Chipper Jones “never wanted Yunel to leave” the Braves

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The Braves kicked off an interleague series against the Blue Jays tonight, so a natural topic of conversation before the game was Yunel Escobar’s return to Atlanta.

It wasn’t too long ago that Escobar was considered the Braves’ long-term solution at shortstop, but he was traded to the Blue Jays last July along with left-hander Jo-Jo Reyes for shortstop Alex Gonzalez, left-hander Tim Collins and infielder Tyler Pastronicky. He was batting just .238/.334/.284 prior to the trade and had taken up residency in Bobby Cox’s doghouse.

While some assumed that the veteran leadership of the club was also fed up with Escobar’s antics, Chipper Jones told David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution today that he was actually one of his biggest supporters.

“I think it probably worked out good for both sides,” Jones said. “I think maybe he might have needed a chance of scenery, may have needed to go somewhere where there were some influential Latin players who could, you know, show him the way and how it’s done.

“It worked out good for him. He got an extension with Toronto. But I never wanted Yunel to leave. I’ve been a big fan of Yunel all along, because the guy’s a good player. You figured if if he maybe turned the corner maturity-wise, that he could be a perennial All-Star. I really felt that way. It’s unfortunate how it worked out, but maybe it worked out for the best for both sides.”

Entering play Monday, Escobar is batting .278/.349/.394 with 12 homers and 42 RBI over 564 plate appearances as a member of the Blue Jays. The 28-year-old agreed a two-year, $10 million contract extension yesterday which includes $5 million club options for 2014 and 2015.

Yoenis Cespedes blames a lack of golf for his early season slump

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Back during the 2015 playoffs the sorts of New York media types who love to find reasons to criticize players for petty reasons decided to criticize Yoenis Cespedes for playing golf the day of a playoff game. The Mets won the series with the Cubs during which the controversy, such as it was, occurred and it was soon dropped.

It was picked back up again in 2016 when Cespedes, while on the disabled list with a strained quad, was seen playing golf. Despite the fact that everyone involved said that golf did not contribute to his injury and that golf would have no impact on his injured quad, it was deemed “a bad look” by a columnist looking to get some mileage out of bashing Cespedes for having a hobby that probably half of all ballplayers share. They did it when he showed off his fancy cars too, by the way, even though just about every ballplayer has a fancy car or three. When you’re a superstar in New York — especially when you’re one with whom the media is not particularly close for various reasons — you’re going to catch hell for seemingly nothing.

Now there’s a new twist to the Cespedes golf saga. Yoenis himself says that his poor start — he’s hitting .195/.258/.354 and leads the league in strikeouts — is due to . . . not enough golf! From the New York Times:

He gave a possible reason for the poor start this weekend: not playing enough golf, a hobby beloved by many baseball players. And, yes, he is serious.

“In previous seasons, one of the things I did when I wasn’t going well was to play golf,” he said after a game on Friday in which he struck out four times but still drove in the go-ahead run in the 12th inning. “This year, I’m not playing golf.”

The story says Cespedes quit golf last summer because he worried that it was contributing to hamstring problems. He’s thinking about going back to it soon, as he thinks it’ll help his swing. Given that he’ll catch hell either way, he may as well do what he wants.