uspw_6709340In a recent column, Buster Olney ranks the Rays infield as the fourth best in MLB, but names Escobar as the “x-factor.” And somebody with the Blue Jays had this very telling quote about Escobar…

“Every day, he makes at least one major mistake on defense or running the bases.”

Olney adds that “there’s a reason someone who is perceived to be so talented has bounced to four teams (including the Marlins) in four seasons,” and wonders if Escobar will “drive the Rays crazy” while they wait for his talent.

Of course, there was the well-publicized incident with the Blue Jays in which Escobar had a gay slur written on his eye black. But even before that, Escobar had a reputation as a player that often failed to hustle and was labeled as an underachiever with the Braves.

That sounds a little like Delmon Young. But it also sounds a lot like BJ Upton*.

Over the years I was accused by some fans of being a classic BJ Upton hater and by others of being a BJ Upton apologist. The truth was somewhere in the middle. He was a great player that did some very boneheaded things. That being said, I also thought he improved his “baseball smarts” in the last year or so.

I doubt Escobar will ever reach the level of Upton, who may have been the most polarizing athlete this area has ever seen. Escobar wasn’t drafted by the Rays with the second pick overall, so the level of expectations will not be as high. But if you thought the Rays no longer had anybody that will make you shake your head, guess again.

* Personally, I never thought hustling was a problem for Upton. Rather, when Upton was younger I just thought he didn’t know the right times to kick in the extra gear. In fact, while there were a couple of hustling incidents, there were many more times when Upton was pushing too hard trying to take extra bases when it was too risky or unnecessary.

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17 Comments

  1. Dave L says:

    Hopefully he can just drive us crazy until we wait for Hak Ju Lee's talent to develop. All players have thier warts, especially Rays typical Grade-C free agents.

    But thanks for the warning so we know what to expect.

    Hes already 29 so I dont expect him to develop much further. Look at his last two years combined and that probably will be what we will get no more no less.

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  2. Tom says:

    From what I have read in the media Escobar seems to have trouble geting along with teammates, while Upton could be exasperating at times it appeared his teammates liked him.

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  3. Big Tone says:

    I don't think Olney's treatment here is quite fair. "There's a reason... bounced to 4 teams in 4 seasons." The Blue Jays didn't have a spot for him with Reyes incoming. The Marlins stumbled in to Escobar in their fire-sale. After that, it was only natural for Miami to dump his payroll as soon as possible after they got him. Escobar played for many consecutive years with both the Braves and the Blue Jays and with a solid bat throughout. Frankly I couldn't be more excited. I'm still recovering from the horrors of Brignac/Johnson/Rodriguez. For once the Rays don't have a question mark at shortstop.

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  4. KT says:

    I'm happy we acquired the guy, but I always hated when we played against him. There seemed to be at least one thing each game that made me think he was a punk, i.e. jabbing with the ump, pretending to get hit by a pitch nowhere close, etc. But he can do those things all day long if gives us some much needed defensive stability at shortstop and some decent production in the lineup.

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  5. Dave L says:

    “Every day, he makes at least one major mistake on defense or running the bases.”

    If you do that you don't get bounced around and are a starter. You dont make it two weeks in MLB.

    That Blue Jay had a problem with Yuniel on a personal level. I did some research and found the audio of that quote on you tube they had his face shadowed but his voice had a pronounced lisp. The clip ended with a rear view shot of him him driving away in the passenger seat of a Miata....

    Just wait I will get you the link...hold on...

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  6. ed says:

    oh well, that is one of the big moves the rays made, what can we do? I really wish they would go out and get a big bat, i know i know , we can't afford it, tired of hearing that, i guess i should be happy that they at least make the playoffs every year, (lol) well i will still support them call me a sucker i guess. I think it's going to be a long season. Go rays and go Lightning.

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  7. Gus says:

    'Every day, he makes at least one major mistake on defense or running the bases.”

    Are we talking about Eliot Johnson here? At least Escobar has some upside with his boneheadedness. Because I'm pretty sure I was in this space complaining about Eliot's daily major mistake (he was a bad bunter as well as a bad baserunner and defender) all last season.

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  8. Don says:

    I've watched Escobar a 100 times, "Boneheaded"..don't think so..
    Cock, brash, in your face...defintely...may not be the Rays layed back, "Iwant a nice guy" fan favorite...but I can see him as an influence on the layed back"oh well" players of the Rays
    I could see him having a problem with Maddon, hes a few steps above Damon in the I know whats going on..leave me alone mentality....Maddon has a problem there

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  9. slacker775 says:

    I remember just about a year ago we signed Luke Scott and there were all the reports of him being an uber right-wing racist gun nut make-Ted-Nugent-look-like-a-tree-hugger stuff and while we may have not gotten the production we wanted, he certainly didn't seem to be ostracized by the team Burrell-style.

    And as posted by Big Tone, the 4 teams thing is very misleading. He managed to become expendable due to other deals rather quickly. Hopefully he gives us some good production on both sides.

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  10. Greg says:

    I remember Bobby Cox had a similar quote in regard to Kenny Lofton...a fundamental mistake in CF or on the bases every game. And Kenny was a pretty good center fielder. Thing is, it doesn't mean they suck. It means they're not as good as they could be. Escobar is a difficult teammate and doesn't take the game seriously enough to be great. He's still pretty good and a definite upgrade over the crap we've been running out to SS. He'll make some headlines for the wrong reasons and perhaps find the bench a few times when he doesn't run out balls, but he should make us better. They won't sell a bunch of Escobar jerseys, but he should be ok.

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  11. J 2.0 says:

    Well if Esobar doesn't work out, at least we signed Mike Fontenot.

    Nyuck Nyuck Nyuck Nyuck.....

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  12. TOM says:

    I think the Rays are going to regret signing Escobar. I still don't know why they didn't resign Kepp & leave Zobrist at short. He seemed to be more than adequate.

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  13. redneck says:

    Olney please tell me how many errors has Cabrera or some specimen like that for example Mark Reynold, jajaja, he's striking out about 30 percent of the timecome or tell me what about the swing mechanics of Hanley Ramirez, or what do you think about the -0.8 UZR and a -13 DRS of Jose Reyes, that makes him one of baseball's worst defensive shortstops, so you know what Im thinking if Yunel is a Racist? uhmmmmmm

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  14. Daniel Bamber says:

    I like the addition of Escobar, he may bring along some baggage with him but overall he is a good player. He's a career .282 hitter, he can provide a little pop and he plays a gold glove caliber SS. Escobar is a MLB SS who will provide stability at the position until Hak-Ju Lee is ready for the bigs.

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  15. Daniel Bamber says:

    BTW the Nats have re-signed Adam LaRoche, i wonder if we will hear any rumors about Mike Morse.

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