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J.P. Howell: Yasiel Puig was bullied in the Dodger clubhouse

Nov 15, 2013, 9:41 AM EDT

Yasiel Puig Getty Getty Images

Bullying has been all over the sports landscape recently. The Incognito-Martin thing most obviously. Earlier this week the Tigers won MLB’s philanthropic award for the team’s anti-bullying initiative. And outside of sports bullying has become something that people are talking about and taking increasingly seriously as a threat to young people.

Against that backdrop, Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell — whose wife Heather has written an anti-bullying book aimed at young kids — spoke to the L.A. Times about bullying. And in the course of his comments he let an interesting nugget drop:

Howell said he saw Yasiel Puig bullied in the Dodgers’ clubhouse, though he would not discuss who was involved, or what happened to Puig.

“The guy is such a champion,” Howell said. “He has such a big heart. Sometimes he acts like a jerk, but that is his defense mechanism. It’s not really him.

Howell said this after describing an incident that happened to him as a rookie that is usually described as hazing: he had his suit shredded by someone and not replaced. Jim Bouton’s “Ball Four” and many other baseball anecdotes describe players’ shoes being nailed to the floor and other activities which, depending on who describes them, can be referred to as pranks or goofs or hazing or, yes, bullying.

Did Dodgers players prank or haze Puig like many other rookies have been pranked or hazed before? Did they treat him differently? Or, whether it was different or the same, did Puig take it as an acceptable rite-of-passage, or was it harmful?

My guess is we won’t know. That neither Puig nor other Dodgers will talk about it or will, at best, downplay it as nothing. And we may even see Howell backtrack some if this turns into a big story instead of remaining a mere anecdote.

But we haven’t really had this conversation in baseball before. If we do now, I suspect it will be pretty fascinating.

  1. chill1184 - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:44 AM

    Eh unless someone actually physically got into a fight (or yelled racist slurs at him) with Puig, I see nothing wrong.

    • paperlions - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      Then you are probably a bully.

      • pilonflats - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:01 AM

        you sound like a bully paperlions.

  2. garylanglais - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:49 AM

    At this point I’m half-expecting a national story about the MLB’s biggest bully, AJ Burnett and those intolerable acts of shaving cream celebrations

  3. chacochicken - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:55 AM

    Hazing Yasiel Puig is playing the game the right way.

    • sportsfan18 - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:28 PM

      Sure is! He misses his cut off men a lot, just airmails many of his throws. He’s made many blunders on the base paths too.

      He tried to tag up on 2nd and make it to 3rd base on a shallow fly ball to center and made the last out at 3rd base.

      He’s been picked off base.

      He allows runners to take the extra base as well as allows the trailing runners to take an extra base too by overthrowing his cutoff men.

      Is he exuberant? Yes. But he is raw, his fundamental are lacking. I’m not going to blame him for that as I know little about him, about the training he received while growing up and playing in Cuba.

      He IS talented. And he will learn and improve. But for now, he is making a lot of mistakes on the field.

  4. prospero63 - Nov 15, 2013 at 9:59 AM

    The pussification of this nation cracks me up. Give someone a hard time, and bam it’s bullying.

    “Our country won’t go on forever, if we stay soft as we are now. There won’t be any America—because some foreign soldiery will invade us and take our women and breed a hardier race.” – Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

    • nategearhart - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      What is it about bullying that you find acceptable?

    • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:38 AM

      The dickification of this nation cracks ME up. Treat someone as a human being and bam it’s a healthy workplace environment.

    • byjiminy - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:46 AM

      So let me get this straight.

      You think it’s great, and kind of fun, to “give someone a hard time.”

      If anyone disagrees with you, or sides with the victim, you openly mock them and call them “pussies.”

      When called on any of this, you whine that you are the real victim.

      And you are so clueless about how all this makes you sound that you proudly put it all in writing and post it for the world to see.


      I have to admit, you don’t leave us much room for criticism; you’ve pretty much said it all already.

      Nice touch with the line about “our women,” by the way. Because after all, women have to be the property of somebody. And naturally that would be the most violent, least “soft” men, right? What else could a woman possibly want in a man?

      • jimeejohnson - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM

        You got his number.

      • historiophiliac - Nov 15, 2013 at 5:03 PM

        Maybe he’s saying men can be replaced but the ladies remain necessary.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:48 AM

      Lieutenant General Lewis B. “Chesty” Puller

      Let’s give full context to that quote:

      Davis, Burke (1991) [1962]. Marine! The Life of Chesty Puller. Bantam Books. ISBN 0-553-27182-2.

