"I might do damage, so I leave it alone," Robinson said. "I can't teach him anything this way. I can't help him with the mental parts of the game -- slumps, approach, state of mind. It's awkward. Frustrating. He would feel better, and I would feel better, if I could reach him, but I can't. He's on his own."
Robinson was asked whether he knew anything personal about his star.
"No," he said.
Read anything or seen any TV coverage that gave any meaningful insight into him?
"No," he said.
As a manager, someone who has to push the right buttons to motivate, how do you remedy that?
"You don't," he said.
That's the hands-off approach. Let an artist be an artist, and proudly put the painting on the wall as is without demanding he stay inside the lines. We are so much more handsy in this country and in 2014 about fame and sports, and Puig radiates a kind of get-your-hands-the-hell-off-me that doesn't go over so well in the cathedrals ballplayers have made of their playpens. So everyone from the media to his manager has worked to get him in line already, damn it.
Even gentleman poet Vin Scully, voice of baseball, calls Puig "a wild horse," an animal that must be tamed or broken, and the media clucks in agreement, calling a very proud human being an animal. Funny, Puig is supposed to be the one with the language problem.
And, of course, Puig should be punctual and professional. Of course. The clock is one of the few things not affected by the language barrier. Of course. But anyone can understand how a 23-year-old kid, the second-youngest on the team's 40-man roster, might be late to stretching in Miami last year because he was out on South Beach partying with LeBron James. Like it? No. Tolerate it? No. Understand it? Yes.
And, of course, Puig should stop speeding in his Rolls-Royce and his Mercedes. Of course. Even though the prevailing car in his shackled-to-the-1950s homeland remains the cruddy Russian Lada. Of course he should slow down in every way. But, um, that night with Snoop Dogg at the Playboy Mansion, that was kind of fun. And he kind of defected, leaving behind the land and people he loved, because he dreamed of his skills being rewarded with fast cars like those.
And, of course, he should respect his craft and stay in shape. Of course. Of course. But you know why his minor league meals were always steak and eggs and double portions of hash browns and two milkshakes? Because he couldn't get that stuff when he was young, or anything like it. The food is rationed in his country. So, once he got here, to our shores and to our excess, he was eating like a man-child who had two decades of hunger to feed.
That's the thing that always gets forgotten with the poor Hispanic guys like Puig. Once they get the seven year, $42 million contract he got upon arrival, they've already won. That's the finish line. That's their championship. We don't like it. The employer certainly doesn't, and shouldn't. But that's what teams are buying. Anything the employer gets after that is born of the player's personal pride and love of game, things that can get contaminated in, you know, Los Angeles, when the models and celebrities and photographers and temptations start flooding in to complete the portrait of the American dream some Cubans literally throw their life to the wind to chase.