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Braves writer wants to make it very, very clear that everyone really, really hated Yunel Escobar

Jun 21, 2011, 12:16 PM EDT

Jason Bay, Yunel Escobar

When the Braves traded Yunel Escobar to the Blue Jays last year there was plenty of talk about how few people in Atlanta were sad to see him go, so this isn’t exactly shocking news.

However, with Escobar back in town for an interleague series and playing very well for the Blue Jays while the guy who replaced him, Alex Gonzalez, struggles at the plate for the Braves, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal Constitution wants to make sure everyone knows just how despised Escobar was.

O’Brien kicks off his article by calling Escobar “a petulant hot dog of a player who rubbed teammates wrong at least as frequently as he ticked off opponents.” And there’s plenty more where that came from:

A year later, I challenge you to find one individual employed in any capacity by the Braves, from the clubhouse to the front office and everywhere between, who regrets the move. Gonzalez is infinitely more popular with his teammates, plays steady defense, and comes to play every day, notwithstanding an infrequent lapse in judgment in not running out a ground ball or some such offense. But like I said, if Escobar were playing like he has this season for the Blue Jays, particularly like he has for the past six weeks, the Braves wouldn’t have traded him.

But wait, there’s more:

Again, I defy you to find one Braves player, coach, front-office official or team employee who wishes they had Escobar on the team rather than Gonzalez.

And more:

To this day, I can’t find anyone in the organization that regrets it.

And more:

I know he does still have a couple of friends on the team, but even they have said they understood why the Braves made the trade, that it had reached a point where Escobar and his teammates and coaches were just not meshing together at any reasonable degree any longer.

In fairness to O’Brien he lays out the relevant numbers since the trade, admitting that Escobar has been better than Gonzalez, but he also dismisses all that while focusing on how everyone hated Escobar and no one in the organization regrets the trade. I’m guessing they wouldn’t be particularly quick to admit regret to O’Brien even if they did and more importantly the Braves’ level of regret doesn’t change the fact that Escobar has hit .278 with a .741 OPS for the Blue Jays while Gonzalez has hit .245 with a .673 OPS for the Braves.

If the Braves are fine losing 70 points of OPS by replacing a 28-year-old shortstop with a 34-year-old shortstop so be it–they rank 11th among NL teams in scoring, so the extra offense would come in handy–but O’Brien’s piece reads more like a sales pitch than reporting or even analysis. O’Brien is one of my favorite beat writers, but here he’s trying to sell Braves fans on the fact that they shouldn’t regret a trade that was motivated by off-field factors and has hurt the team on the field.

He brushes off any “lapse in judgment” by Gonzalez to hammer home the point that he’s a better person than Escobar in the clubhouse and repeatedly stresses that the Braves never would’ve dealt Escobar if he’d played this well for them. But he did play this well for the Braves, just not in the half-season preceding the trade. Escobar hit .291 with a .771 OPS in 446 games for the Braves and he’s hit .278 with a .741 OPS in 128 games for the Blue Jays. If anything he was more productive in Atlanta than he’s been in Toronto.

  1. IdahoMariner - Jun 21, 2011 at 12:21 PM

    Maybe O’Brien was possessed by the writing soul of Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times, who never misses an opportunity to go holier-than-thou, strafed-earth negative on a player he doesn’t like, even if the facts contradict his storyline. It’s all about the hits, baby. (website hits, that is.)

    • screename529 - Jun 21, 2011 at 12:34 PM

      Sounds like 90% of the Yankees’ beat writers (refer to every ESPN NY article, ever)

      • sdelmonte - Jun 21, 2011 at 12:37 PM

        No, just the ones by O’Connor. The ones by Marchand are sometimes much smarter.

        Then again, I am a Mets fan and get to read the capable Adam Rubin. (Like with broadcasters, my team might stink, but at least I get the intelligent commentators.)