      1962 is when he said that. Try again

      • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:58 AM

        It’s 51 years now, and we haven’t been invaded (attacked, but NOT invaded), America still exists, and we still have “our” women. OK, then.

    • emdash01 - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:52 AM

      The air of eugenics to this quote really makes it something special, sir.

    • sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:14 PM

      I’m not worried about losing my woman to someone hardier than me. How confident are you feeling about yourself?

    • anxovies - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:54 PM

      Allright!! A Chesty reference. God bless you General Puller, wherever you are.

    • cur68 - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:41 PM

      Your nation was built on fairness, decency, and the notion that certain fundamentals like a vote, peace, liberty for all was a right. Yours was among the first nations in human history to undertake such a thing on a such a scale. And look how well you did. Everyone wants to be you. Everyone wants to come here (I did: your women are HOT!). Everyone wants their nation to be like yours.

      Why ANYONE would say “lets be LESS decent!” is a mystery to me. In effect you are saying “its never worked for any other nation, but WE can do it even though we have a proud history of doing the exact opposite and prospering!”

      Care to explain how being more decent is going to harm your country?

  5. gibbyfan - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:00 AM

    I think YP would be just about the last guy I could see anybody bullying…………Guy looks like he could double as an NFL linebacker

    • paperlions - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:15 AM

      Bullies don’t go one-on-one.

      • bigdicktater - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:03 PM

        ?? I found they do until they’re knocked on their ass, and then they’ll look to bully someone who won’t fight back.

  6. lyon810 - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:01 AM

    I’m so tired of everyone laying claim to being bullied or witnessing it.

    There was a time when people fed off this sort of thing, and didn’t simply roll over and cry. Our society is riddled with people who awake every day looking to be a victim or amend themselves to some wrong doing.

    Your emotional currency is worthless. Knock it off and learn from it and be stronger for it. Kids aren’t bullied more than they were 50 years ago, only the methods have changed. The difference between then and now…were raising softer kids.

    Don’t believe me, did participation trophies exist in 50’s?

    • chacochicken - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:16 AM

      I miss Cold War hysteria, segregation, hard liquor as a meal, and making my wife flinch.

    • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:41 AM

      Absolutely. I lived through the 1950s. And, yes, they did, along with legal segregation, not to mention confinement of smart women to their home whether they liked it or not, atom bomb shelters, crawling under desks during drills and a lot of other fun stuff. Oh, and going to ball games in a suit and tie.

      • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:48 AM

        BTW, in 7th grade I was bullied by another student. She knocked my school books onto the sidewalk. OK, I stood up to her and we had a hair-pulling fight just outside the school yard. I was suspended from school and that stayed on my record. Yeah, this was in 1957 on the South Side of Chicago, a pretty tough area. So, yeah, the 1950s… fun times.

        Oh, and I should tell you about my high school…

    • butchhuskey - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:35 PM

      Sorry, but I completely detest your way of thinking. As someone who was a victim of bullying as an adolescent, I can tell you it was the most traumatic experience of my life. I was made to feel like less than a human being, and the kids that were responsible for it never faced any punishment.

      Why were they able to get off so easy? Because some people think we should just accept that bullying exists and place all emphasis on making kids not as “soft.” I think this kind of “blame the victim” is completely backwards, and it sends the message that people should not try to treat others with common decency.

      You don’t know me, but I know for a fact that I am an emotionally strong individual who can withstand tremendous adversity. Yet even if some of this strength came from overcoming the bullying I endured, I would never wish anyone to have the same experience.

      Frankly, if you don’t know how psychologically damaging bullying is, then you have never gone through it yourself.

    • indaburg - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:41 PM

      I’m tired of hearing about people being bullied too. I wish the bullies would cease their anti-social behavior rather than asking the victim to shut up and take it. You know, so you and I don’t have to hear about kids committing suicide over bullying. Talking about it and asking for help builds character and makes them stronger too. When you and I were kids, bullying stopped when we got home. Now, with social media, cell phones, and the internet, the bullying is 24/7. There is no safe haven. The methods have changed and become more pervasive.

      (Note that Puig never said he was bullied. It was a witness.)

  7. MyTeamsAllStink - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:04 AM

    might as well change the flag to the rainbow .Such a sissified nation we are now.

    • nategearhart - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:36 AM

      Ah yes, the ol’ “gay = sissy” anachronism. You are a schmuck.

