ball in Triple-A and not being traded, Puig returned to the Dodgers when rosters expanded in September. He was now a platoon player, starting almost exclusively against left-handed pitching. He did show glimpses of his former self in September and October, putting up a .900 OPS, the best since July 2014 when he posted a 1.114 OPS. Puig then went 4-for-19 (.211) in 10 postseason games, where he had just four hits, all in the NLCS against the Cubs.
An entire Puig review post could be solely comprised of gifs and highlight videos, but here are a few of the best Wild Horse moments of 2016.
Puig made arguably one of the best defensive plays in baseball with a spectacular throw to nab Colorado’s Trevor Story at Coors Field in April.
Puig also played with animal crackers in the dugout.
Dodgers walked it off on Puig’s Little League home run in June against the Nationals.
After his return from Puigatory in the minors, Puig saved Rich Hill‘s perfect game through seven innings with an amazing diving catch in September.
2017 status: Puig will make $6.5 million in 2017, and will presumably be the starting right fielder barring trade, injury or offseason drama.