How safe is Dodger Stadium for its fans, and could there be some violent repercussion there from how young Cuban star Yasiel Puig got to Los Angeles?
The Los Angeles Times has posed that question this week in the wake of a magazine story reporting conclusively that Puig had been smuggled out of Cuba by members of the Los Zetas Mexican drug cartel to whom money may still be owed and that his life could be in jeopardy.
One of the smugglers, after all, was killed — execution-style — after the 23-year-old Dodger slugger allegedly complained about the harassment to his former agent.
And it gets juicier. A Miami businessman with a criminal record who hired those smugglers has his hooks into Puig who owes him millions — 20 percent of his $42 million contract as well as future earnings.
“Now that Puig is a multi-millionaire, are the smugglers still involved, and could that involvement one day lead to Dodger Stadium?” Times columnist Bill Plaschke asked.
“Could there be revenge involved, and could that one day lead to Dodger Stadium?”
Security at the stadium has been increased since last year, and Los Angeles police appear aware of the situation.
“We don’t discuss out security details relative to individuals,” LAPD Chief Charlie Beck told reporters. “But, we will take whatever steps necessary.”
Yasiel Puig threatend
On Thursday, ESPN The Magazine further reported Puig has received threats from the human traffickers who orchestrated his 2012 defection from Cuba to Mexico.
Both Los Angeles Magazine and the ESPN report suggest that the Puig episode typifies “the complexities of the illegal human trafficking rings that continue to shuttle major league prospects off the island.”
Reaction to the story of Puig’s ordeal has varied from “sordid” to “dark and complicated.”
According to the Los Angeles Magazine account, Puig was held captive in a hotel on Isla Mujeres, just off the coast of Cancun, by smugglers who were shaking down the Miami businessman for money, and he was eventually rescued by another group of smugglers.
The rival smuggling ring who stole Puig, took him to Mexico City, where he was granted residency status in weeks, and the Dodgers then signed him to a contract.
The Miami businessman, Raul Pacheco, reportedly has a record of attempted burglary and of using fake IDs, according to the magazine.
The smuggler who was killed, known only as Leo, was found shot 13 times in Cancun.
Much of the information came from dozens of interviews as well as court documents in Florida civil suits filed against Puig for $12 million and fellow Cuban Aroldis Chapman, a pitcher for the Cincinnati Reds, for $18 million.
Chapman’s case is scheduled for trial on Nov. 17. The judge in Puig’s suit is deliberating the ballplayer’s second motion to dismiss.
In Los Angeles, the Times reported that at Dodger Stadium “a boost in security that began last season” is likely being bolstered, though no one will talk about the latest Puig story or security issues, not the Dodgers, nor Puig, nor his representatives.
“Shortly after Puig’s arrival last summer, the bodyguard quotient around the Dodgers’ dugout noticeably increased,” the paper reported. “This winter, that same security detail could be seen around Puig in public.
“One can only hope this season the added security remains, both on the field and in the stands, particularly when Puig is standing alone in right field.”
Dodger Manager Don Mattingly has told reporters he isn’t worried about the team’s safety and that Puig seems “fine” despite the reports.
The writer of the Los Angeles magazine story, Jesse Katz, has said while he believes the idea of a real risk to fans at Dodger Stadium is minimal, he nevertheless considers it a possibility.
“The idea that Dodger fans, or Dodger teammates, would be in any kind of imminent harm, I find that as a little bit farfetched,” he said.
“But, you know, (Puig) did do business with some really unsavory characters, and one of them is dead.”