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

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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.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.