Los Angeles Dodgers rookie phenom Yasiel Puig appeared to make a seamless transition to the big leagues this past season, but things may not have been as easy for him behind the scenes as they were on the field.
UPDATE: Friday, Nov. 15, at 6:40 p.m. ET:
Dude, I don't know how it happened," said Howell, who said an interview he gave while making a Thursday appearance has spun out of control.
In the interview with the Los Angeles Times, it was written that Howell said he saw teammate Yasiel Puig bullied in the Dodgers' clubhouse. On Friday, Howell insisted that's not what he said.
"Not in the clubhouse, never by teammates," he said. "I was asked if Puig had been bullied and I said yes, but I meant by fans and media and people on the outside that don't know him. Never in the clubhouse. Are you kidding? People early in the season said our clubhouse wouldn't have chemistry, and it turned out to be an awesome clubhouse -- everybody got along."
Said Howell: "When I was asked about Puig, I just wanted to use him as an example that not only preschoolers get bullied. It's a problem in our society, and I just wanted the kids to know not to stay silent, that it's wrong and you should say something, and it can happen to anybody at any age. It happened to me."
The Dodgers also released a statement on the comments, also per Gurnick's report:
The interview triggered additional media coverage, and the Dodgers responded by issuing this statement:
"Bullying is an issue we take very seriously. We've discussed this with Yasiel and he has assured us that he is comfortable with the clubhouse environment as well as his teammates, coaches and support staff. As an organization, we will continue to be proactive in monitoring what goes on in and around our clubhouse."
---End of Update---
"The guy is such a champion," Howell said. "He has such a big heart. Sometimes he acts like a jerk, but that is his defense mechanism. It's not really him.
"Someday, he is not going to be 22. He's not going to be like that. I love the guy. I hope he never changes, just maybe matures."
Puig came under fire at various points during the season due to his interactions with the media and boisterous behavior on the field, but perhaps Howell's revelation will make Puig's detractors understand that he hasn't exactly been welcomed with open arms by everyone.
Howell's feelings on the matter are significant because he and his wife are huge proponents of anti-bullying campaigns, according to Shaikin. In fact, Howell's wife even wrote a children's book about the topic of bullying.
MLB pitchers probably felt as though Puig was a bully on the field during his impressive rookie campaign, as he hit .319 with 19 home runs and 42 RBI while leading the Dodgers to a playoff berth.
Not only did Puig make big plays on the field, but he made sure that everyone in the ballpark was well aware that he was the one making them.
Puig was born and raised in Cuba, and he didn't defect until 2012, so he hasn't had much time to become comfortable within the American culture. That likely makes him an easy target for hazing or bullying, so Howell's suggestion that Puig has been bullied isn't particularly difficult to believe.
It is unclear if Puig went through the same things all rookies do or if certain teammates went to greater lengths in order to ostracize him, but this divulgement proves that no athlete is necessarily immune to bullying, regardless of how talented or productive they are.
Follow @MikeChiari on Twitter