Sports media has this tendency to take an athlete, build them up, and continue to shove them down our throats well past the sell-by date. You know the names that it’s happened with in the past – Tim Tebow, LeBron James, and Johnny Manziel are just three of the players that have dominated the airwaves since they burst onto the scene. The MLB season hasn’t officially kicked off yet (unless you’re fond of significant games taking place in Australia a week before the regular season starts), and yet, we’re already reaching a critical mass with another athlete – Yasiel Puig of the Dodgers.
The 23-year old Cuban phenom took the league by storm following his June debut last year, and no one has looked back. PuigMania has taken the baseball world by storm, and it’s threatening to turn into a typhoon before the season has even kicked into gear. Everything that happens involving Puig is a major story, whether he has a clubhouse meeting with manager Don Mattingly, complains about nagging injuries, misses the cut off man on a throw, or is overly aggressive on the bases. The obsession with Puig is completely overwhelming, and everything that happens surrounding him is not only deemed important, it’s deemed critical to the success or failure of the Dodgers.
This isn’t just an ESPN thing, either. The only player who can compete with Puig and the articles written about him over the past few months is Derek Jeter. The columns abut Puig encompass the entire spectrum on what’s awful about the online sports media, including race baiting, appeals to authority, vehement defenses, and everything in between. David J. Roth did a great job of recapping this junk over at SBNation. It’s maddening. Puig gets thrown out on the bases trying to make something happen, and he’s a disgrace to baseball. Ryan Theriot gets a whole statistic measuring terrible baserunning named after him, and he’s still a happy scrappy hero pup.
The worst part about all of this Puigmania is the fatigue aspect of it. I love watching Puig play baseball, but guess what? I don’t need to see literally *every* thing he does on the field. If you’re cutting in to show me a Puig at bat in the eighth inning of a 7-0 game, things have gone too far. I don’t care. I won’t care, unless he’s trying for a historical achievement.
The worst part of Puig Fatigue is some sportswriters are trying to use the Dodgers star to launch attacks against other writers they look down their noses at.
Only reporters who brag about their lack of access defend Yasiel Puig. If you've been within 20 feet of him, you get the complaints.
— Chris Jones (@MySecondEmpire) March 26, 2014
It’s insignificant, doesn’t matter, and is just pissing everybody off to the point that we’re forgetting what we’re even arguing about in the first place.
One other thing re: Puig coverage: Accusing reporters you don't know of being racist because of their color is nothing less than racism.
— Buster Olney (@Buster_ESPN) March 27, 2014
We are rapidly approacing that point of no return with Yasiel Puig. Those articles repeating the same talking points over and over again are simply going to continue this season. We’re not going to hear about the Dodgers winning 5-3 because of a great game from Hanley Ramirez, we’re going to hear about how Puig nearly cost them the game by doing something that most players do.
I really hope we don’t ruin the joy of watching Yasiel Puig play baseball – he’s an incredibly exciting player that can be one of MLB’s most marketable stars if they play their cards right. But I fear that’s exactly where we are headed.
The line needs to be toed between promotion and overexposure. Everyone in MLB has to be wary to save Yasiel Puig from turning into little more than a debate point. Otherwise, Puig is going to be a player that people hate simply because he’s being shoved down their throats every time they look at the TV. And at a time when baseball needs everything it can to feel good about itself, that would be a real shame.