We have witnessed many top athletes suffer a fall from grace, but few have slumped quite so dramatically. Cuban baseball star Yaisel Puig successfully made a name for himself in MLB, and he enjoyed many years at the top of his profession.
At the age of 32, he should be in his prime, but a host of legal issues have brought a halt to his promising career. Is there any way back, or has Puig’s time in the big league come to an end?
A National Hero
He certainly wasn’t the first Cuban to play in Major League Baseball, but Yaisel Puig enjoyed a more solid career than many of his compatriots. A right field, he joined the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2013 and went on to enjoy six productive seasons at Dodger Stadium.
While his team failed to win major honors, Puig was an important part of the roster. In 2014, he received significant personal recognition when he featured in the All Star Game.
By the time he left the Dodgers in 2019, issues away from the field had already taken their toll. Puig would finish his MLB career with two brief stints at the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians.
At the Reds, he was involved in bench clearing brawls that led to suspension. Similar problems in Cleveland led to a departure from MLB. He was last involved with Kiwoom Heroes in South Korea, so how did he get from Major League Baseball to the KBO League?
A Charity Ambassador
A member of the national baseball team for many years, Yaisel Puig was very much a hero in his native Cuba. He also became involved in a series of charitable activities and, in 2016, he created the Wild Horse Children’s Foundation.
As part of the many fundraising activities that Puig undertook on behalf of his own charity, a celebrity poker night in 2017 proved to be a particular success. Many of his own LA Dodgers teammates were present including Clayton Kershaw, Chase Utley and Kenley Jansen.
The fact that so many of the Dodgers’ roster were in attendance is a sign that Yaisel Puig was held in high esteem at that point. However, matters were all set to change.
Let the Infighting Commence
A seemingly happy night at the poker tables may have been masking problems between Puig and some of his colleagues. If things were calm at that point, they would soon turn sour.
He would fall out with many of his teammates and those clashes were high profile. Even worse were his misdemeanors away from the field of play. A series of speeding and an assault conviction are listed on Puig’s crime sheet, while 2023 sees him facing up to trial based on accusations of lying and obstruction.
It’s a major fall from grace, but is there a chance of redemption further down the line?
Puig’s Impressive Stats
While he finished his MLB career with the Cincinnati Reds and the Cleveland Indians, there’s no doubt that Yaisel Puig’s best years of service came at the LA Dodgers.
His stats show an overall return of 132 home runs in his career, so there was some clear quality with the bat in hand. Puig also claimed 834 hits and 441 runs, many of which were instrumental in tight games.
Other impressive returns come in his slugging stats and his stolen bases. While he wasn’t exactly irreplaceable, Yaisel Puig became an important hitter for the Dodgers over a number of seasons, and he was missed after his initial departure in 2019.
Undoubtedly, there were some issues but many Dodgers fans look back on Puig’s career with fondness. Some of those supporters will also be asking if there is any chance of a hero’s return.
Is there a way back to Major League Baseball?
Two factors need to be considered before making a verdict on Yaisel Puig’s potential return to Major League Baseball. Firstly, are the disciplinary issues that have dogged his career finally behind him and, secondly, is the quality still there?
Both questions are highly debatable: While the fights could be overlooked, Puig has been implicated in certain legal issues which go far beyond the code of conduct expected by MLB. As a result, few expect him to be able to reclaim a place in the Majors.
His issues with discipline could be addressed and, while those bench-clearing brawls dominated his later years in the MLB, there’s always a chance for anyone to fully reform. Quality is, however, under the spotlight with suggestions that Puig had significant struggles against left handed pitchers.
It would be a great shame if Yaisel Puig has played his last MLB game. He may yet have something to offer, but the truth is that the road back may just be too long.