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Yasiel Puig: The Enigma That May Dictate the Braves Season

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The Atlanta Braves were informed just one week ago that their starting right fielder Nick Markakis would opt out of the 2020 season. Markakis, to his credit, has been known to limit distraction both on and off the field. He is a steady though not spectacular player.

As the Braves fight for their positioning in the National League, it was obvious tthe team would look for a replacement with similar DNA. 

Wrong. 

ESPN announced yesterday that Yasiel Puig — the former Los Angeles Dodgers All-Star turned mercurial journeyman — would sign a one-year contract with Atlanta. The move turns heads considering Puig is not just an odd fit in the locker room as a person, but he now may be a key cog in a talented roster that has aspirations of winning the NL East.

This move needs to work. Fast.

Puig was the center of attention in an on-field brawl that stole the headlines last July with the Reds. He was seen pushing and shoving his opponents when ESPN was already reporting a trade that would send him to the Cleveland Indians. Puig was the epitome of a distraction that day and the Atlanta Braves are in no position for this type of mistake. 

Baseball fans of just about any franchise are likely to have already dealt with the antics of Yasiel Puig and for the first time, Puig won’t be in a situation where fans have patience for immaturity. The Braves did deal with an equally polarizing Josh Donaldson just last season, and they pivoted from hate to love as the season went on.

For Puig, his stint with the Dodgers was filled with brawls on the field – where he never managed to throw a single punch – as well as one high speed chase that led to his arrest. His remaining tenures were played with the Cleveland Indians and Cincinnati Reds, where expectations were to simply compete for divisions.

This time expectations are to win a World Series title and this feels like Yasiel Puig’s last hurrah to ditch the fight night act.

Puig has played exceptional baseball throughout his career and still holds a .277 career average, so that helps explain the Braves optimism for filling Markakis’ roster spot.

Both Markakis and Puig are enigmas, but Markakis tends to stray towards boring. His former teammate Ryan Flaherty backed this up saying “He’s pretty even-keel. You never know if he’s 10 for his last 10 or 0 for his last 30.”

This type of sentiment will never be said about Puig. 

The bottom line is Nick Markakis never left a doubt that baseball was his top priority, while Puig leaves us unsure. The question of Puig’s fit on this Atlanta Braves Roster will be answered quickly because the former All-Star has never made it 15 minutes without becoming a distraction. 

If Yasiel Puig can manage to make the short season about… baseball, the Atlanta Braves just might be able to win a World Championship for the first time since 1995, when your parents used to watch.

Written by Gary Sheffield, Jr

Gary Sheffield Jr is the son of should-be MLB Hall of Famer, Gary Sheffield. He covers basketball and baseball for OutKick.com, chats with the Purple and Gold faithful on LakersNation, and shitposts on Twitter. You can follow him at GarySheffieldJr

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