Bound for the Braves’ game, wondering about Escobar

I’m headed to the ballyard for tonight’s titanic tilt — if I sound like an old-time sportswriter, it’s probably because I am an old-time sportswriter — and my plan is to write a little something about Yunel Escobar. This might not be easy, given that Mr. Escobar has been declining interviews. (Though he did speak to reporters Monday night.) But there is, in the biz, generally a workaround:

When someone doesn’t care to talk, talk to those around that someone.

And here’s what I hope to be asking: Is Escobar a bad guy or just misunderstood? Has the language barrier become an in-house issue? Is he coachable? Is he a good teammate? And, most important, who does his hair?

This seems to me a propitious time to address the Escobar Enigma — sounds like a spy novel, doesn’t it? — given that on Saturday he didn’t swing on a hit-and-run but on Monday was named the National League’s player of the week. Which is pretty much the way of all things Escobar, if you ask me. Frustrating to watch but way too productive to dump.

I am, as always, open to your suggestions. If you’ve got any questions you think I should ask, please submit them below. Can’t promise you I’ll get to pose them to the man himself, but I’ll certainly take them under advisement. And I thank you in advance.

Update: As promised (or perhaps threatened), here’s the column on Yunel Escobar. Five people are quoted, included Mr. Escobar himself.

199 comments Add your comment

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 21st, 2009
2:35 pm

Do signs from the coach not translate?

Smart Jay

July 21st, 2009
2:37 pm

Mark – I think all the FAN hate on Escobar is pretty much unwarranted. I’ve always held to the philosophy that if you’re talented enough, you cna get away with things that lesser talents don’t get away with. Given Esco’s obvious talents in the field and at the plate, I HOPE the Braves management can deal with it. I bet the players have no problems with him, but THAT will be interesting to hear – especially what the veterans (Chipper, Anderson, Lowe, Vazquez) have to say.

Even at the youth league level you strive to eliminate mental errors, and Escobar is making the team’s share of them, but, I think us fans ought to just say, give the guy a break.

I’d like you to find out if Bobby’s pissed enough to want him gone, or if he’s trying to help him cut down on this stuff, and, is he a disruptive force in the clubhouse.

You know what else bothers me about foreign players? How come my sister’s adopted 3 y.o. Russian kid can learn English in a year nearly flawlessly, and these guys still need interpreters 2 years later? Haven’t they heard of Rosetta Stone?

Seriously.

MikeInValdosta

July 21st, 2009
2:39 pm

Enigma is so very appropriate for Escobar. I understand why you are looking for suggestions. I can’t think of a single question worthy of typing into the Google translator.

Sting 'em Buzz

July 21st, 2009
2:39 pm

What is the inspiration for the pre at-bat dirt drawings? Come up in a dream, see them in your Rice Krispies?

Tank

July 21st, 2009
2:41 pm

Smart Jay, learning a language at a young age is MUCH simpler than it is when you get older. It’s easier for a 5 y.o. Russian kid to learn English than it would be for a 20 y.o. Not that I disagree with your comments, just thought I’d clarify that one part.

http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/us_med_healthbeat_bilingual_tots

brandon

July 21st, 2009
2:45 pm

@Smart Jay

children learn much faster than adults. that’s why the 3 year old could learn English really quickly.

AtlantaBytes

July 21st, 2009
2:46 pm

Sting ‘em: I’m pretty sure he writes his father’s name in the dirt. Mark can correct me if I’m wrong.

How's This One?

July 21st, 2009
2:47 pm

Here are a few suggested questions:

“Since Escobar appears to have problems playing for Bobby Cox, which MLB manager do you think would be easier for him to play for?”

“Has Escobar ever commented on enjoying the weather in, say, Philadelphia or New York, instead of Atlanta?”

“If you were Escobar and you consistently irked your manager, your teammates, and your hometown fans, would you then REFUSE to talk to the media to try and clarify how/why you keep making so many bone-headed mistakes?”

“How many times have you personally heard Bobby Cox give Jesus Christ a new middle name (one that rhymes with ‘Shucking’), after watching Escobar miss a sign/loaf on the basepaths/miss a pop-up/curse at the official scorekeeper?????”

