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What Babe Ruth, Cy Young Ted Williams and . . . Yasiel Puig have in common

Jun 2, 2014, 2:30 PM EST

Puig Bat Flip

Jon Weisman of Dodger Insider has a nice perspective-inducing article today. He spoke with baseball historians John Thorn and Rob Neyer about Yasiel Puig and they noted how the sort of criticism he gets — “He’s unschooled! He’s undisciplined! He’s disrespectful” — is in keeping with a long, long baseball tradition. Indeed, some of baseball’s all-time greats got the same treatment.

Thorn on Ted Williams, who used to take practice swings in the outfield and didn’t adhere to the codes of the day about who talked to whom and how:

“He was thought to be nearly demented. He was absolutely in his own head. … Because we hold Williams in such reverence today, those who don’t have a grasp of the full history of the man will not recognize that he was made fun of when he was brought in.”

Neyer on Ruth:

“. . . the winter after the Red Sox traded him to the Yankees, the Reach Guide, which was the bible of the American League at this point, referred to Ruth as an undesirable and uncontrollable player and basically editorialized that the Red Sox were smart to get rid of him and the Yankees were stupid to pick him up. … The biggest issue was that he didn’t seem to care what the established rules of the game were, and he tried things that hadn’t been tried before.”

None of which is to say that Puig will be a Hall of Famer — it’s ridiculously early to say such things — but if he does become one, the start of his career and the treatment he gets from some quarters will have been in keeping with that experienced by many Hall of Famers who came before.

  1. hoopmatch - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:36 PM

    Everyone believes in the concept of “thinking outside the box,” but people who actually DO it are often condemned and derided.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 2, 2014 at 2:43 PM

      It’s a pretty good box. There’s very few people who can thrive outside of it.

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:55 PM

      Galileo and Mozart.

      • recoveringcubsfan - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:55 PM

        Also, all schizophrenics. Give ‘em bats and gloves!

  2. musketmaniac - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:03 PM

    Do not confuse old white trash with today’s young talent.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:21 PM

      They used to call Babe Ruth “N*gger Lips.” And Williams’s mother was Mexican.

      But you’ve really elevated the conversation here. Thanks!

      • yahmule - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:07 PM

        Always fun to see someone’s stupid comment get so thoroughly and succinctly bodyslammed. Good job, 18thstreet.

    • jackvcr - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:08 PM

      Moron.

    • matt14gg - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:37 PM

      The subtext of every Calcaterra article is to point out what miserable racists we all are. This one of course does not disappoint. Even better are the lemmings who play along so they can declare to the world they are not racists. The game of race baiters is that if they can point out someone else who is racist it somehow not only takes the heat off of them, but it makes them look like heroes. Quite often, deep down, like many homophobes, they are merely hiding their own true racist attitudes. I suspect Calcaterra and “musketmaniac” are no different.

      • Craig Calcaterra - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:52 PM

        Hahaha, that’s quite the little logic pretzel you’ve created. Good effort, dude.

      • yahmule - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:04 PM

        I’m prejudiced against stupidity.

  3. proudlycanadian - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:10 PM

    I was thinking that the answer was that none of them had Scott Boras as an agent.

  4. metalhead65 - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:28 PM

    you just mentioned him with some of baseballs all time greats. if that is not fan boy hyperbole I don’t know what is.

    • doctorofsmuganomics - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:14 PM

      Now try reading.

      Wait, silly me; there’s only one picture. Get someone to read it to you.

  5. musketmaniac - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:37 PM

    Williams mother was part spanish. and the Baby was German-American.

  6. yankeessuckameanone - Jun 2, 2014 at 3:55 PM

    The way Craig get a thrill up his leg about Puig is exactly what the media was like when Obama first became president. It took a while before they realized he wasn’t that big of a deal.

  7. whatacrocker - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:02 PM

    Who are three people who have never been in my kitchen?

  8. illuminancer - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    You’re sitting there writing “Mr. and Mr. Yasiel Puig” in your notebook with little hearts, aren’t you Craig? Nothing wrong with that–I just ordered my orange #40 Giants jersey and was trying to figured out when Mad Bum became hot–but I don’t assume that just because I want to climb him like a tree (which yes, is a little weird because I’m possibly older than his actual mother) he’s therefore the Best Pitcher Ever. He’s really good, but he’s not even the best lefty starter in the NL West. I’m certainly not going to compare him to two Hall of Famers just because some people don’t like his attitude and I think he’s awesome.

    I probably wouldn’t dislike Puig so intensely–Dodger or not–if I didn’t hear about every move he makes and every step he takes, and wasn’t told over and over and over and over again how he’s Ruth and Williams and DiMaggio and Mays (Which, really? Seriously?) all rolled into one awesome and amazing package after he’s been in the majors all of one year.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:28 PM

      and wasn’t told over and over and over and over again how he’s Ruth and Williams and DiMaggio and Mays

      Name three people that aren’t just fans. I’ll sit here waiting

      • illuminancer - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:57 PM

        Craig
        Harold Reynolds
        ESPN

  9. shyts7 - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:22 PM

    Seems like a stretch with those comparisons. So basically if someone is declared difficult you can compare them to some greats. Compare their stats not something like being difficult. If you want to get on Puig’s junk, move to ESPN. They can’t seem to get enough of him, even though there is another guy in Los Angeles and plays centerfield that is a better overall player and is one of the top 2 players in the majors.

    • [citation needed] fka COPO - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:31 PM

      even though there is another guy in Los Angeles and plays centerfield that is a better overall player and is one of the top 2 players in the majors.

