Posts Tagged ‘shortstop

04
Mar
10

Is Yunel Escobar’s language barrier causing image misconception?

He was arguably the Braves’ best player last season, hitting .299 with 14 homers and 76 RBI, all the while playing solid defense.

In his first three seasons in the majors, he’s already proven to be a consistent force, posting a .301 career average.

In 2009, his .373 batting average with runners in scoring position ranked third in all of baseball, making him one of the most dangerous hitters to face in clutch situations.

He is also considered one of the most underrated shortstops in the majors.

Defensively, he’s got the tools and potential to be a gold glover. In his final 75 games last season, he showcased his cannon for an arm and accuracy by only committing two errors.

And, while he’s never stolen more than five bases in a season, his goal of swiping between 20-25 bags in 2010 doesn’t seem out of reach with his speed and athleticism.

So, why is Yunel Escobar’s name frequent fodder for trade rumors?

The Cuban defect has been portrayed in the media as being arrogant, cocky, and abrasive.

Escobar has experienced a series of public blunders that have many around baseball wondering if Atlanta’s shortstop’s “bad attitude” will derail his talented career?

Last year, while in the middle of another productive season, Escobar was removed from a game for a perceived lack of focus and was subsequently benched by manager Bobby Cox.

This move made waves in the Atlanta media because Cox is notoriously known for being a player’s manager and an advocate for his troops. His willingness to make an example of Escobar showed the growing frustration within the organization of their young shortstop’s antics.

Later in the season, Escobar endured more public scrutiny after he took offense to a ruled error and then made what many believed was an inappropriate gesture towards the press box.

There is an assumption that Escobar plays with a chip on his shoulder and as a result of his previous transgressions, accusations began to run rampant about the seriousness and legitimacy of a hip injury he nursed on and off last season.

So is Yunel Escobar really the brash young man the media has made him out to be?

I don’t think so.

The 27-year-old Escobar, who is still in need of an English interpreter, thinks the misconception surrounding him stems from the strenuous language and culture barrier he’s experienced since arriving in the states from Cuba in 2007.

While Latin players are often known for their aggressive, no nonsense style of play, Escobar believes he too is just a product of that model and claims to have a great respect for the game.

I tend to believe him.

I had the pleasure of meeting and “talking” baseball with Escobar last season, and did not come away with the impression of an entitled, spoiled ballplayer.

In fact, I was left with quite the opposite opinion.

Escobar’s initial struggle to communicate with me and his need to use his Latin teammates who do speak the language as interpreters, showed me a very vulnerable and human side of the man that isn’t seen on the baseball diamond.

It was my belief that Escobar often chooses not to talk because he’s embarrassed that he won’t be understood or that he’ll say something stupid.

Once he got comfortable in his element with his fellow teammates, he started trying to communicate on his own and actually came across to me as very intelligent and surprisingly humble.

Yes, humble.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a definite confidence that Escobar exudes, the very confidence that makes him the dynamic ballplayer he is on the field. But it doesn’t come without similar insecurities that we all face, in some aspect everyday.

This season, Escobar is about to tackle those insecurities and take a big step in trying to change the public persona about him.

It has been reported that Escobar has vowed to finally commit to learning English as a way to ease the tension between himself and the media.

He’s tired of being a subject of off the field distractions, and this is his chance to silence his critics once and for all and win their praise and accolades for his work on the field.

Escobar’s poised and determined to show people the real man behind the myth.

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01
Jul
09

Escobar the Enigma

Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar

Braves shortstop Yunel Escobar

What in the world is going on with Yunel Escobar?

That is the burning question and water cooler talk surrounding BravesNation these days.

Escobar, while infinitely talented, needs an attitude adjustment. And, fast.

The Braves young shortstop, who has displayed immature behavior and has often ruffled feathers within the organization, has most recently infuriated team brass and manager Bobby Cox for an unprofessional antic that occurred during the team’s interleague series with the New York Yankees.

After being charged by the official scorer with one of his two errors in a game against the Bronx Bombers, Escobar pointed to the press box and was caught by cameras mouthing an obscenity. After the scoring decision, Escobar looked lackadaisical in the field and appeared out of position for the rest of the inning.

Not surprisingly, Escobar was benched in the series that followed against the Boston Red Sox.

What’s most disconcerning is this is not the first time Cox has had to sit his talented shortshop. Escobar was benched after committing not one but two careless plays that proved costly in a Braves 11-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in mid-June.

As Braves fans know, Bobby Cox does not tolerate such behavior. No one player, no matter how much potential he possesses, is bigger than the team. Bobby may be a player’s manager but he has one rule in which he stresses and always strictly enforces and that is the art of professionalism.

While Cox stated Escobar’s most recent benching was due to “injury,” and Escobar was sidelined early his season with a strained hip flexor, many believe the manager was also sending a message to his shortstop, similarly to the way he handled a young Andruw Jones’ cocky behavior during the former center fielder’s early tenure with the Braves.

However, no lesson appears to be learned as the Escobar saga is only escalating.

Bobby Cox had his enigmatic shortstop penciled in Tuesday’s series opening line-up against the first place Philadelphia Phillies before Escobar told a trainer during batting practice that his hip was still sore and he was not ready to play. While Escobar did tweak his hip again in mid-June, this latest bout of soreness has kept him out of four consecutive games.

Suspicious timing, to say the least.

I’m not claiming Escobar is faking his injury, by any means. I do believe the Braves shortstop when he says his hip is bothering him. However, I do feel by milking the injury the way he has and causing a media firestorm as a result, that he is trying to even the score with his manager. Escobar is very hard-headed and strong-willed and there is an obvious bitterness that remains between himself and Cox.

So the question that needs answering is this: Do the Braves remain patient with Escobar in hopes that he eventually learns the brutal lesson that Andruw Jones once learned? Or, is it time for the team to wash their hands of this headache, knowing they would also be giving away a great talent?

It’s not an easy answer and there are sure to be consequences either way.

The only thing I know is this: The Braves don’t stand for distractions or egos. And, if I had to put my money on it, whether it is now or down the line, I don’t think Yunel Escobar has a long-term future with the Bravos.




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