Memorably dubbed "The Wild Horse" by legendary Dodgers announcer Vin Scully, Yasiel Puig spent six unforgettable seasons in Los Angeles. Puig was shipped along with outfielder Matt Kemp, starting pitcher Alex Wood and catcher Kyle Farmer to Cincinnati in exchange for pitcher Homer Bailey and two prospects on Friday afternon, arguably the biggest blockbuster of the offseason thus far. The departure of Puig, who will be a free agent after the 2019 season, opens up rightfield for the Dodgers, a position many believe will be occupied by free agent Bryce Harper next season.
Thrilling to some, irritating to others, the Cuban defector was either one of your favorite players or one of your most hated when he played in blue. He endured stereotypes that have hounded Latin American players for generations—often criticized as a cocky showboat whose emotional volatility detracted from his phenomenal physical talents—while wowing audiences with his bold decisions on the basepaths, his powerful throws from rightfield and his enormous bat flips in big moments.
He drew the ire of a handful opponents (most frequently Giants starting pitcher Madison Bumgarner), and sometimes his own teammates (author Molly Knight documented all kinds of immature antics during Puig's rookie season in her book The Best Team Money Can Buy), but he remained one of the game's most entertaining players. Most alluring about Puig as a Dodger, however, was his general zest for life and the game of baseball. Whether you like his antics or not, the game feels more alive when he is playing.
When Puig entered Major League Baseball, bat flips and exuberance were still frowned upon as unnecessary showmanship and disrespectful to opponents. Now, MLB runs marketing campaigns encouraging the type of emotion that was discouraged for so long. Puig is no small reason why the shift in mindset has occurred.
Here is a brief history of Yasiel Puig's six-year tenure as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers, the team that will stick with his identity for the rest of his career.
1. The Debut Week
He doubled a runner off first base to secure a 2–1 win, he hit four home runs (including one grand slam), he made one of the best throws of the year to throw out the speedy Andrelton Simmons at third. Puig caught the attention of plenty of fans with an exceptional spring training performance in 2013, but he electrified all of baseball with one of the most thrilling debut weeks in baseball history.
2. The Bat-Flip Triple
When Puig made contact with this pitch from Adam Wainwright in Game 3 of the 2013 NLCS, he thrust his hands skyward, sending the bat flying as he walked and admired his hit. There was one problem: it didn't clear the fences. Thanks to a wonky bounce that forced Cardinals OF Carlos Beltran, Puig's misreading of his own hit allowed him to break into a full sprint—one of the most majestic sights in baseball—and throw his hands up in celebration before reaching third. The Dodgers would lose the series, but Puig again made an impact in a big playoff series.
3. The Puig-Bumgarner Feud
Perhaps Madison Bumgarner and Yasiel Puig's feud will cool now that the two are no longer divisional rivals. It started in 2014 when Puig flipped his bat much to the dismay of Bumgarner—known to bark at players who he believes are showing him up—which started, as the above video puts it, a beautiful friendship.
4. The Tongue Wag
The Dodgers spent most of the 2017 NLDS punishing the overmatched Arizona Diamondbacks. The most memorable part of that series was the eminently GIF-able moment when he wagged his tongue after a triple.
5. That Time He Did the Worm
I don't have anything to add to this.
6. When He Homered Five Times over 24 Hours
Puig had maybe the best 24 hours of any player in Major League history after hitting two homers on Friday night against the Cardinals before hitting three more the next afternoon.
7. The NLCS Game 7 Home Run
Without this hit, the Dodgers may not have won the 2018 National League pennant. His celebration going around first base was also one of his finest.
8. The World Series Game 4 Home Run
Perhaps it's just a source of pain for most Dodger fans now—the late-inning collapse from the bullpen all but handed the World Series to Boston—but it should have been the hallmark moment for Puig as a Dodger. The arms raised, the fans' explosion, the thrill of (seemingly) getting back into the series. Puig leaves the Dodgers as the franchise leader in playoff games played. This moment probably should have been savored by Dodger fans forever. Instead, it's a cruel reminder of what got away.
9. His Bromance with Hitting Coach Turner Ward
At least there's a happy ending here: Ward, whom Puig loved to kiss after hitting home runs and who is credited with Puig's growth as a hitter, took the Cincinnati hitting coach job to be closer to his family. Now, the two are reunited.