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 21st, 2009
2:47 pm

I think he is untouchable. McCann is the only position player I think is more “untouchable” but I do think he has an attitude similar to the one Andruw developed for a period. As for the metal mistakes, there are no excuses. He makes mistakes that would not be tolerated on the high school level. With that said, he aint going anywhere. Mark, maybe you can bribe him with a cuban sandwich.

Andre "Pulpwood" Smith

July 21st, 2009
2:52 pm

How about asking Esce if he’s ever killed a snitch.

Alan

July 21st, 2009
2:54 pm

Mark, all of your questions (aside, perhaps, from the name of his hairstylist) are great. Here’s another one: Now that his best friend, Brayan Pena, has moved on, does he have anyone on the team to confide in?

Craig "Speedy" Ehlo

July 21st, 2009
2:55 pm

Where’s the best cuban sandwich in atlanta?

How's This One?

July 21st, 2009
2:59 pm

Speedy – Used to be Havana Sandwich Shop on Buford Hwy. and N. Druid Hills. It burned down a couple years ago, and the whole ownership/staff moved up to Canton in Cherokee County. Their sandwiches are still fantastic.

Bank Walker, Texas Ranger

July 21st, 2009
2:59 pm

Since your talking food with him, ask him if he has been to Chicken and Waffle and if he ever thought of those going together. Also, ask him if he has ever thought to himself “I wonder who ate the first raw oyster and what was he thinking”

Craig "Speedy" Ehlo

July 21st, 2009
2:59 pm

All this Escobar hate seems overblown. Wasn’t it Julio Franco who came up as a hot shot 20-year-old and then calmed down later in his career?

How about asking Escobar what his influences, inspirations are? When someone tries to set him straight, how does he take the criticism?

What about his game does HE think he most needs to work on?

Class of '98

July 21st, 2009
3:01 pm

Ask him if the “everybody clap your hands” thing is as annoying to the players as it is to everyone else over the age of 7.

Eric

July 21st, 2009
3:06 pm

This kid is a great player and will only get better. I do not see why everyone is on his case. He plays the game with a little flair and does have a miscue every now and then, but he seems like a good kid and a pretty nice player. I’d take him on my team.

Hillbilly Deluxe

July 21st, 2009
3:07 pm

Ask him if he learned anything about losing the Manager’s confidence from the Francouer situation.

macdwolfpack

July 21st, 2009
3:07 pm

My question is what is the obsession with Escobar by the media? If he is being productive then I don’t care if he ever gives another interview. The Braves already have two many starters who are anxious to voice their opinion in the press, but have failed to lead on the field. Yes he makes a screwup every now and then, but I don’t see reporters all over Chipper about the large amount of errors this season or his lack of home runs and is his declining health and home run production a residue of past steroid use. No, instead we seem to be mesmorized by a young Cuban (young in years in this country and league)who makes a whole lot less money.
Leave him alone and let him do his job.

Gov. Clinton Tyree

July 21st, 2009
3:08 pm

Is there a big cultural difference between Cuban beisbol and that of, say, la Republica Dominica o Venezuela? Players from those places don’t seem to have as much problem assimilating as Cubans do.

I don’t have a problem with him being a hot dog. I have a problem with him being an a$$hole. Is he an a$$hole? That’s what I need to know, Mark.

Gov. Clinton Tyree

July 21st, 2009
3:09 pm

And by the way, guys who hit .300, drive in 80 and play a slick SS are generally good teammates. Better, at least, than guys who hit .220 and drive in Wendy’s.

mn possum

July 21st, 2009
3:09 pm

I believe Ludlum and Cussler both have novels called the Escobar Enigma. Perhaps you can ask him, “Who is more likely to stop an apocalypse, Dirk Pitt or Bourne?”

macdwolfpack

July 21st, 2009
3:10 pm

I don’t have a problem with him being a butt if he produces, I bet Mark would have been all over Ty Cobb or Ted Williams in their day had he been around. Not saying that Escobar has that kind of talent.

Cincinatti Bowtie

July 21st, 2009
3:11 pm

Mark, if he can’t understand you just keep talking LOUDER and SLOWER. That’s what they taught me in my English as a second language class. That should win him over; if not get him a doughnut or other tasty treat as a bribe for an interview.

