Archive for the ‘Yunel Escobar’ Category

Tampa Bay Rays v Toronto Blue Jays

Yesterday, after hitting a mostly meaningless, yet still somewhat unnerving, ninth inning home run to pull the Rays to within two runs of the Jays, Yunel Escobar made the same “safe” gesture at home plate as he did when he hit a game-tying blast in the seventh inning of a game during the Jays’ last series in Tampa.

Apparently this was a thing?

At least for some people it was. Gregg Zaun and his acolytes, for example:

A quick Twitter search for “Escobar” and “classless” finds several more tweets (as does any search of Escobar’s name), while Curtis Rush of the Toronto Star used Storify to pick out a few other instances of fans getting upset about it.

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We’re lacking specifics on this one, but a tweet from Danny Knobler of CBS Sports caught my eyeblack late last night:

So… right about the time the Jays were looking to move everyone with a pulse for a reliever? Or were they perhaps looking for starters still at that point?

It’s impossible to say, with such a small nugget of information, but there were always a few ways that the Jays could have lined up with Oakland. I certainly can’t complain, given what’s transpired since, that it didn’t come to fruition– especially after the Rays shrewdly picked up Escobar from the Marlins yesterday for a Double-A middle-infielder who was blocked in their organization by, like, three different guys. Any offence the Rays can pick up is a very good thing for them, and it’s not a terrible bet to think a rebound could be in the cards for Yunel.

So… there’s that.

Well, OK, it’s not quite as fun as having the double-whammy of seeing him and John Farrell both return as members of the Boston Red Sox– as we being rumored earlier– but… actually, it is kind of fun in a social experiment kind of way: Yunel Escobar appears set to become a member of the Tampa Bay Rays:


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Uh… OK, well here’s something new. And kind of hilarious– though probably not the worst notion for the Red Sox, at least from an on-field perspective.

Call me crazy, but I still have some faith that Escobar has good years ahead of him. Obviously, from his past results, the bat is a whole lot better than he showed last year, and he still plays a solid shortstop. Read the rest of this entry »

Yikes. Remember when we thought that maybe the driving factor in the Jays’ big off-season would be the market for Yunel Escobar– a tainted but talented shortstop with a nice contract, but coming off a down year.

With a dearth of available shortstops, we theorized, maybe the Jays would be able to turn Escobar– who had a ready-made replacement in Adeiny Hechavarria– into the starting pitching the club so desperately needed. Hey, and the A’s had a surplus of starters, and could have used a cost-controlled shortstop. Perfect, right?

Yeah… about that…

“The Marlins are trying hard to trade shortstop Yunel Escobar, with the A’s , Yankees and Raysthe most likely teams to get him,” writes Danny Knobler of CBS Sports. “Conversations with the A’s have centered on either Brad Peacock or Grant Green, while discussions with the Yankees and Rays have included younger minor-leaguers, according to sources.”

Sure, we always figured the deal would have had to expand to include prospects, but still… Brad Peacock???

Let’s just say we should all still be pretty thrilled that the Jays managed to get pitching help the way they did.

So… there’s that.

Ex-Jay Gregg Zaun, now of Sportsnet, joined Bob McCown and Stephen Brunt to speak rather passionately on the subject of Yunel Escobar and Jays’ clubhouse culture during the six o’clock hour of Prime Time Sports on Tuesday– a segment which was followed by an instant classic of radio magic, as Alex Anthopoulos– berated for initially denying a request– briefly joined the program to discuss the matter, only to have his phone (presumably a Rogers device) experience some curiously-timed troubles just as McCown was turning up the heat.

Anthopoulos returned to the station Wednesday morning with Brady and Lang, better prepared and under less scrutiny than he’d faced the previous afternoon, and Paul Beeston spoke to Prime Time Sports on Wednesday evening to reiterate the club’s position. We’ll explore all of that this post, but for me the most instructive bit of chatter came between Zaun, Brunt and McCown– and that’s not necessarily so much because of what they said, which was alternately insightful and infuriating, but because of layers of crucial nuance that can be revealed by contemplating what they didn’t, or wouldn’t, as they veered gradually farther off the rails.

Zaun began in much the same place I was in Tuesday’s press conference wrap-up, bemoaning the curious messaging we witnessed. ”It was like they were all on a different page, and they didn’t have any time to prepare, yet they had a full day to prepare. And that was the best they could do?” he asked.

As I noted, the lack of coherence in the messaging really reflected worst on John Farrell, especially as he gave a flimsy explanation of how it was possible that nobody noticed the writing on Escobar’s face, suggested that it was his understanding that Escobar’s eye black messages were almost always uplifting (they’re not), and insisted that homophobia isn’t a problem in baseball, despite Escobar having acknowledged moments before that his now infamous phrase was in common usage among Latino players.

