Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig had a poor September, followed by reporting to camp overweight and looking lost at the plate (until Saturday’s defeat of Arizona in Sydney, a game that actually counted).  You might think Puig’s nearly as washed up as Derek Jeter from the nearly hysterical tone adopted by the LA Times’ Bill Plaschke (above), who all but accuses Dodgers management of ordering manager Don Mattingly to take it easy on the young phenom disgrace-to-the-game.

One of the reasons Mattingly commands so much respect in the clubhouse and the community is that he’s so real. But in talking about Puig, he almost sounded rehearsed, and one wonders if he was asked to chill out by the highest levels of the Dodgers front office — a place that uses Puig’s signing as a point of pride and continually protects and empowers him.

A member of that front office said Tuesday it would be outrageously wrong to report that any official has ever attempted to influence Mattingly’s comments. But, given the marketing department’s huge investment in promoting Puig, the wonder persists.

Nobody on the Dodgers has ever really told Puig no. That’s what created this problem, and that’s what could turn it into a season-threatening clubhouse distraction if it’s not fixed.

Mattingly has a chance to fix it. He has the job security to do it. He has the potential outfield surplus to do it. He clearly has the stomach to do it.

Here’s hoping Mattingly feels the freedom to do it. For the Dodgers to work, Mattingly needs to be able to bench Puig without apology, hold him accountable without clarification, and run a professional dugout that accepts no excuses.