By Jon Weisman
We’re not really the sum of all our parts. We’re more the multiplication of them.
The fractions of ourselves don’t neatly add up in tidy columns. They clash and they explode like calculus.
So just in the past several days, the answer to Yasiel Puig involves finding the product of this:
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In the sixth inning of Tuesday’s 8-2 Dodger victory, one moment after he crossed home plate with the Dodgers’ fifth run, two moments after he stood at home plate while watching a hit of his not leave the park — losing an extra base in the process — Dave Roberts solved for X. He took Puig out of the game, as Chad Thornburg of MLB.com details.
“In my opinion, he should have been on second base,” Roberts said. “When we talk about playing the game the right way, we’ve got to be accountable. So that was the decision that I made.”
Puig did his own calculations, and came up with the same result.
“I should have run out that ball,” Puig said. “It was a bad decision on my part. It was a good decision on the manager’s part. It shows not only myself, but the rest of my teammates that you have to run out every single ball.”
As math problems go, Puig is Ph. D. level. It’s not that Clayton Kershaw or Chase Utley aren’t more complex than they appear on paper (they’re human beings, after all), but their places on the number line are pretty easily found.
With Puig, the tendency for fans and media is to focus on single variables, rather than the product. (By the way, if I’m getting any of this stuff wrong, I last took a math class in 1985, so forgive me.) My belief, my strong belief, is that with Puig, you really have to work all the factors — all the hitting, fielding, throwing, speed, aggressiveness, decision-making, clubhouse, community, pregame, in-game, postgame, humor, culture-shock, character, behavioral, love-of-life factors — to even begin to get a grasp on him.
Some of those factors — good, bad and ugly — jump off the page like they were on a trampoline, and they cloud the calculation. But you have to stick to it. You don’t get to pick and choose, any more than you do with any other, less leapfroggy player.
In some ways, Puig remains spectacular. In others, he has been a disappointment. And some of those ways fluctuate day-to-day, hour-to-hour, inning-to-inning, base-to-base. Perhaps we’re honing in on what Puig is or isn’t, what he will or will not be. But I wouldn’t dare underestimate his ability to surprise — and turn all your numbers upside down.