      • nudeman - Jun 21, 2011 at 5:24 PM

        I love it when writers, fans, broadcasters, parking lot attendants, chefs – ANYONE – hates on a NY team, ANY sport. If there is a NY lacrosse or water polo team, I want them to lose 100-0. Every game.
        New Yorkers and the NY centric media are insufferable. Watching ESPN, one would think there are exactly 2 teams in MLB: Yankees and Red Sox. Memo to ESPN: The rest of the world doesn’t care about their BS rivalry.
        My personal ranking of hatred:
        1. NY Mets: Since 1969 when the media all developed a 9 inch hard on over the Miracle Mets, they just have made me puke. Drug addicts like Doc, Straw, Hernandez, Dykstra and others in ’86 were nearly as unlikeable as ’69. Very close.
        2. NY Knicks: If I didn’t know better and just started watching the NBA, the way the media talks about the great Knick franchise and Madison Sq Garden, I’d think they’ve won 34 championships and they serve Holy Communion hourly there. Truth: 2 championships, and NONE since ’73 and no Holy Communion either. So unless you want to see bad basketball, there’s really no reason to go there.
        3. NY Yankees: Just disgusting and thoroughly unlikeable, but at least they’ve produced. Still, anything worse than a Yankee fan with a Bronx accent and a couple beers in him? Uh, no.
        4. NY Jets: Home to possibly the most overrated QB of all time, Joe Willie. Seems like a good guy, and I’d like to kiss Suzy Kolber too, but really, he had one moment in SB III (where he played a VERY average game), and aside from that, the babes, and the mink coats, he was a better looking version of Mike Tomczak. He really was.
        5. NY Giants: No real visceral or pathological reason to hate on them. Except … they’re from NY. So I do. And they usually stink.
        6. NY Rangers: Essentially harmless. But again … that NY thing gets them on the list. Sorry.

  2. cur68 - Jun 21, 2011 at 12:28 PM

    Ahh he’s just stirring the pot to make news and put Yunel off his game. Escobar will punish him on the field today. As for one guy who didn’t want this trade; Larry “Chipper” Jones;

    http://hardballtalk.nbcsports.com/2011/06/20/chipper-jones-never-wanted-yunel-to-leave-the-braves/

    He says, unequivocally “I never wanted Yunel to leave”.

  3. petrnedved - Jun 21, 2011 at 12:31 PM

    Nice hatchet job O’Brien.

  4. deathmonkey41 - Jun 21, 2011 at 12:38 PM

    The Braves have fans? I couldn’t tell from watching any of their games.

  5. bobulated - Jun 21, 2011 at 1:07 PM

    O’Brien handles the beat job like beat guys usually do; he parrots the company line and is very, very reluctant to criticize current players. No matter how badly a guy is going, DOB always makes an extra effort to point out positives to counter balance the harsh light actual stats shine on a player. For example, he has really had to dust off the thesaurus for Dan Uggla this season and is almost apologetic when quoting any stats for the Braves 2B out machine.
    All that being said, it’s apparently open season on some former players as Yunel is finding out although the only guy I can remember even getting close to this treatment from O’Brien is Jason Marquis.

    • atlsp - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:31 PM

      Tim Spooneybarger, while much less heralded, is a guy that comes to mind as getting this treatment (John Rocker probably goes without saying).

      I think DOB is a fine beat writer and it’s probably worth pointing out that this came in his “Braves Blog”, not in a game story or some other column that was destined for print. Of course he is reluctant to criticize players and coaches – every good beat writer has to maintain politics to a point, right? – but I appreciate that he interjects opinion where he can, be it his blog or just on twitter.

  6. seanmk - Jun 21, 2011 at 1:11 PM

    you fail to mention how they are doing defensively, but yunel still the better end of this deal.

  7. nps6724 - Jun 21, 2011 at 1:30 PM

    Escobar has better stats, but a good bit of that is because he plays in a hitter-friendly home park. His home OPS is .909 while his road OPS is .654. It’s not just coincidence Gonzalez’s stats declined after the trade while Escobar’s increased.

    Esco can be a very good player, but he always had an attitude problem in Atlanta. Combine that with terrible play for half a season and it’s no wonder he was traded. You can’t act like a diva if you’re not producing.

  8. foreverchipper10 - Jun 21, 2011 at 1:54 PM

    At the time it seemed like a good deal. Escobar was barely existant over at short while Gonzalez was launching bombs in America’s hat (Canada). The Braves also got to deal the horiffic JoJo Reyes who made me lose my mind every time Bobby trotted him out there. Why Gonzalez’s power has not translated to the NL is beyond me.

