Montero calls out Puig's behavior
D-backs catcher disappointed in Dodgers' rookie
PHOENIX -- Like so many around baseball, D-backs catcher Miguel Montero has been captivated by Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig's historic first month in the Majors. But when asked about the manner in which the Cuban conducts himself on the field, Montero had strong words for the rookie.
"If he's my teammate, I probably try to teach him how to behave in the big leagues," Montero said. "He's creating a bad reputation around the league, and it's unfortunate because the talent that he has is to be one of the greatest players in the big leagues.
"Right now, I'm not going to say he's the best because he hasn't proved anything yet. Does he have talent? Of course. Does he have the tools? Of course. He's got so much talent, it'd be really bad if he wasted it doing the stupid things that he's doing. You have to respect to earn respect. If you don't respect anybody, you aren't going to earn respect."
Even though Puig has been with the Dodgers for just over a month, the D-backs already have a lengthy history with the 22-year-old. On June 11, Ian Kennedy hit Puig with a pitch in the nose in a game that saw two bench-clearing incidents resulting in eight suspensions. Puig was fined for his role, but he wasn't given a ban, something that irked D-backs players who said he punched former Arizona first baseman Eric Hinske in the back of the head.
Then on Tuesday, Puig was thrown out easily at the plate in the fifth inning but not before he collided with Montero and then stared down the catcher as he walked back to the dugout. Replays showed Montero waving his finger at the rookie, a la former NBA big man Dikembe Mutombo.
"I don't blame him running me over, it's part of the game," Montero said. "The only thing I really don't appreciate is why you have to look back at me. I really don't appreciate that."
Continuing on, Montero referenced a play last September in Los Angeles when former Dodgers outfielder Shane Victorino bowled into the catcher at home, but then walked away without incident.
"Victorino crushed me," Montero said. "But I never said anything to him and he never said anything to me. That's what the game is made of."
Montero didn't want to hear about Puig being new to baseball in America either.
"Why does that matter? I came here from Venezuela," Montero said. "I came here when I was younger, I came here when I was 17 years old."
The Dodgers signed Puig last year when he was 21. He played 63 games in the Minors before debuting for Los Angles on June 3, compared to other Cuban defectors, like the Athletics' Yoenis Cespedes and the White Sox' Alexei Ramirez, who went straight to the Majors after signing.
So what does Montero think is to blame for Puig's behavior?
"It's immaturity," he said. "It's part of his confidence right now that everything is going his way. Everything is right for him, he feels pretty good about himself. This game pays back though, he's going to have his bad moments out there and then he's going to realize he needs to change.
"When you go 0-for-20 or 1-for-50, then you realize it. ... He'll learn, he's just got four weeks in the big leagues and is having a great time now. The game will humble you for sure. The game doesn't need you, we need the game."
Speaking unaware of Montero's comments, D-backs manager Kirk Gibson took a contrasting stance on Puig, who entered Wednesday's series finale in Arizona hitting .407 on the year.
"I've got no problem with him, he's just playing," Gibson said. "Some people say he doesn't know any better. Why would he know any better? How much baseball has he played? He hasn't been here that long and he hasn't been in the country very long. He's not Mickey Mantle yet, he's kicking everybody's [butt] and some people are jealous of that. The only thing I think about is how I get him out."
Asked to respond to Montero's remarks, Dodgers manager Don Mattingly chalked it up to the rivalry between the National League West foes.
"Honestly, every team has guys that irritate you," Mattingly said. "They've got a few of them over there, too. I just think it's not something you don't see with other teams, guys that get under your skin when you play them 19 times. It's just talk to me. .... We want to help [Puig] be a professional as much as we can. But he's also 22 from a different country and plays with flair. To me, I don't want to take away any of his aggressiveness."
The skipper didn't think the chatter would affect the action on the field either.
"I don't think it will be a distraction, I don't mind guys playing with a little attitude," Mattingly said. "I played with Rickey Henderson and he irritated a lot of people, but he was a pretty good player. I've seen a lot of guys irritate the other side."
Tyler Emerick is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.