J.P. Howell clarifies comments on reported bullying of Yasiel Puig
Jonathan Martin’s recent allegations that he was bullied by teammate Richie Incognito and Dolphins players have brought bullying to the forefront of professional sports.
Dodgers pitcher J.P. Howell — whose wife has written an illustrated anti-bullying book for children — said that rookie phenom Yasiel Puig had been bullied in the clubhouse, Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reported Friday.
“Not in the clubhouse, never by teammates,” Howell told Dodgers.com. “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.”
Howell, 30, said he had been bullied as a kid and bullied at the start of his career. As a rookie, Howell said he had his only suit — a gift from his father — shredded by a player who didn’t replace it. What some players might call hazing affected Howell that season. He did not specify whether the incident occurred during his 15 games with the Royals in 2005 or his short 2006 stints with the Rays.
“I didn’t know how to handle the situation,” Howell said. “I wish I would have. I was distracted. I was scared to be around him in the gym. If you’re intimidated by somebody because of their actions, that’s bullying.”
Howell’s idea of what constitutes bullying might surprise many players. He explained that he had no problem with traditional rookie initiations such as carrying gum and sunflower seeds to the bullpen in a little girl’s backpack. He did object to the pressure exerted in some clubhouses for players to party and drink late into the night.
“You have to know that you can say no and you’ll be all right,” Howell said.
Howell also related baseball’s long practice for pitchers to throw at batters, to defend the sport’s “unwritten rules” as bullying, citing Ian Kennedy throwing at the Dodgers’ Zack Greinke last season.
“When he’s throwing at someone’s head, you could be going to be a funeral,” Howell said. “To me, that’s a bully. He might be a great guy. But, on the baseball field, that is wrong.”