      • pilonflats - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        calling somebody a “schmuck” because you disagree with their view makes you a bully. words have power, remember. if you are going to speak out against bullying don’t be a bully or a bigot yourself…

      • nategearhart - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:24 AM

        pilonflats, I see you all over this thread pulling this stuff. You obviously have no idea what a bully is. Just stop.

      • largebill - Nov 17, 2013 at 8:55 AM

        nategearhart, You obviously have no idea what a̶ ̶b̶u̶l̶l̶y̶ sarcasm is. Just stop.

    • chacochicken - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:09 AM

      Leave Judy Garland out of this.

  8. shaggylocks - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:08 AM

    How is it that stories like this always seem to bring out the folks who lament the passing of the golden age of bullying?

    Ah, I remember being bullied as a kid! Those were the good ol’ days!

    • chacochicken - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:13 AM

      Pepperidge Farm remembers.

    • raysfan1 - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:46 AM

      Because they were likely the bullies and not the bullied.

    • anxovies - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:02 PM

      I lament the American penchant for overreaction and hysteria. Running to mommy because the bad boy said bad things to you has become a national campaign.

      • shaggylocks - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:04 PM

        And gay teens committing suicide? They’re just weak sissies, right? Man up, gay teens!

      • raysfan1 - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:17 PM

        …or the fat kid, or the “weird kid,” or the new kid, or the one with too many freckles.

        Suicide has been one of the top 2 killers of teens dating at minimum to the 1970s when I entered my teenage years.

        The problem isn’t “running to mommy”–it’s that too many are made to feel weak or ashamed when they do step forward.

      • nategearhart - Nov 15, 2013 at 2:08 PM

        I lament that people still raise asshole kids, and that people like you act like their victims are are the ones doing something wrong.

      • cur68 - Nov 15, 2013 at 4:49 PM

        Hey, I was the Black Kid (or, as I was know for a few memorable and laughable years by people who had never seen a Caribbean person before, “The Mexican Kid”: looking back on it, I guess I love that one best of all. I was El Bandito). Anytime you can figure out a way to switch places retrospectively with me, you go ahead. I’d LOVE to see you get on here and run on about how its “overreaction and hysteria” after you had to live it.

  9. chc4 - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:12 AM

    The wussification continues. Pretty soon they will introduce a new soft cloth ball that won’t hurt batters when they get hit. And maybe use pillows for bases so the it feels better under foot.

  10. philly4lyfe - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:16 AM

    everything is way too PC anymore. people need to grow thicker skin.

    • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:54 AM

      Why am I not surprised this comes from Philly?

      • pilonflats - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:04 AM

        don’t be a bully nats lady

      • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:15 AM

        LOL. C’mon, where’s your thick skin???

      • bsbiz - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:43 AM

        And the wussification of commenters on this site continues.

        It used to be that when someone said something mean on the internet, either they got ignored or shouted down. Now they whine about being bullied. Commenters were so much better way back when.

  11. andreweac - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:24 AM

    Don Mattingly is the most overrated manager in baseball. Dodgers should have fired him yet the new regime is more obsessed with PR than McCourt was – and that is saying something…

  12. asexatheani - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:26 AM

    Wow, I wasn’t expecting so many misogynistic macho dickheads in the comments.

    I, for one, do not long for the days when you could treat other people like garbage without consequence.

    • chc4 - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:29 AM

      There’s a county school system in NY that has banned the use of balls during recess b/c students can get hurt. I bet you agree with that.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:03 AM

        Exactly, children getting hurt is funny right?

      • leokitty - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:50 AM

        While I would not push for a ban of using balls during recess, most of the games we played with them in elementary school had a “throw ball as hard at person as possible” aspect. It’s easy to see how and why a ban like that would happen (hint: after someone gets hurt beyond a bruise in their calf).

    • nategearhart - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:32 AM

      Well said. People who make knee-jerk reactions to anything that makes the world different than it was when they were in high school need to stop and really think for a second what it is they are defending.

    • bsbiz - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:34 AM

      Clearly you haven’t been reading these comments for very long…

    • emdash01 - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:42 AM

      I’m not surprised, but it is disappointing. Sure, we don’t know anything about what took place, but it’s great that people are just assuming that the problem is the players are soft because it’s easier than accepting that there might actually be some kind of problem. Good stuff, commenters.

