Few players in the Major Leagues swing the swag of Yasiel Puig. He’s the dude with the frosted tips in his hair, the one whose cantaloupe biceps were flashing last week when the Cincinnati Reds sported cut off sleeves in a throwback look.
He puts the illumination in flash.
Puig also has a hair-trigger temper. You might see it in the dugout when he slams his bat against the wall. Or you might see it on the field when he feels one of his teammates has been taken advantage of. If nothing else, the guy is loyal and he’s willing to take and throw punches to show it.
Wednesday was a busy day for Puig, one that began with the Reds, continued with his trade to the Cleveland Indians and ended with him in the middle of another huge brawl with the Pittsburgh Pirates after he’d already been told he’d been dealt.
In case you haven’t heard, the Pirates and Reds detest each other and their tempers have flared twice with beanball wars that have brought bullpens racing from the outfield to join the fun. Puig has been the main event in both fights.
Anyway, on Wednesday, a wayward first pitch of the ninth inning from Cincinnati’s Jared Hughes re-ignited tensions when it hit Pittsburgh’s Starling Marte. Before you knew it, four Reds (including Puig) and four Pirates were tossed.
“The ball just slipped and it was real unfortunate and a lot of bad things happened afterward,” said Hughes after the game.
The Pirates got things going earlier this season by throwing at Cincinnati outfielder Derek Dietrich who they felt spent too much time admiring his home runs.
Dietrich entered the game late on Tuesday, but in enough time to take a fastball up-and-in from Pirates reliever Keona Kela in the eighth inning. That’s the play that resulted in Marte getting hit by Hughes.
“I just wanted to show them that we didn’t agree with the way things went down, and you have to pitch in,” said Kela. “I was just going my part.”
Between innings, Reds first baseman Joey Votto got after Kela and explained later that he was just standing up for his teammates.
The umpires had wisely warned both benches after Marte was hit, but it was to no avail. Hughes was ejected, but reliever Amir Garrett immediately got into a verbal confrontation with the Pirates bench, charged at it and immediately began swinging with his fists.
“I definitely do think they teach that in that organization,” said Garrett. “I don’t think it’s right to throw at somebody. That’s not something you should do. If you have a problem, handle it like a man.
“I don’t know what to say. I got out of character. That’s not my character. I don’t pretend to be a tough guy.”
Puig was right in the middle of the brawl, as was Reds manager David Bell, who had already been ejected in the eighth after arguing balls and strikes. He ran back on the field when the fight started with Pirates manager Clint Hurdle on his mind. A Pirates coach but Bell in a headlock.
“That’s crazy,” said Puig of the inning.
When Puig left the field, Reds fans applauded. By then they already knew he’d been included in the three-way trade with the Indians and San Diego Padres that brought pitcher Trevor Bauer to the Reds.
On Wednesday, Major League Baseball announced it was reviewing video of the fight and both teams were anticipating multiple suspensions. Hurdle spoke with chief baseball officer Joe Torre before Wednesday’s game.
“Yeah, I anticipate suspensions, and seeing some of the things that our guys were involved with, there definitely could be ramifications coming our way as well,” Hurdle said.
That probably means Puig’s career with Cleveland is going to start serving a multiple-game suspension.
But he’s likely OK with it. He loved his teammates. After the game, Puig took time to tweet his thanks to the Reds, their fans and the city of Cincinnati.
“It has been an honor and a pleasure to play for this historic team,” Puig wrote. “Since the day I was traded from LA, I felt the love from this city, and I’ve enjoyed every moment since then.”
“I’m going to miss all of my teammates here. This part of the year has been amazing for me, being on this team with my teammates and the city. I’m leaving a lot of love. Now it’s time to move forward and go to my new team and help my team get to the playoffs.”
After his postgame session was completed with the media, he shook every reporter’s hand and thanked them for working with him this season. And you don’t see that very often.
Puig is hitting .255 with 22 home runs and 60 RBIs for the Reds. The Indians will be his third team in less than a season. He was traded by the Los Angeles Dodgers to the Reds in the offseason after spending six years with them. He is a free agent after the season.
But you know that wherever he lands, he’s going to rock the way he loves to roll. And that means there always a chance Puig is going to put on a show.