Yet as easy as it would be to skewer Farrell here, I think it’s only fair to point out that– while I don’t necessarily agree with the approach– the manager likely feels an obligation to protect his players and to not upset the clubhouse dynamic, which he may well have done by throwing them under the bus on any of those points.

I think it’s also clear it would have opened the manager up to some very harsh questions if he’d admitted homophobia was a problem in the game, and thereby his clubhouse. Simultaneously, it would have meant contradicting the message from Escobar that this is considered a benign phrase in many contexts, and commonly used in Latin America– in much the same way that similar phrases were far more widely tolerated in our culture not so very long ago, despite the fact that they were unmistakably known to be, at their most basic, very hurtful language– a point I think a lot of those so righteously outraged by this whole situation would do well to remember.

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For those who suffer the misfortune of not being able to stream this afternoon’s press conference– which Sportsnet is making available live at 3:30 ET– we’ll be following along here in this post, digesting the proceedings as they happen.

You can also listen live via the Fan 590.

For context, here’s what Getting Blanked, and DJF wrote about the controversy when it broke, plus my additional post after the Jays released their statement last night, and a follow-up from Parkes noting this wasn’t the first time Escobar has had questionable messages scrawled on his eye black.

[Update: It's a three game suspension-- see below for details. Oh, and tonight's game is rained out, officially. Day-night doubleheader tomorrow.]

Here we go…

4:25 PM: Well, there you have it. Escobar, who didn’t exactly look like he was suffering from flu-like symptoms, wasn’t asked why he missed the game on Sunday, after explaining that he heard yesterday that there were pictures on the internet. Outwardly he was contrite, apologetic, but insistent that he intended no offence, that it was a “word with no meaning,” and that it’s just something Latino players say. Yet he says that, now that it’s been brought to his attention that it’s not an appropriate word to use, he agrees with the suspension.

I don’t know if that went as well as it could have, though. The three games seems light, and the insistence that Escobar wouldn’t have known the context of such a word is pretty flimsy, given what we’ve heard– particularly from the Cuba experts in Cathal Kelly’s piece for the Toronto Star.

The Q&A went a little off message, or presented a bunch of mixed messages. For example, John Farrell saying homophobia isn’t a problem in clubhouse culture right after Escobar said that this was a word that’s used commonly by Latino players.

And as fun as it is to blame the interpreter– who appeared to be there as a vaguely neutral party, rather than having Luis Rivera speak– it’s not like they were going to fool any of the Spanish speaking reporters, of whom there were many, by softening the comments when translated.

Ultimately, Anthopoulos comes out of this looking best, I think, as he brought the positive, bridge-building sentiment and acknowledged the deep issue of homophobia– present in just the pure banality with which Escobar could say it was “a word without meaning”– in not just sports, but society. There’s no wrong in wanting to take this as a teachable moment for his players, and anyone following, and a jumping off towards making a positive impact with regard to education and visibility for how hurtful this kind of language is.

As the representative of the Jays as an organization and a company, I think he did well– and evoked, in a way, the positive end to the incident between Robbie Alomar and umpire John Hirschbeck, who later became friends, and Alomar a fellow advocate for research to cure ALD, the disease that took the life of Hirschbeck’s son, which Alomar infamously called the umpire bitter about during the incident. Even if you think the suspension is light, or wonder how Escobar will be viewed when he returns to SkyDome to finish out the season next week, I think the company looks like it handled a bad situation about as well as it could.

On the other hand, I must say, Farrell and Escobar, though their task was tougher, didn’t do a tremendous job of representing the clubhouse. From the questionable insistence that nobody saw or could have prevented Escobar from entering the field of play with such a message on his eye black, to the straight-out-of-the-50s  ”some of my best friends– or at least my hair dresser and interior decorator– are gay” line, it wasn’t exactly satisfactory.

Will it be sufficient to satisfy enough fans to let this whole thing blow over? That remains to be seen, and I’m not entirely sure it will. But it’s still murky. And the sad fact is, we know this won’t be the last incident of its kind, given just how common this kind of hurtful language is in locker room culture– and certainly not only among Latinos. Yes, it’s entirely naive to think of athletes as paragons of virtue, but that doesn’t justify in the slightest the instinct so many have to brush this incident off, or to chalk it up more to the ignorance of someone taking clubhouse language into the public.

It’s ugly, and it’s a long way from being rooted out, and that’s why I’m with Anthopoulos on this one, who seemed to at least know and accept what’s wrong about this, and to view it in whatever way possible so as to turn a negative into a positive. I don’t know if I can say the same of Escobar, and I certainly don’t think I can of Farrell, which only adds to the disappointment we all ought to feel as fans in the wake of this.

Like Yunel, you can also donate to You Can Play– and of your actual own volition, too!

See below for the chronology of the press conference, as it happened…

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