Sandy Koufax has been considered one of the most reclusive, mysterious athletes of the last 50 plus years. For the past two seasons though, Koufax has taken on the role of Special Adviser to Los Angeles Dodgers team owner, Mark Walter. So, when Sandy speaks, usually everyone in the sporting world listens. On Monday, Koufax opened up on the state of the Dodgers, specifically outfielder Yasiel Puig and ace pitcher Clayton Kershaw.
Puig is known to admire his home runs and has been accused of “showing up” his opponents. Koufax played in an era that didn’t condone that type of exuberance in hitters, and he was asked what he thought of Puig’s antics:
“If the showmanship doesn’t involve bad decisions, yeah, it’s fine. People love it.
Koufax was much more harsh when describing what Puig needs to do to improve his game. He lauded his physical talents, but felt that Puig needed to become a more fundamentally sound player:
You have a great arm, you want to show it off, but I’d like to see him throw it to the right place all the time. He’s young. The biggest thing is he’s not played against competition as good as he is. So you’re always able to have your physical ability make up for whatever else you do. He’s learning. I’m sure it’s going to happen. He has too much talent.
Of particular interest was when Koufax was asked which other ball players he would compare with the ultra athletic Puig:
Everybody makes the comparison to Bo Jackson. The Cardinals had a guy who played football and baseball, Brian Jordan. These guys are so strong and so fast. Big, strong and fast — a combination you don’t always see.
While Puig has a tremendous throwing arm from the outfield, Koufax wasn’t ready to put him in the same class as Hall of Famers, Roberto Clemente and Willie Mays. He acknowledged that Puig has a big arm, but offered that when Clemente or Mays threw the ball, they knew where it was going and always hit the cut off man. The same cannot be said of the young and wild Puig.
Overall, Koufax loved watching Puig in his rookie season, describing it as “crazy” and “fun to watch.” The Dodgers were in last place when they brought the rookie, Puig, up last season and he turned the Dodgers fortunes around.
Koufax also offered glowing praise of Cy Young winning pitcher, Clayton Kershaw. He referred to Kershaw as a “special person”, as well as a “special pitcher”. Kershaw has regularly been compared with Koufax as he was coming up through the Dodgers farm system. Both men were pitchers for the Dodgers and both are left handed. Koufax hopes that by the time Kershaw’s career is over, the comparisons between the two pitchers will be deserved:
At 25, you don’t have to adjust. Talk to me when he’s 35. I hope by the time it’s over, it will be a big honor. He was introduced as my protégé. I wanted to start right off saying, ‘He’s not my protégé. He’s his own man, his own person.’
Along with Sandy Koufax, the Dodgers fans will be looking for big seasons out of both Puig and Kershaw.