Escobar and the Braves: A marriage fit for divorce

So Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria has decided to bring 80-year-old Jack McKeon out of retirement to fill the managerial vacancy that was created Sunday when Edwin Rodriguez resigned.  I’m guessing Bobby Cox’s phone must have been busy.

Or maybe there are still some hard feelings stemming from when Cox labeled Loria as “unpredictable”  after the Marlins fired Fredi Gonzalez on June 23 of last year.  Well come to think of it, “unpredictable” was the nicest adjective  Cox used when asked for his reaction to Gonzalez’s firing.

Sticking with this theme, the Blue Jays’ decision to announce Yunel Escobar’s two-year contract extension Sunday might not have been necessarily predictable.  But it’s also hard to believe it was simply coincidental that it was announced one day before the enigmatic shortstop makes his return to Turner Field with the Blue Jays tonight.

It’s been nearly a full year since Escobar finally fully tested the Braves’ last ounce of patience and led them to trade him to the Blue Jays.

In the year that has passed, it seems Escobar has been as easy to get along with as he was during his first full calendar year in the Majors with the Braves.  Yes his antics in the Minors basically led Jeff Blauser to decide he no longer wanted to pursue a coaching career.

But the Braves still believed Escobar would steadily mature and serve as their shortstop of the future.  Their confidence in him allowed them to feel confident to include an 18-year-old highly-regarded shortstop named Elvis Andrus in the 2007 trade that brought Mark Teixeira to Atlanta.

Before Escobar started to alienating himself from teammates and coaches with his on-field flash and off-the-field personality, he was simply evaluated based on his tremendous talent.   It wasn’t long ago that Chipper Jones was saying Escobar could become the National League’s best shortstop.

But over the past year, there has never been the slightest hint he has been missed in the Braves’ clubhouse.

After the Blue Jays traveled to Disney for a game in March, I asked a Braves’ veteran if he had spoken to Escobar.  He responded, “I tried, but he acted like I wasn’t even standing there.”

With this being said, it does seem Escobar understood it was time for him to part ways with the Braves.

“Everyone has their own opinion and I respect that,” Escobar told MLB.com through interpreter Luis Rivera Sunday. “Toronto has a different opinion of me. I’ve always played like that. I have fun on the field and I’ve proven now the kind of player I am. I’m being myself, and the Blue Jays allow me to be myself in the field.”

There were numerous episodes and actions that led the Braves to part ways with Escobar.

Since  joining the Braves a little more than three years ago, Jair Jurrjens has routinely proven to be quite knowledgeable and mature.  After the 2008 seeason, he talked to Escobar about the importance of learning the English language.  The young pitcher was essentially telling him a greater divide would develop if he couldn’t communicate with his teammates and the media.

During the first half of the 2009 season, Escobar was removed from one game because of a “lack of focus”.  Two weeks later, he  once again opened himself up to public ridicule on June 25, when he took exception to a charged error by gesturing toward the press box and visibly pouting during the at-bat that followed.

During an eighth-inning at-bat in a one-run game two weeks later, he left Diory Hernandez out to dry when he didn’t swing at an inside pitch on a hit-and-run attempt. After that game, he told media members, “Come talk to me when I get three hits.”  When he got three hits the next night, he refused to talk.

This led Javier Vazquez and some club officials to meet with Escobar the following day.  Most of the benefit of that meeting was erased a few minutes later when a now-former Braves’ coach approached the shortstop and essentially told him he didn’t need to change anything.

With Escobar still giving reason to question his focus and effort a year later, the Braves created what seemed to be a necessary divorce.  In exchange for Escobar and Jo-Jo Reyes, they received Alex Gonzalez, Tyler Pastornicky and  Tim Collins (traded to the Royals).

Escobar has batted .280 with eight homers, a .357 on-base percentage and .428 slugging percentage in 67 games with the Blue Jays this year.  In 75 game with the Braves last year, he hit .238 with zero homers, a .334 on-base percentage and .284 slugging percentage.

Since matching a Major League record by going winless in 28 consecutive starts (dating back to his day with the Braves), Reyes has gone 3-1 with a 3.21 ERA.  The lefty will start against the Braves Wednesday afternoon.

Gonzalez has been a tremendous defensive asset for the Braves and has shown the ability to enjoy some successful offensive spurts.   The Braves will likely attempt to bring him back on a one or two-year deal.

Pastornicky has hit .301 with five homers and a .763 OPS with Double-A Mississippi this year.  The 21-year-old shortstop likely won’t be ready to serve as Atlanta’s starting shortstop at the beginning of next year.  But he is certainly solidifying his candidacy.

