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Dodgers: Mark McGwire Reveals the One Thing That Held Yasiel Puig Back

The former hitting coach revealed what stopped Puig from winning multiple MVP awards.

Yasiel Puig’s time with the Dodgers was full of ridiculous highs, and a few lows. The Cuban phenom came to Los Angeles and set the baseball world on fire back 2013, and it was a whirlwind from that moment on. 

Mark McGwire knows a thing or two about hitting, and he served as the Dodgers’ hitting coach starting in 2013, Puig’s first year. As it turns out, Big Mac felt that Puig wasted a lot of his potential with his off-field antics and personality. He talked about Puig’s career recently on am570

The outside world pulled him away from what the games all about…if he had the mindset of Michael Jordan…I said he was gonna have two maybe three MVP’s, that’s the kind of talent he has…you have to think about the way he was raised and how he grew up and the stories of how he got over here. And then you’re given a lot of money…You have this great talent, and it’s not being used properly. To me it’s not physical, it’s all mental. 

The statement might not have gone over well with the Dodgers faithful, as there were quick and sharp responses on Twitter. It’s no secret that Puig’s larger-than-life personality got him into trouble on more than one occasion. In fact, it likely didn’t help his cause when the Dodgers demoted him to the minor leagues back in 2016.

But to say that Puig’s lack of focus cost him a couple of MVP awards seems like a reach. Puig only received MVP votes in his first two seasons with the Dodgers, and has never come close to MVP caliber numbers. Maybe McGwire saw something that we did not, but then again, he never won an MVP Award either. 

What do you think? Is Big Mac out of line here?

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Written by Brook Smith

Brook is the Senior Editor of Dodgers Nation, with several years of experience in sports journalism. He is an avid Dodgers and Lakers fan, and can be spotted fairly often at Dodger Stadium and Staples Center.

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  1. Puig has great talent as far as throwing and fielding. Hitting is another thing. In the majors pitchers adjust to your weakness. You have to adjust back. He never really could do that. Things probably came to easy for him on the way to the majors. Once here too many people giving him to many things to think about. He is not use to that plus I agree his out side life is a distraction! What makes McGuire such a good hitting coach? Remember he used performance drugs to help himself!

    • Another Guggenheim blunder. They rushed him up instead of him learning how to be a professional in the minors first. Too much too fast. They did this because their 250M dollar team was somehow floundering into June

  2. I happen to agree with MMc. We all knew YP had the talent, but not the focus. Maybe Anthony Rendon was right not coming to LA, thinking the Hollywood lights would be a distraction. Turned out to be for Puig. I liked MMc’s reference to MJ – the overwhelming desire to beat your opponent. You expect it of yourself and of all others on your team. I miss Puig, but know why they traded him. Too bad really.

  3. Puig didn’t have the coaches he needed, it’s that simple. Puig had the fielding, running, power and contact hitting needed to reach the next level. Had he been instilled in a better, more stringent based camp, he would have flourished. Look what Phil Jackson did with World Metta Peace (aka Ron Artist).

    • Called up too fast because of Guggenheim greed. They weren’t about to have their big expensive team flop and miss the playoffs.

  4. First of all Drugs don’t help hit the ball as far as ball striking goes…it does keep you at or near your best.physically ..you don’t tire and when you do make contact it does go further…Then again the best coaches were not the best players…EVERYBODY WAS DOING DRUGS IN THE 80’S

  5. Not every one used drugs in the 80s. Those that did became better hitters and yes hit the ball further! Once they were caught their skills changed! Every one improved under the influence! Pitchers Clemens Hitters Big Poppi Rodriguez Sosa Bonds Bonilla etc.

  6. I have never seen a bigger waste of God given talent than Yasiel Puig. Mac is right. Puig definitely had MVP ability, but his mental game was almost non-existent. Mac is being kind to call it a lack of focus. I call it being a self centered jerk.

  7. Dodger fans just being dodger fans. You can’t speak the truth about our players and team without it being looked at as disrespect. Everything McGuire said was spot on but they don’t want to hear it because he’ll always be known as an Oakland Athletic and St. Louis Cardinal. They should remember that McGuire was right there fighting for us when Kirk Gibson’s classless Diamondbacks intentionally headhunted Puig and Greinke back in 2013

  8. His talent allowed him to get away with foolishness his whole life. Then it stopped being cute. Where’s his motivation? He’s richer than anyone ever will be in Cuba.

  9. Big Mac is right!and Puig is only 29,he can still become an mvp type of player but needs the Mamba mentality.

  10. I don’t think that Mark McGwire’s lack of winning an MVP award has anything to do with his ability to judge whether or not Puig was focused enough to reach his potential. McGwire was there and none of us posters were. Baseball history is littered with players who coulda-shoulda been better than they were. It happens and it should be no surprise if Puig never quite lives up to his potential.

  11. Yasiel Puig’s talent is well documented. He can hit with power, is arm strength and accuracy has not been seen since Roberto Clemente and he made incredible defensive plays. Unfortunately, he was sabotaged by both Dave Roberts and biased reporting by the LA Times! Roberts was quick to criticize Puig even when Puig did something good! After returning from an injury, Puig hit 2 home runs in his first game and Roberts was quoted as saying that he “talked” to Puig about the importance of every game as if Puig was some idiot. When a pitcher intentionally tried to hit Puig, Roberts blamed Puig for ” over reacting”. Puig was the most exciting player the Dodgers have had in years!!

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