  13. largebill - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:33 AM

    Hesitate to weigh in since the article is light on details, but as with the Dolphins situation this comes down to clubhouse leadership. When you have new players (especially like Puig from another culture) there should be someone in the clubhouse that clues him in on the silliness of rookie acceptance rituals. I’m not arguing there should be serious hazing or risk of injury, but don’t see the harm in silly stuff like making rookies dress funny on one road trip and minor “know your place, Rook!” things like locker assignments, order of taking BP, etc. You’re only a rookie once and then it’s over. Wonder how much the fact that it continued into his second season for Martin played into the Dolphins mess? Did he show up this season believing okay I’m no longer a rookie things will be better only to see same old crap continue leading to feel he’s trapped in a lousy situation.

  14. decimusprime - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:42 AM

    MLB needs to launch an investigation into the bullying of Adrian Beltre…he might be the most bullied athlete in sports. He absolutely hates his head being touched, yet the whole team does it to him everytime he hits a HR.

    • drewy44 - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:14 AM

      ..and every time I’m feeling blue, I turn to YouTube to watch Elvis torture the hell out of him with it. Never fails to cheer me up.

      • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:17 AM

        Ask and ye shall receive

        (bunch of beltre .gifs, with plenty of head touching. Err that’s a bit creepy, but SFW)

      • moogro - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:59 AM

        Loads of fun, church. That’s not bullying, that’s love!

  15. shaggylocks - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:54 AM

    I can’t remember who the player was, but I remember a few years ago hearing about a rookie player from Latin America who flipped out when he found his suit shredded to bits in his locker. The suit had been given to him by his mother when he left for the U.S., and he knew it had cost his mother a lot of money. Sure, he could now afford to buy a new suit and send his mother money, but the “harmless prank” had destroyed something sentimental and irreplaceable.

    But hey, you know, tradition and stuff.

    • moogro - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:01 PM

      There’s a million funnier things to do than the suit-cutting. Boo!

  16. ptfu - Nov 15, 2013 at 10:55 AM

    Some Dodgers were bullying Yasiel Puig–are they stupid or something? Aside from problems with bullying itself, Puig was a huge part of the team winning. Do they want to disrupt him, screw him up? Are they tired of making the playoffs? Do they enjoy being buried in the division and almost getting the manager fired? Did these guys somehow not notice that Puig was a human highlight reel to the point that Vin Scully was left speechless? Were they surprised he almost won the ROY despite playing only half a season?

    Bullying sucks in and of itself. Bullying the meal ticket is even dumber. “Hey, here’s a guy who risked everything on a boat to come here. Dude’s totally new to MLB and America. Despite that, he’s playing incredibly well and keeping us in the race. Best thing is for us to gang up on him and push him off his game.”

    You flippin’ idiots. You Dodgers who did this are morons on multiple levels.

  17. wheels579 - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:19 AM

    The problem here is nobody knows precisely what was done to Puig. Absent facts, how do we know if it was really ‘bullying’ at all? That term is now applied broadly without proper context. Howell did no service to Puig or his teammates by using that hot-button term without providing any context.

  18. psousa1 - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:22 AM

    I guess Joe Maddon’s well publicized rookie hazing, where he has them wear assorted costumes and walk through an airport, will become banned as well. Of course since Joe Maddon is MLB’s resident expert on everything holy he will make sure he publically announces they will ban this practice to insure that Hardball Talk and the Peter Gammons’ of the world get all weepy and emotional when they write “Once again, Joe Maddon shows he is one step ahead of the baseball world”

    • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:48 PM

      I don’t really like what Madden does–it seems silly for grown men to show up publicly in what are, basically, Halloween costumes–but I believe the whole team participates, not just rookies. Do free agents who don’t like it not sign with the Rays (a la Brian Wilson)?

      Oh, wait.

      • gostlcards5 - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:58 PM

        Well, to be fair, Brian Wilson doesn’t need to wear a Halloween costume to look like he’s wearing a Halloween costume.

  19. sabathiawouldbegoodattheeighthtoo - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:29 AM

    Everyone know that only Brian McCann is allowed violently enforce ‘traditions’ among rookies, younger players or anyone who he thinks is deserving in general. So the issue is not that Puig was bullied, but that he was bullied by someone lacking the proper authority.

  20. drewy44 - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:30 AM

    So a superstar was bullied, but I’m gonna keep the details to myself. Great way to be part of the solution there, Jay. Perhaps you realized your next sentence might get you the wrong end of a broom handle in the locker room, or you’d be mocked and derided mercilessly because it was limited to dressing Puig up like Gumby or Puig getting Davy Lopes his coffee. With no details or context, it’s an empty statement.