The Braves hated trading Collins to the Royals (for Rick Ankiel and Kyle Farnsworth) just two weeks after acquiring him from the Blue Jays.  The small left-handed reliever has struggled with his control (36K/29BB) while posting a 3.89 ERA in his first 35 career Major League appearances with the Royals this year.

 

 

 

59 Comments

Good blog, Bowman. I didn’t think we had the full picture while the Escobar situation(s) were going on, and it’s nice to finally hear a little more about what actually happened (which I think we knew) and how the organization responded to it, which I knew less about. Also lends a little insight to the reasons behind coaches not being brought back during the off-season, especially the one I’m guessing you’re referring to telling Escobar he didn’t need to change anything (maybe a particular hispanic one….?)

Like most everyone else in Braves Country have to say. Escobar isn’t missed. Gonzo has proven he is a team player and gives the same respect he asks for in the dugout. Was a trade that has very clearly paid off.

I don’t miss escobar but its not like the braves organization to air a player’s dirty laundry. I really don’t see the need for this mean-spirited article but whatever floats the boat.

Funny, I don’t see anyone writing about Gonzalez when he doesn’t run out ground balls, or when he pouts after striking out. I guess he gives great hugs in the clubhouse though, so all is forgiven. Pretty sure I can cherry pick a lot of situations where every player doesn’t hustle, pouts, or “loses focus”.

If Escobar is hitting .300/.370/.450 at the time of the trade last year, it never happens. Quite frankly, I could care less if everyone loves each other in the clubhouse or not. These are grown men not 8 year olds. There are plenty of people I have to work closely with everyday that I can’t stand, but do I whine and complain to management about it? No, I suck it up and concentrate on MY work. Can’t wait for more Alex “.650 OPS” Gonzalez next year!

So which “now-former” coach told him he didn’t need to change anything?

Only 2 weren’t brought back to Fredi’s staff … Chino and Glenn Hubbard. Of the 2, my guess would be Chino. Would make sense as to why he wasn’t brought back – i know i expected him back.

I hope they boo him every single time he comes to the plate! One of the worst attitudes I’ve ever seen. Bobby Cox gave him every oportunity and managed him as he did all the others, with positive motivation. We couldn’t get rid of that bad apple quick enough. I wish Gonzo could give us a little more offense, but I’d pick him over Escobar everyday of the week. Why don’t you guys just say the coaches name that wasn’t brought back. I know who your talking about, but don’t know his name. Big fat latin guy who would sit on the bench behind Bobby. I believe he was our bench coach. Freddi speaks spanish, so we don’t need him anyway!

P.S. Freddi G, stop batting Uggla second for crying out loud. He should be batting eighth. Maybe he would decide batting 8th sucks, and work on his hitting. I don’t know if I’m the only one to notice this, but it looks like he doesn’t keep his eye on the ball??? Baseball 101, see the ball hit the bat, which I know is actually impossible, but it means follow the ball all the way in, he doesn’t do that. That’s probably the reason he swings over the top of every breaking ball thrown to him.

Yeah. This sounds remarkably like damage control, now that Toronto gets the 116OPS+ 28yo shortstop for the next 4 years at 5m/per, and we get the offensively challenged Gonzalez who never could hit a lick and have a giant positional hole in the organization going forward. It was poor employee management to move a valuable asset like Escobar at the bottom of his value, and worse player evaluation to take on a bum like Gonzalez in return. The Braves will regret it for a long time, CYA articles like this notwithstanding. Firing an employee is just as much a failure of management as the worker.

A) Who the hell are you guys? B) Gonzo will get a 1 year deal this offseason with us AT BEST. I mentioned in an earlier post, their are some mid tier SS’s(Scutaro, Furcal) who are capable of above average defense and provide better contact hitting and walk rates. Neither will be much more expensive than Gonzo. I think we should pursue one of them in the offseason. By the way, an essintial 4 year/$20MM deal is one of the best contracts I’ve ever seen for a player like Escobar. Alex A. is one hell of a GM.

Aww, is someone throwing sand in YOUR sandbox, little boy?

Someones back from crying in the corner clutching their Conrad jersey in the fetal position, I see.

Yeah all the while thinking that Nate was a better outfielder than Schafer and that Prado was a bum. (Snort)

Those of you who seem to think we should never have traded escobar don’t have much of an understanding of group dynamics. If the other players on the team don’t or can’t respect him for who he is and how he carries himself, then there is absolutly no reason to keep him on the team. Harmony in a large group like that is critical. Competition b/w each other is great but disharmony is horrible. Yes we sure could use the offensive #’s he is provding this year but we have guys capableof that and more. They just aren’t performing. Bobby was amazing but I wish he would have built an atmosphere with more competition amongst the guys. Its such adriving factor to improve performance.

