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.
After 16 years in the majors, longtime Tigers DH Victor Martinez capped his career with one final start at Comerica Park. Although there are seven games remaining in the club’s regular season schedule, Martinez said he felt he owed it to the fans to record his final at-bat at home. He’ll still cheer the rest of the team on from the dugout when they hit the road for their last six-game stretch on Monday, though he’s not expected to slot into the lineup at any point during their back-to-back away series against the Twins and Brewers.
In order to commemorate the occasion, the Tigers arranged a pregame ceremony to celebrate the veteran infielder’s seven years with the team, during which they presented him with Topps baseball cards, a recliner, a pair of boots, and a saddle, among other honors. Martinez also put in a special request to play first base, a position he hadn’t manned in over two years.
The 39-year-old didn’t waste a single minute of his final start in the majors. He deftly handled an inning-ending out in the top of the first, then laced a rare infield single to short in his first and final at-bat of the afternoon, beating the throw to first and advancing Nicholas Castellanos to second base in order to set up the Tigers’ first run: a two-out RBI single from Niko Goodrum that brought Castellanos home to score.
“I think that at-bat was the perfect at-bat to describe my career,” Martinez told reporters after the Tigers wrapped a 5-4 win over the Royals. “I had to sweat it out. I had to sweat it out the whole way. I had to grind it. That was my whole career.”
Following the hit — and the standing ovation that greeted it — the switch-hitter was promptly replaced by pinch-runner Ronny Rodriguez, who subbed in at second base in the top of the second while Goodrum shifted from second to first base. Taking Saturday’s performance into account, Martinez polished off his big league career with a lifetime .295/.360/.455 batting line, 423 doubles, 246 home runs, 1,178 RBI, and 28.4 fWAR across 1,973 games and three separate stints for the Indians, Red Sox, and Tigers. His accomplishments at the plate have been decorated with five All-Star nominations, two Silver Slugger Awards, and the designated hitter-exclusive Edgar Martinez Award following a career-best campaign in 2014.