    “When he’s throwing at someone’s head, you could be going to be a funeral,” Howell said. “To me, that’s a
    bully. He might be a great guy. But, on the baseball field, that is wrong.” This context tells me he’s jumped WAY too far into the bully ocean (based on his personal experience and wife’s monetary gain as an author on the topic), and uses the term too loosely. I suspect he got that from his Amish sect he belongs to.

  21. wonkypenguin - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:38 AM

    My question (as one of those working-out-of-the-house women) is: Aside from tradition and “that’s the way we’ve always done things” – is there actual value to these hazing rituals? Does it really make for a better team? And is there a study (behavioral psychology, whatever) that proves this?

    • sknut - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:49 AM

      And why is the lockerroom/clubhouse the only place this happens. If you start a new job at an office, its not like they make you dress up funny ‘to be part of the team’ or any other ‘harmless’ pranks that are considered part of the culture. Just because its part of the culture does not make it healthy and harmless.

      • NatsLady - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:50 PM

        I don’t think sports lockerooms are the only place it happens. See fraternities/sororities and other “clubs.” The difference–and this is key–is that a professional sports team is a place of employment, not a voluntary association.

      • yahmule - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:01 PM

        You may believe the lockerroom is the only place this happens, but workplace bullying occurs in many professions, especially ones that embrace a callous or macho culture.


        Investment banking.


        There is certainly differences between bullying, hazing and practical jokes. The problem is those lines are drawn in different places for different people.

        Really, though, this is a topic where rational debate on the internet is virtually impossible. On one side, you’re going to have the caveman mentality types who will immediately try to lower the debate to poo flinging. On the other side, you are going to have the 100% zero tolerance people who are going to show empathetic they are by proposing absurdly idealized workplace scenarios that don’t actually account for any human element whatsoever.

        Have at it, folks.

    • ashot - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:03 PM

      Yes. A lot of people seem to be defending odd things for odd reasons when it comes to bullying.
      Hazing? Defend it because its harmless! Shouldn’t teams be looking to things that add value or improve the team rather than those which just are not deemed bad? Not to mention that some people do think these things are harmful.

      But the oddest response is lamenting that victims of bullying no longer respond with acts of physical violence. First being upset that there is less violence in the world is odd. Second, what we should be lamenting is that bullying continues to exist despite the fact that we’ve known it’s harmful since the good old days of the 50’s.

      As for the “use it to make you stronger” comment. I would be interested in knowing how having my car vandalized on a weekly basis in the middle of the night could possibly have made me stronger or how I could have learned from it. At the very least, the “lessons” I learned from these bullies could certainly have been taught in less humiliating ways.

    • churchoftheperpetuallyoutraged - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:11 PM

      Does it really make for a better team? And is there a study (behavioral psychology, whatever) that proves this?

      It depends on what the purpose of the hazing is for. Now, I’m not for hazing where the upperclassmen get the freshmen so drunk they end up in the hospital, and make them do disgusting things that make me want to puke just thinking about them.

      However, the purpose of hazing was to foster a “team” atmosphere. The two times I’ve experienced it were on the soccer team (high school and college). It was a one time thing, and then you were “officially” part of the team. It was no more upperclassmen and freshmen, it was just the varsity team.

      Unfortunately we hear stories of players going through hazing rituals and then continuing to be abused by veteran team members. Well what was the purpose of the hazing ritual then? Was it just to torture an individual (and I’m not using that word lightly, try to find some of the stories from ex-NFL players were they ran a gauntlet of players swinging athletic socks loaded with change at them). Or the supposed 1.5 years of bullying/hazing/whatever that Jonathan Martin claims he was subject to.

  22. scapistron - Nov 15, 2013 at 11:42 AM

    My money is on Nick “Shredder” Punto.

  23. elmo - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:35 PM

    Props to Heather and J.P. Howell. I don’t generally expect maturity from pro athletes, so this is a welcome surprise.

    • elmo - Nov 15, 2013 at 12:38 PM

      Their anti-bullying work, I mean. I have no idea what happened with Puig.

  24. chiadam - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:09 PM

    I love you and your big, champion heart…you jerk.

  25. anxovies - Nov 15, 2013 at 1:15 PM

    Personally, after becoming a Minister of Death Praying for War I never had much trouble from bullies.

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