Ben

July 21st, 2009
3:11 pm

The only really unacceptable thing Escobar has done was out-off at the scorer. Everyone makes mental mistakes, even major leaguers. As for the hit-and-run, the pitch was horribly inside. Frankly, Bobby should have never put it on, since Hernandez is slow and, more importantly, the Mets pitcher at that point wasn’t able to get anywhere near the strike zone. If Yunel had tried to swing at that pitch, he likely would have whiffed, or worse, hurt himself (to be followed by days of “Yunel is faking an injury.”). Hernandez was out by a mile. The split second difference that having a batter whiff adds to a throw would not have saved him.

Millwood

July 21st, 2009
3:12 pm

Everybody clap your hands??? I thought it was everybody crap your pants! Boy do I feel dumb now. And in need of a shower.

Mark C.

July 21st, 2009
3:13 pm

Did he hear all the trade rumors involving him during the offseason? What did he think of them? Did it affect his relationship with the organization?

WILD BILL

July 21st, 2009
3:15 pm

How bout we get Julio Franco back in here to be our batting coach, hes loved here & can relate to players like Escobar, plus we get rid of TP! we can kill two problemos with one hiring, what do you think???

timthebrave

July 21st, 2009
3:16 pm

Escobar is one of the best players on the team…talk about what a pain he is to opposing pitchers. I don’t care if he misses one sign or refuses to swing at a pitch that is really inside. He would have broke his hand if he swung at that garbage

Millwood

July 21st, 2009
3:16 pm

Ask him if he’s ever been in a Turkish prison.

Randy

July 21st, 2009
3:17 pm

You Escobar haters are all idiots!!! (.307/.369/.470, 9 HR, 52 RB) The numbers speak for themself! He might have a lapse of better judgement at times, but Escobar is a good defensive shortstop — he’s tied with Troy Tulowitzki for seventh-best in baseball, according to the Fielding Bible’s Plus/Minus metric — and a great hitter with the third-highest OPS among starting shortstops. You want to trade him??? You smoked your lunch didn’t you?

ND

July 21st, 2009
3:17 pm

Holy sh*t let it go. That is my suggestion.

Supes

July 21st, 2009
3:18 pm

I gurantee that Yunel is bothered by

1. the trade rumors (constant since last off-season)
2. Bobby Cox’s SELECTIVE discipline toward him, but not other guys, like KJ and Jeff F. (when they were both starting and making mental errors, they were NOT benched!)

Mark, no need to interview Yunel!

I layed it out for you right there.

Kevrock/Smarty Jones

July 21st, 2009
3:19 pm

He is going to be star. Bobby needs to learn how to manage Latino players too. We would be crazy to trade him. I think the time has come
to let Bobby go. Well really it should have been in ‘98 after we lost to the Padres. Back to Escobar. Look at the stats of him and Elvis Andrus w/ the Rangers. Elvis has 12 errors will Yunnel has 11. We will have to check back at the end of the year but Escobar for sure will have more hits, BA, RBI’s, etc…

JayDubu

July 21st, 2009
3:20 pm

Leave Escobar alone. Nothing’s wrong with him, something is wrong with Cox and the media.

Amazing how everybody at the AJC can comment on Escobar and the lack of focus that he has sometimes, but not one media person will comment on Cox and his lack of focus, or bone-headed moves.

It’s as if Cox owns the media, or you are all afraid of him. Joe Torre took the Yankees to the playoffs almost as many consecutive times as Cox did the Braves, but the media still asked him about decisions that he made during the game that made the average fan scratch their heads.

No one ever questions Cox on why he made a particular move or did not make a move that seemed obvious, but you’ll all jump on the let’s deride Escobar wagon.

A bunch of pansies!!! Yeah, I said it!!!

Cardog10

July 21st, 2009
3:20 pm

I will take his antics because he is an amazing player. He is just animated. It doesn’t fit the Braves, but if you look at say, the Mets… they have K-ROD who is beyond animated at everything, and pounds his hands and points to the sky, and is a loud mouth. There whole team consists of these type of players, including Reyes. Reyes would get a walk and clap his hands and start smiling when he reached first. He is a headcase too. Same with Santos. No one ever says anything about all of them. It’s because we aren’t used to it. I don’t like it, but as long as he produces, so be it. He will learn the art of baseball as time goes on, I hope.

StevenG

July 21st, 2009
3:23 pm

Ask him what he thinks his strengths and weaknesses are. He’ll love talking about his strengths which are many and it would be interesting to see if he mentions his base running and attitude among his weaknesses. If he doesn’t, ask why.

