Before you pile on atop irresponsible diva-punk-jerk Yasiel Puig, absorb a few random stories about the difficulties in his kind of transition:
• Luis Castillo
once set off a fire alarm in an American hotel, thinking it was a shampoo dispenser.
• Euclides Rojas accidentally bought dog food for his son. He saw a smiling kid on the can. He didn't know there was such a thing as food just for dogs in this country.
• Jose Fernandez
crawled around in the airport bathroom, trying to figure out how to flush and wash his hands, not knowing anything about sensors.
• Rene Arocha felt his knees give -- actually felt faint and almost passed out -- the first time he walked into a grocery store and saw so many aisles of food.
• Ariel Prieto
didn't know anything about banks or credit cards or our currency, so he walked around for more than a week with his $1.2 million signing bonus in the pocket of his jeans.
• Livan Hernandez
decided to defect because, when the national team went abroad, he was tired of stealing soap and detergent he didn't have back home to wash his uniform.
• Hall of Famer Tony Perez ordered apple pie a la mode his first month in America, even for breakfast, because he didn't recognize anything else on the menu and didn't want to sound stupid or disrespectful asking too many questions. (Perez still
doesn't bother to correct anyone that his name is actually Tani, short for Atanasio. Soft "a." Pronounced Tah-knee. But he made sure "Atanasio" is what it says on his Hall of Fame plaque.)
• Manny Ramirez
, breast-fed until he was 6 years old because of the poverty, once asked his agent -- even after signing a $160 million contract -- whether he could afford a house in Pembroke Pines, Fla., for his parents. His agent turned to him and said, "Manny, you can afford this whole damn neighborhood."
And one more:
In terms of style, Vladimir Guerrero's most closely resembled Puig's. Reckless. Raw. But so overwhelmingly skilled. Guerrero was Puig before Puig, albeit soaked in fear instead of defiance, but he got to make his mistakes pre-Internet, and more quietly in Canada. Guerrero drank from puddles as a child. He had a fifth-grade education because his mother had to put him to work in the fields.
Guerrero's mother lived with him as a major leaguer because he was so scared of everything new and different and awful outside, and he wanted something, anything, that felt more like home. But you have to wonder how all of that plays out differently, how we and fame would mutate Guerrero, if we had dropped him in Los Angeles and immediately demanded that he star for the city and the country and the sport beginning at 22.
Don Mattingly feels comfortable criticizing Puig publicly. Guerrero's manager, so-rugged Hall of Famer Frank Robinson, didn't feel comfortable enough to even talk to Guerrero. On things like errant throws during games, Robinson wanted to approach Guerrero in the dugout after the inning but feared Guerrero might miss out on tone and think he was being reprimanded.