No one ever said we shouldn’t have traded Escobar, What was said was that he was traded at the wrong time, for the wrong reasons, and for the wrong guy.

That wasn’t said, either. The problem was we chose Escobar over Andrus. That was the mistake.

“That wasn’t said, either. The problem was we chose Escobar over Andrus. That was the mistake.”

Well I said it in the post above, which the “we never shoulda traded Escobar” strawman was in reply to. In any event, Andrus is a no-stick SS. If you liked him better than Escobar in 2007 while Andrus was putting up a 257/.338 /.343 /.682 in single-A and Yunel was hitting .333 /.379 /.456 /.835 at AAA, than it’s to MLB’s undying loss that a genius level scout like yourself never made a career out of baseball.

I wonder if Elvis EVER forgot to tag up at 3rd on a sac fly opportunity?

That’s certainly the best way to judge their baseball fitness long term. Personally, I can’t believe Yunel wasn’t executed on the spot, or torn limb from limb by a raging mob of fans. This kind of third base non-tagging is the sort of window onto the very soul of a player, an irrevocable scarlet letter that counts far and away above all other skills. Well spotted.

Stupidity is usually easily spotted – you are trying harder than you have to .

oooh what a burn.

Any updates on Martin Prado?

Nothing is wrong with him. He got hurt to give Brooks a few more at bats(and more opportunities to show his brilliant defense) and to showcase McLouths lack of skilzzz so we can fin ally release him. I mean, he’s Martin Prado. He is the Messiah. The chosen one. Don’t chu no nuffin -insert 8th grade insult here- -insult joke about sexual orientation- ? (taken directly from Bills conscious when he read this)

The lady doth protest too much, methinks.

Nate got a walk!!! nate got a walk!!!!!!! He’s all the way back. He is MCLUTCH!!!!!!!

Nate stole a base!!!! Nate stole a base!!!! He’s got new legs!!!!!! He is the mighty Blond One!!!!

Lieutenant Nate, you got new legs!!!!!!!

I’ve got to admit, that was hilarious.

nice. Now maybe Uggla Gump could spend some time on the bench talking to some people.

I hear Brooks is always available on the bench..

77 pitches through 6 for Hudson. You paying close attention tonight Pherris?

Shut you down with the pitching, shut you up with the big O Pherris. Atta boy Huddy.

Even a blind squirrel finds a nut every now and again

Pherris Gump what do you think of our Starting Pitching now, dual purpose.

Not the best time to “call out” Pherris…BMac isn’t behind the plate. It’s Ross. Kinda helps prove his point, no? I’m not saying I agree with him, but you’re basically calling him out with evidence that supports his argument lol.

I could give a rat’s ass about his argument. Our SP is throwing a complete game shutout and hit a 2-run homer. I don’t read that tripe that PenisPain posts anyway.

How can one take such offense at what PherrisPhain has posted if one allegedly has not read what PherrisPhain has posted?

Well Weinus, because I wasn’t replying to you, complete waste of time. Even saying this, you will no doubt claim some empirical victory. IDGAS.

After 3 years together, don’t you think BMac has learned a thing or three from Ross? They’re a two headed monster.

Doesn’t change the fact that the one night our pitcher goes deep into a game, it’s Ross behind the plate, not BMac. You’re giving him ammunition, that’s all I’m saying :D

If I cared enough to go back and show how many games Bmac has caught in his career where the pitcher went 7 innings or more, I’d have all the ammunition I need to show how invalid his argument is.

Got me!. Single game outcomes are really the best way to decide between two players. So the team ought bat have Hudson batting cleanup and playing first instead of Freeman for the rest of the year then. McGrawesque, that’s what you are. Positively a savant.

What are you even talking about, Spike? This comment wasn’t even directed at you. It’s referring to a previous conversation on an earlier thread…And from the looks of your sarcastic reply, you completely missed the point, which is very prevalent around here considering most of the commenters are just out to insult everyone else as their main objective. I’ll reiterate for you:
PherrisPhain, a Phillies blogger, came on here and accused McCann of being the reason our pitchers don’t go deep into games. It’s hard to disagree with the facts…he is right. Our pitchers usually have high pitch counts and don’t make it past the 6th inning. This is taking our entire season into account, is that a large enough sample size for you? Now, Pherris’ claim that it is McCann’s fault may not have statistical support, I don’t know, both Brandon and I said we don’t feel like looking it up for his entire career. However, Brandon was saying the fact that Hudson went deep into the game tonight counters Pherris’ argument. Everyone realizes it is one game, not nearly enough to judge anything longterm. However, I was merely pointing out that even if you did want to use this game as evidence that McCann isn’t leading our pitchers to throw too many pitches, it would be useless because he wasn’t the one behind the plate.