Rick

July 21st, 2009
3:23 pm

I think this question should be posed to Frank Wren – Has Escobar been in trade rumors because you feel he has a high trade value and is ultimately expendable, or is it simply that the coaching staff (i.e., Bobby Cox) is tired of dealing with him? If asked, I’m sure that Wren would say that there are many factors involved, but if he acknowledges that these “issues” are a factor, I will be very disappointed. Frankly, I personally think that the media (i.e., you guys) is trying to make a story here and blowing things wayyy out of proportion. I mean this guy is not Manny Ramirez!! Has he made some mistakes? Sure. Does he need to mature? Absolutely. Is shipping him off to another team in the best interest of the Braves? I highly doubt it. From Day 1, I thought Escobar had the talent to be an all-star SS, if not the best SS in the National League. He is the complete package. But he is still pretty young and he needs to continue to grow. He is too good and too talented to give up on.

Grady

July 21st, 2009
3:23 pm

Go a little Chris Farley show — “‘member when you were a rookie and that Diamondbacks pitcher had the ball and went to tie his shoe and you stole second? That was awesome.”

bali smith

July 21st, 2009
3:24 pm

young shortstop has all the tools ,leads team in RBIs , …. leave him alone, let him grow up, i cannot see him as a problem…….. Bobby cox or whoever can handle the situation…. maybe you should write spy novels instead of sport stories… jeez Atlanta sportswriters …. one writes a music column, another thinkshis articles are actually funny, and now we have mark,spy writer ,bradley……..wild

VRS

July 21st, 2009
3:24 pm

Ask him if he leaves it all on the field every night. If he says yes punch him in the mouth.

Daniel

July 21st, 2009
3:24 pm

Leave the kid alone.. he has been our BEST everyday player this season with the bat AND with the glove. Why must you try and stir the pot in the clubhouse? You know you were wrong about him. Why not just admit it, and move on?

Hawk01

July 21st, 2009
3:25 pm

Let this kid play his game. Sad enough that his relatives in Miami are reading what is said here in Atlanta and relaying it to him………………But he also states that he looks at the internet and can translate enough to know what is being said, How many SS lead their team in runs batted in ? His defense has gotten better and he will get better. 2nd in the majors in average with runners in scoring position.

There are only a few Braves that are untouchable and they are Hanson, McCann, Escobar. Everyone else could be trade bait for the right price. If we could get some great prospect for Chipper Jones, I would say let him go also.

Joey

July 21st, 2009
3:25 pm

MB – just when I start appreciating your work (I really have lately), you have to do the sportswriter piling-on thing. I for one don’t care if Escobar wants to answer questions from a bunch of you guys. And I agree with him for filling miffed that y’all don’t want to see him when he’s had a 3-hit night, but you all show up when he makes a mistake. He is one of the best clutch hitters in MLB and a great fielding shortstop. Leave him alone.

Erik

July 21st, 2009
3:25 pm

I’m interested to know more about him, whether he enjoys Atlanta, whether he believes the team can make a run in the 2nd half, etc. I hope your article/questioning do more than just stir it up with him as I do think the media spends too much time trying to provoke him.

The Bird and Indian

July 21st, 2009
3:26 pm

I feel like Yunel Escobar is becoming the most interesting man in the world. I mean in the MLB.

scoreboard

July 21st, 2009
3:27 pm

Mark:

I don’t have a question for Escobar, which is good because he wouldn’t answer it anyway. But I do have a question for Chipper: Why didn’t he call timeout, take ten steps to his left, and rip Excobar a new one after his little “pointing at the official scorer” stunt? And even worse, he was pouting so much that it took him a few pitches to even get back in a fielding postion after that. I really thought Chipper should have gone nose-to-nose with him over that one. Maybe he did it in private. I hope so.

Bravos33

July 21st, 2009
3:28 pm

Ask Yunel if he is happy in Atlanta. As much as I think he has had issues, and may rub people the wrong way, ask him if HE is enjoying what he is doing on a daily basis. In the end, it will only get better IF he is happy here.

Nativebird

July 21st, 2009
3:28 pm

Hey Mark ask him this: “Yunel, did you ever think the American sports press would care more about the color of your hair than the stellar production you’ve provided for a struggling team in dire need of it?”

VRS

July 21st, 2009
3:30 pm

Ask him if he wishes he was traded to Mets instead of Frenchy.