LOS ANGELES -- Yasiel Puig spent at least 30 minutes visiting with friends in the stands while the rest of his teammates were either taking batting practice, fielding ground balls or shagging fly balls before the Los Angeles Dodgers' 6-3 loss to the San Diego Padres on Tuesday night.
When Puig's batting practice turn came up, he got to the cage in time to see Hanley Ramirez launch a ball over the left-field bleachers, off the metal roof and out of the stadium. How the Dodgers would love for one of those shots to come in an actual game.
Puig is often the last player to arrive in the Dodgers' clubhouse and he is rarely seen on the field for early batting practice. Nobody, least of all manager Don Mattingly, seems to be willing to make it an issue, at least not publicly. The lax management style of Mattingly and the rest of the organization with Puig is an in-house matter, after all. He's their player. Maybe they have a better idea how to get the most out of him than others might.
It just looks a bit funny when he's batting .189 in his last 28 games and hasn't homered since July 31 -- plus when he sparks the team's most embarrassing defensive sequence in years with a bad throw, as he did Monday night.
The Dodgers have lived with Ramirez's shoddy defense all season. He has made 16 errors. Only two shortstops in the National League -- Brandon Crawford and Ian Desmond -- have made more, and both of those guys have played at least 31 games more than Ramirez at shortstop. Both have higher fielding percentages than Ramirez. And, by the way, the advanced defensive metrics have far less-flattering things to say about Ramirez's play at shortstop.
Ramirez made two errors in the second inning Tuesday that ushered in three more unearned runs and made life even harder on struggling starting pitcher Roberto Hernandez. He is sometimes a sulking presence in the clubhouse. For weeks, he has refused to speak with inquiring reporters, often brushing past them without acknowledging their existence.
So, is Ramirez's poor play at shortstop beginning to overshadow his contributions at the plate now that he's batting a mediocre .267 and slugging a less-robust .434?
"We've been playing like this all year. He made an error tonight and it ended up being a costly one tonight," Mattingly said. "It's not something where, all of a sudden, you just change what you've done all year. This is what we've been doing trying to get offense from that spot. He's a guy who can do it -- gets four hits last night, drives in a couple runs. It just happened to be a costly one tonight."
It's pretty obvious by now that the Dodgers are simply going to live with Puig's idiosyncrasies in the hope that he'll find his way out of this maze on his own. It's also pretty obvious they'll live with Ramirez's shortcomings as a shortstop in the hope that he'll drive in more than he lets in.
But the sooner those two things happen, the more secure this team will feel about its chances of winning the division and avoiding the perilous wild-card route to the playoffs, and the more optimistic it will feel about its World Series chances. Aside from Clayton Kershaw, the guy who was first to say it's "World Series or bust," for this team, there is nobody in the Dodgers' clubhouse with as much talent as Puig and Ramirez. Lately, Matt Kemp, Adrian Gonzalez and Carl Crawford have been hitting enough that the struggles of Puig and Ramirez have been partially obscured. The Dodgers had won four in a row before Tuesday's clunker. They still have a 2 1/2-game lead in the NL West, which means they're guaranteed of carrying a lead into this weekend's series in San Francisco.
But starting Friday and until the Dodgers' season peters out somewhere along the way, everything is under the lights and the Dodgers would love for two of their marquee talents to start putting on a show -- preferably not a comedy.