What in the world is going on with Yunel Escobar?
That is the burning question and water cooler talk surrounding BravesNation these days.
Escobar, while infinitely talented, needs an attitude adjustment. And, fast.
The Braves young shortstop, who has displayed immature behavior and has often ruffled feathers within the organization, has most recently infuriated team brass and manager Bobby Cox for an unprofessional antic that occurred during the team’s interleague series with the New York Yankees.
After being charged by the official scorer with one of his two errors in a game against the Bronx Bombers, Escobar pointed to the press box and was caught by cameras mouthing an obscenity.
After the scoring decision, Escobar looked lackadaisical in the field and appeared out of position for the rest of the inning.
Not surprisingly, Escobar was benched in the series that followed against the Boston Red Sox.
What’s most disconcerting is this is not the first time Cox has had to sit his talented shortstop. Escobar was benched after committing not one, but two careless plays that proved costly in the Braves' 11-2 loss to the Baltimore Orioles in mid-June.
As Braves fans know, Cox does not tolerate such behavior. No one player, no matter how much potential he possesses, is bigger than the team.
Cox may be a player’s manager, but he has one rule in which he stresses and always strictly enforces and that is the art of professionalism.
While Cox stated Escobar’s most recent benching was due to “injury,” and Escobar was sidelined early this season with a strained hip flexor, many believe the manager was also sending a message to his shortstop, similarly to the way he handled a young Andruw Jones’ cocky behavior during the former center fielder’s early tenure with the Braves.
But no lesson appears to be learned, as the Escobar saga is only escalating.
Bobby Cox had his enigmatic shortstop penciled in Tuesday’s series opening line-up against the first place Philadelphia Phillies before Escobar told a trainer during batting practice that his hip was still sore and he was not ready to play.
While Escobar did tweak his hip again in mid-June, this latest bout of soreness has kept him out of four consecutive games.
Suspicious timing, to say the least.
I’m not claiming Escobar is faking his injury, by any means. I do believe the Braves shortstop when he says his hip is bothering him. However, I do feel by milking the injury the way he has and causing a media firestorm as a result, that he is trying to even the score with his manager.
Escobar is very hard-headed and strong-willed and there is an obvious bitterness that remains between himself and Cox.
So the question that needs answering is this: Do the Braves remain patient with Escobar in hopes that he eventually learns the brutal lesson that Andruw Jones once learned? Or, is it time for the team to wash their hands of this headache, knowing they would also be giving away a great talent?
It’s not an easy answer and there are sure to be consequences either way.
The only thing I know is this: The Braves don’t stand for distractions or egos. And, if I had to put my money on it, whether it is now or down the line, I don’t think Yunel Escobar has a long-term future with the Bravos.