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