I actually wonder if it’s below the league average. I wish I cared enough to look as well.

“and we get the offensively challenged Gonzalez who never could hit a lick and have a giant positional hole in the organization going forward.” Spike Well, looks like our offensively challenged one was 1 for 3 with a double, and successfully handled about 10 plays at short. Sure is too bad we have such a whole at that position in our organization. Yunel ? 1 for 4 with an error. Come on Yunel!!!! – you had the CATCHER running for crying out loud! Get in the game! Oh wait, I don’t have to yell things like that at the TV anymore – Yunel plays for someone else.

Barry, It’s “hole” not whole. You know like what you dig at work as opposed to Led Zeppelin Whole Lotta Love.

Got me!. Single game outcomes are really the best way to decide between two players. So the team ought bat have Hudson batting cleanup and playing first instead of Freeman for the rest of the year then. McGrawesque, that’s what you are. Positively a savant.

Glad you were finally able to post the comment in the right place. Now if only you could somehow discover how you could have it make some sense. This game made my point! I didn’t couldn’t have written the script any better (Well that’s not true, Yunel could have hit into a double play in his last AB). It is WHY Yunel is not here any more. He makes a BRILLIANT stop on Ross’s batted ball, and then TOTALLY forgot that it was Ross who hit it and who is running. He rushes the end of the play and throws the ball into the dugout. Runner is now on second base. He doesn’t think. He plays by reaction. I would rather have Gonzo. Gonzalez doesn’t hit for the same average – yet his production – RBI and HR are greater. Gonzo plays better and smarter defense. Gonzo doesn’t drive his teammates crazy. It’s not a single game outcome. It happens in many games, and those who pay attention understand.

Kimbrel was NASTY tonight.

“Hole” also refers to you, Bill. But we love you anyway.

*whispers*Do we?

Barry,m when I think of you there is usually a modifier before “hole”. It’s an anatomical thing.

Also Hudson and Ross have known each other for years. Were teammates at Auburn. They might just have a great good ole fashioned chemistry.

Not encouraged by the win tonight. Was another miserable showing. It’s a crying shame that we have to rely on our pitchers to do the jobs that we pay millions of dollars for our offense to do. Case in point – Gonzo leads off with a double in the 7th inning of a close game. Heyward comes to the plate with one job. Either get a hit or make a productive out by moving over the runner. The count is 3-1 to Heyward. Brian Jordan says “Heyward needs to be selective here and make sure he gets a good pitch to do the job” (I’m paraphrasing). What does Heyward do? Offers at a fastball away and weakly grounds out to the 3rd base side. Heyward grounds out to second in his sleep. Next batter gets hit and Uggla comes in with runners at first and second. Gets ahead in the count 0-2. Again, Brian Jordan says this time “Uggla really needs to be patient here. Make sure the pitcher throws a perfect strike he can square away on” What does Uggla do? Gets jammed on a terrible pitch inside and kills the inning on a double play.
It’s baseball 101 and it’s embarrassing that our pitcher has to go out and do everything on his own. We’re 5 games out of first place and in a tie ball game and our LEFT HANDED groundout machine can’t even move a runner over. I feel bad for our pitching staff. There arms are going to fall off in 2 months. They could go down as the best staff in history, but our clueless baseball team won’t let them. Very sad indeed.

Good post. Its the small things we are espicially bad at. I never see us get productive outs.

I agree with your points, Bravo. BUT, how can you not be encouraged? While I agree that our offense (and mostly the players approaches to their at bats) are woeful, how can you not be encouraged with our overall results, given those circumstances. I know that you must realize that Fredi has not had his best starting 8 for a line up in God knows when. Once we get Prado and Chipper healthy and back in there, let’s see what will happen. We are all frustrated at the level of futility of some of these “professional” hitters. But, hey – even in the midst of futility we are right there. Starting pitching and bull-pen are mighty. They have to be, or else we would be “sleeping with the fishes (Marlins). A LOT of baseball yet to be played. Hopefully we have all our injuries behind us, and after the break we will make our move. The point is – we couldn’t be any worse offensively than we are – and any improvement at all will make a HUGE difference IF our pitching holds.

** correction – Uggla got ahead on a 2-0 count. Also, this was in the 6th inning and not the 7th.

Maybe Brian Jordan can be our hitting coach

Couldn’t hurt at this point. Hell, lets get Larry Wayne Sr. in here.

Who would argue that?

any chance if Prado gone for the year whos gonna be a suitable replacement?

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