  9. ncphilliesguy - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:15 PM

    This is hilarious. Gonzalez is as much a hot dog as Escobar, but he also has a worse attitude and is less talented. Yeah, that was a great deal for the Braves, that’s why the Jays just signed Escobar to a $10 million extension. Cox did not like Escobar, period. I don’t blame him, but that is the sole reason he was traded, it was not a smart baseball move.

    • nps6724 - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:31 PM

      Please provide some examples of Gonzalez being “as much a hot dog as Escobar, but he also has a worse attitude”. You’re the first person to say as much.

  10. WhenMattStairsIsKing - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:33 PM

    What exactly did Yunel do? Sleep with everyone’s wives, key Ted Turner’s cars and hit teammates in the kneecaps with bats?

    • nps6724 - Jun 21, 2011 at 3:07 PM

      Some examples:

      1) In a home game (last year I believe), he made a play that was ruled an error on him that was a toss-up call. Once he saw an error was charged, he motioned to the pressbox to show his displeasure and did so for the following 2 pitches. If either pitch had been hit to him, he wouldn’t have been able to catch it because he wasn’t paying attention.

      2) At Baltimore in ’09, there were 2 outs and runners on 1st and 3rd. IIRC the runner on 1st tried to steal and the ball was thrown down. Esco was supposed to come back home with it if he couldn’t immediately get the guy out at 2nd. The runner got into a rundown, Esco chased him back to 1st for a few strides and THEN threw home. The runner was safe at home and also safe at 2nd.

      3) In a home game last year against the Mets, Troy Glaus hit a deep fly to right-center. Esco went halfway down the line and then back to tag up, and gets gunned at the plate.

      4) At one point last year, he hit into like 4 DPs with a runner on 3rd and 1 out in a 3- or 4-game span and he didn’t run out a single one. Each game was close and his beating out a DP would’ve plated a run.

      He was also benched 3 times in ’09 for mental errors so it’s not like everything spring up last season. Mental errors and lack of effort combined with an attitude is what doomed Esco in Atlanta.

    • foreverchipper10 - Jun 21, 2011 at 5:07 PM

      Ted Turner hasn’t owned the team for quite some time now.

  11. royalsfaninfargo - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:35 PM

    This is another example of a sports writer making some crap up and reporting it as fact. There are no direct quotes from anyone in the organization and we are supposed to believe this guy because he covers the team. This story could be %100 right but without anyway to confirm it I file this under “writer having slow news day”, or “writer with an axe to grind.” Espn, Ken Rosenthal, and a few others are notorious for articles that start with an unproven presumption and then tend to speculate wildly. Lazy reporting.

    • nps6724 - Jun 21, 2011 at 2:39 PM

      Apparently the first time Gonzalez entered the clubhouse after the trade last season, he was greeted by a standing ovation. So while there’s no quotes involved, I think that says a lot about his predecessor at SS.

      • petrnedved - Jun 21, 2011 at 4:17 PM

        Sure, ok. But you can’t tell me that AGon doesn’t exhibit some of the exact same traits that Yunel was (and seemingly still is) getting completely ripped for.

        Here are two comments noting as such from Braves fans in the O’Brien ‘blog’ piece:

        “The thing that gets me is that Gonzalez is just as pouty as Escobar, makes almost as many boneheaded plays as Escobar, and is about as big a showboat as Escobar. (I still remember him skipping all the way home after hitting that homer against the Cardinals.) The only real difference between them is that Yunel is a good hitter and Alex Gonzalez isn’t.”
        –Poster ‘Whoop’

        “Its been said many times throughout this thread, but the Braves would love to have Escobars horrible numbers from that 135 game stretch in the lineup now. As noted, Sea Bass had a horrible attitude when he came into the league, and while he is by all accounts popular with the team, he also pouts, looks dejected, takes plays off, and loafs on his way to 1st base. The idea that he is somehow better than Yunel in any way is sort of absurd.”
        –Poster ‘Roy Hobbs

      • nps6724 - Jun 21, 2011 at 4:35 PM

        I’ve seen Gonzalez get mad at himself or become frustrated, but I haven’t sen him pout at all. The vast majority of Alex’s mistakes are physical mistakes, which any coach will tell you are far more acceptable.