      I assume you are referring to Kemp? But he’s definitely not one of the two best players in the majors, and hasn’t been for awhile.

      ’13-’14
      Puig: .329/.407/.563 – 171 OPS+; 156 GP
      Kemp: .262/.319/.405 – 103 OPS+; 121 GP

      Kemp hasn’t put up a 4rWAR season since ’11. Puig did it last year and is well on his way to doing it again this year.

      • hoopmatch - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:44 PM

        He probably referred to Trout, COPO.

      • Professor Fate - Jun 2, 2014 at 8:45 PM

        Except Trout isn’t in L.A.

      • shyts7 - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:42 AM

        I’m glad you did all that research. I guess I have to spell it out for some. The guy I was talking about was Mike Trout.

    • 18thstreet - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:49 PM

      It’s okay — we’ll talk about Trout when it’s time to discuss MVPs. Because that didn’t get tired at all.

      • proudlycanadian - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:15 PM

        Just don’t talk about Trout and frying pans in the same paragraph.

    • nbjays - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:05 PM

      Mike Trout has definitely been better for longer, but at this point in the 2014 season, Puig is beating Trout in almost every offensive category there is.

    • moogro - Jun 2, 2014 at 7:02 PM

      Trout plays in Anaheim, in the American League. Kemp plays in Los Angeles, in the National League.

      • nbjays - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:48 PM

        That would be the LOS ANGELES Angels of Anaheim… which is likely what Shyts was referring to.

      • shyts7 - Jun 4, 2014 at 11:46 AM

        As nbjays stated, Mike Trout plays for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. While technically the Angels are not in Los Angeles, they are apart of the Los Angeles metro area, sort of the same way the Washington Redskins are not in Washington but are apart of the Washington metro area.

  10. Jon Weisman - Jun 2, 2014 at 4:49 PM

    The story explicitly ends with Thorn asking the question, “Will Puig be a flash in the pan?” So I don’t quite understand why people are insisting the story is elevating Puig to the level of Ruth, Williams, etc.

    The goal of the story was to point out that many of the things said in the past year about Puig were similar to things said about some of the most revered players in baseball. It could have been written about another current young talent, I suppose, but I’m not sure a current young talent has drawn as much derision as Puig.

    I thought it was interesting to find a thread between Cy Young and Yasiel Puig. I thought it was interesting that Ted Williams, thought by some as the epitome of Old School respect of the game, was seen as the opposite when he was at Puig’s level of experience. However Puig’s career turns out, I don’t think it’s irrelevant to give some perspective to the common narrative that surrounds him. But of course you’re welcome to disagree.

    • recoveringcubsfan - Jun 2, 2014 at 6:01 PM

      I thnk that when you invent a false comparison between a new player and all-time greats and you suggest that new guy shares something with the ATGs, then end with “but only time…will tell. Dum dum DUMMM!!!!” then yeah, you are being thick to turn around and say, “oh, but I never meant to imply… Oh, my word!” (Author faints dead away).

      Being disingenuous is getting to be a real membership card around here.

      I still think Yasiel Puig acts like a jerk on the field. (Shows self out)

      • paperlions - Jun 2, 2014 at 7:26 PM

        This is why. Because people didn’t bother reading the story to understand the basis of comparison, which has little to do with baseball ability and everything to do with the attitude of the baseball establishment toward those players.

  11. sophiethegreatdane - Jun 2, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    I wish this guy would come break all the unwritten rules for my team.

  12. mikhelb - Jun 2, 2014 at 6:53 PM

    There are a few interviews of Ted Williams talking about how MLB players and the media did not like him because he was of mexican descent, and word got out he changed his name because it was the only way he could play professional baseball. One of those “rarities” when a white hispanic player was discriminated by white anglosaxon and the few jewish players that existed in MLB and at the same time also discriminated by black players because even when he was part of a minority, he was white (unlike other hispanic players who were welcomed in black leagues because they were blacks). Really a hard time to be a baseball player when all those prejudices were rampant not only inside baseball but in society (there are players from the Negroe Leagues or whatever they were called who played in México for Pasquel and others and said what a wonderful experience it was to feel welcomed everywhere and to be an integral part of society and not being discriminated). SABR has various articles on that subject which can open a few eyes for those who think it did not happen.

    • koufaxmitzvah - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:11 AM

      I think your portrayal of Jews as being a minor part of the establishment of baseball, and that the Black players actively kept to themselves as a form of reverse discrimination, is far fetched at best.

  13. yahmule - Jun 2, 2014 at 9:11 PM

    Ted Williams was disliked because he did not suffer idiots easily. Tough attitude to cop in professional sports.

  14. musketmaniac - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:00 PM

    Testy, sensitive people.
    A. I called them old white trash, not the common phrase `poor white trash`. so their complete ethnicity wasn’t totally what I was referring to. They represent yesterday games, as bleached as you people might not want to admit. And they are Old. and it’s people like a few on here always casting judgment/ comparison with today’s players that are normally unfair and negative. Trash
    B. there is no b. my buccos are coming on

    • yahmule - Jun 2, 2014 at 10:24 PM

      C. You’re a moron with nothing worthwhile to add to the conversation.

    • The Almighty Cabbage - Jun 3, 2014 at 8:49 AM

      And a pirates fan.

  15. ch0psuey - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:24 AM

    In no way should Cuba trash be mentioned in the same sentence as previous Studs as the game. Shame on you Craig. Jesus.

    • billyboots - Jun 3, 2014 at 12:55 PM

      Did you read the article? If so, you missed the point entirely. If not, shut up.

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