        I agree on the showboating somewhat. Gonzalez does showboat when he hits a HR, but Esco showboated on every base hit with his crazy bat flip. He started to tone that down last year and I haven’t seen him since he left Atlanta so I don’t know if he still does it or not. That’s what seemed to piss off opponents more than anything.

        Anyone who says Gonzalez has made as many boneheaded plays as Esco is blind as a bat. While those are Braves fans commenting, most of them are beyond stupid. One of them recently called Venters a bum because he finally gave up another run. Seriously.

        It amazes me how many people look at Esco’s numbers without noticing how much better he is at home in a hitter-friendly park. I’m guessing those same people used to look at Dante Bichette’s numbers with amazement as well. While most hitters hit better at home, they usually don’t do it with an OPS difference of 250 points.

        Gonzalez is consistently mediocre in pretty much every fashion except defense; Esco is a more exciting, more talented player who is very inconsistent. I loved Esco, but he wore out his welcome.

        What is infuriating about Esco is while he makes a lot of mental errors, he’s pretty baseball smart. I remember 2 times in his rookie year where the opposing defense wasn’t paying attention and he just took off to 2nd and made it easily. Neither one happened during an actual play. Once was in Arizona. The pitcher put his glove down (with the ball inside) to tie his shoe but never called timeout. Esco took a walking lead and then just took off. Easy stolen base.

        I also remember once in Florida a couple years ago, a guy singled to LF. After rounding 1st, he slowly walked back to the bag. Upon seeing this, Esco (who received the relay) fired a strike to 1st and was a quarter-step from picking him off.

        The guy can play. When he wants to.

  12. yettyskills - Jun 21, 2011 at 4:53 PM

    The Jays took the Braves out to the shed on this trade. everyone knows it

    Got the better hitter
    Better fielder
    Who is much younger

    Know what the problem was? The same thing it has always been in Atlanta
    Coaching and Leadership
    Larry is a JOKE of a leader, and the Coaching staff utterly failed with Yunel
    Of course I expect Brave fans to stick their heads in the sand again, they refuse to realize that over the past 15 years, those are the two things that have kept the Braves from being what they could have been.

    • nps6724 - Jun 21, 2011 at 5:09 PM

      Yeah, what has that Chipper guy ever done anyway?

      Better fielding? Esco’s career UZR/150 2.4. His career UZR is 7.6. He’s had a UZR at or above 5.0 0 times in 3+ (full) seasons. He’s had a negative UZR 1 time. His career fielding fWAR is 6.5.

      Gonzalez’s career UZR/150 is 7.0. His career UZR is 46.7. He’s had a UZR at or above 5.0 6 times in 8+ seasons. He’s had a negative UZR 1 time. His career fielding fWAR is 25.7.

      It’s really not even close; Gonzo is a superior defensive player. Vastly superior.

      • yettyskills - Jun 21, 2011 at 9:45 PM

        That Chipper guy who was well known to be hated as a rookie and his 1st few years, the one who doesnt lead players he isnt buddies with, Chipper creates Division. And one whole ring to is supposed to impress me?

        And LMAO at you trying to suggest Gonzo is a superior defensive player. Moronic indeed

  13. proudlycanadian - Jun 21, 2011 at 6:04 PM

    The Jays and their fans are laughing. Thank you very much Atlanta.

  14. Walk - Jun 22, 2011 at 1:41 AM

    As a braves fan i freely admit that escobar is more talented than gonzalez as a hitter and is almost his equal defensively. Combine that with the age difference and it looks like a run away win for toronto. What really upset people was the mental part of escobars game. He repeatedly left his fellow players out to dry when they had a runner bearing down on them, instead of making a longer throw to first, easily done with his cannon of a throwing arm, he would make the short throw to second and get prado and infante spiked. Just before he was traded he made a flip to prado who had to stand in and take a lazy toss with a runner coming in hard. Then he made a throw to first with troy glaus covering, the throw was into the baseline, glaus collided with the runner causing him a shoulder injury. The braves were still fighting for first place at the time of these incidents. Again escobar is one of the most talented players at his position but he wrote his own ticket out of atlanta.

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